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Kokomo Firefighter Layoffs Reveal Deep Divisions in City

Mayor Goodnight's decision to lay off 12 firefighters has sparked fierce debate in the community.

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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 recent firing 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 through NFPA 1700 and 1500 standards because we wouldn’t have the fifteen to seventeen people that would be needed for an additional fire,” Daily said.

However, Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight claims his city still has a high firefighter-to-citizen ratio compared to other, larger cities — including Bloomington.

“Kokomo has just under 46,000 people and our fire budget is $10.6 million dollars,” Goodnight said. “To compare to that to Bloomington, which has only 107 firefighters for 72,000 people, their budget is $8.3 million dollars.”

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 lay-offs are just part of the current economic reality.

Earlier this week, Fire Department Chief Scott Kern and Deputy Chief Randy Wilson resigned from their positions to protest the layoffs. 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.

Arianna Prothero

Arianna Prothero started at WFIU as a reporter in May of 2008. She is now the Interim Assistant Radio News Director and, along with her reporting duties, produces WFIU’s Noon Edition and anchors All Things Considered on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. Arianna holds her bachelor’s degree from Indiana University in Political Science with a minor in Russian and Eastern European Studies.

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