The city of Kokomo, which had to lay off firefighters earlier this year as a cost-cutting measure, could be in a position to use them again if awarded a grant to build a new fire station on the city’s south side. But the city’s mayor says he thinks he can avoid using a budget line item which would pay for some to be re-hired.
After 12 firefighters were axed earlier this year, the city was left with an even 100 sworn officers to staff the five existing stations. The city is looking for $2.5 million from the federal government to build a sixth station, and has the money in its budget to pay 106 firefighters for the coming year. Still, Mayor Greg Goodnight said he thinks the staff for the proposed station could likely be found without having to add any staff.
“If it’s placed in the proper location,” Goodnight said, “you would be able to transfer staff out of the downtown station to accommodate the needs in the southeast corner. It may help bring back a short group — you obviously would not need a full complement to staff that. It may be worthwhile to bring back a few in the process and we’ll evaluate that.”
The mayor said he’s careful to tell people some budget line items are effectively rainy day funds, not money he expects to spend.
“The budget is an appropriation,” he said. “Just because the money is appropriated, we can spend that money, but it does not necessarily mean that the revenues that we projected when we put together this budget actually came through.”
Speaking on WFIU’s “Ask the Mayor,” Goodnight says some of the money could be spent on firefighters who are called up to active duty with the Indiana National Guard or incur health problems. The union representing the city’s firefighters has long said the department is more than 20% shy of the number of responders it needs.