Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight’s decision to lay off 12 firefighters as a cost cutting measure has sparked fierce debate in the community.
Kokomo Firefighters Union President Rick Daily claims the move puts the city in violation of National Fire Protection Association personnel requirements. Daily said the Fire Department can no longer put the appropriate number of personnel at the scene of two fires simultaneously.
“At the present time, we would be able to operate at one fire scene properly,” Daily said. “Because we wouldn’t have the proper 15 to 17 people we would need for an additional fire.”
Making his comments on WFIU’s program “Ask the Mayor,” Goodnight said he’s examining other cost-saving options, including cost-sharing partnerships with other governmental organizations, but the mayor says firefighters can’t be his only consideration. He said the layoffs are just part of the current economic reality.
“They have to be reasonable,” Goodnight said. “We have underemployment at most of our factories. I can’t give them something I don’t have.”
Earlier this week, firefighters Fire Department Chief Scott Kern and Deputy Chief Randy Wilson resigned from their positions to protest the layoffs. Daily said not only were Kern and Wilson’s resignations unprecedented in Kokomo, he’s never known another administration to lay off firefighters either.
Kern and Wilson resigned their posts in response to a challenge from the mayor about how the two could make a “bold statement” about the restructuring. But Goodnight said the resignations are anything but.
“I said if they really wanted to make a bold statement, they would resign from the fire department. What they did was just give up the position of chief, but stay within the fire department. In fact, one of them went back to being a captain.”
The department now has 100 firefighters, down from the 121 Daily said it needs. Goodnight said that number is only theoretical and there will likely be more layoffs before there are more new hires.