EAST ST. LOUIS – There is at least a temporary reprieve for nine East St. Louis firefighters who were supposed to be laid off because of budget problems.
A firehouse was also scheduled to be closed.
Those plans are now on hold but could still happen soon.
“It`s stressful for me, my family and the guys on the job,” said Patrick Jackson, who is one of the nine East St. Louis firefighters whose futures are in limbo.
They were set to be laid off on November 1st because of pension funding problems.
A firehouse at 17th and Central was also scheduled to be temporarily shut down for the same reason.
But now East St. Louis Mayor Robert Eastern III confirms that the layoffs and the firehouse closing have been postponed until the end of November.
“We love the job but it’s kind of hard not knowing if you`re going to come to work the next day and they`re going to say ok you guys have another week then you have to figure out what you`re going to do from there,” said Jackson.
Last month, Mayor Eastern and East St. Louis City Manager Brooke Smith announced that all state revenues coming to East St. Louis are being redirected by the State Comptroller’s office to help fund the fire and police pensions.
Those pensions have a combined debt of nearly $4 million dollars.
Without the state revenues, Eastern and Smith said the layoffs and station closing were necessary to help the city meet its financial obligations.
However, we understand the state firefighter’s union got involved and convinced the city to postpone any actions while negotiations continue.
“Having fewer people on the job especially if it`s going to affect like our daily staffing, you know, it puts citizens, property and it puts us at risk,” said Brian Gregory, a local union trustee with the East St. Louis Fire Department.
Robert Mister lives right next to the firehouse that could be closed.
He wants it to remain open and the firefighters to keep their jobs.
“It`s very important to me. What if my house catches fire. They would have to come from 17th Street or 73rd Street to put the fire out,” said Mister.
Jackson and others are hopeful for a resolution without layoffs and a station closure.
“The 30 days getting pushed off shows that they`re willing to listen and there`s possibly options out there that all the parties can come to,” said Jackson.
Mayor Eastern was not able to speak with us on camera but says so far about $2 million dollars in state revenues have been held for the pensions.
Another meeting on the issue is set for Tuesday morning.