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August 19, 2010

Kokomo recalls laid-off workers

Nine firefighters brought back this week

By SCOTT SMITH
Tribune staff writer

Kokomo — The city of Kokomo hired back nine laid-off firefighters Wednesday, ending more than a year of waiting for the firefighters and their families.

Federal stimulus funds, in the form of a $1.9 million grant, will pay all of the recalled firefighters’ salaries and benefits for the next two years.

The nine being brought back are the last laid-off firefighters to be brought back on the department.

Last April, the Kokomo city administration laid off 12 firefighters in a move that sparked a massive protest at Foster Park.

At the time, Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight said the cost-cutting move was fiscally necessary.

The city had just ended the Kokomo Fire Department’s emergency medical service and allowed Kokomo’s two hospitals to take all of the ambulance runs formerly performed by fire crews.

Wednesday, Kokomo Fire Chief Pat O’Neill said the recalled firefighters will eventually be assigned to various KFD engines.

He said hiring back the firefighters was not related to the new fire station to be located on East Center Road.

At one point, a total of 16 firefighters were laid off from the department; four were laid off prior to last year’s EMS decision.

The city brought back six of those firefighters prior to receiving the federal grant.

After receiving the grant this summer, the city offered jobs to the remaining 10 laid-off firefighters, and nine of them accepted a position, O’Neill said. One firefighter had already taken a position with another department, he added.

The federal grant was meant to fund a total of 13 firefighters, and O’Neill said officials are considering whether to hire four additional firefighters.

He said the city will start a new eligibility list, but stressed that no decisions have been made.

The old eligibility list is more than three years old, he said, so anyone who signed up for the previous list will have to submit a new application, he added.

The firefighters hired back Wednesday are: Matt King, Matt Geary, Julie Ann Bryan, Matt Davis, Kevin Duggins, Thomas Granson, Derek Michael, Josh Rodabaugh and Todd Bellaw.

The 10th remaining laid-off firefighter, Dustin Raymer, took a job with another department and won’t be returning, O’Neill said.

Each of the recalled firefighters will receive a week of refresher training before being assigned to a truck, O’Neill said.

• Scott Smith is a Kokomo Tribune staff writer. He may be reached at 765-454-8569 or via e-mail at scott.smith@kokomotribune.com

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