Eleven Wilkes-Barre Firefighters Laid Off

WILKES-BARRE — Tough news came out of the Diamond City as City Hall began its long-promised layoffs in order to close a $2 million budget shortfall.

Thursday night, 11 Wilkes-Barre city firefighters learned they will be out of a job at the end of the week.

Members of the Wilkes-Barre fire department gathered at fire headquarters after learning that 11 of them are now out of a job.

Union President Mike Bilski delivered the news during a meeting he described as very tough.

“It’s crazy back there. You (have) the guys that got laid off. You have the current guys that are trying to figure out where to go from here, what’s our next step,” said Bilski.

The cuts were called for by Mayor Tom Leighton, who had been asking city employees to take voluntary furloughs or retirements in order to make Wilkes-Barre’s budget for this year.

The city is facing a $2 million shortfall in funding to pay for the rest of the year.

Mayor Leighton said the layoffs will not affect public safety, but the fire department said the cuts will stretch them thin, knocking them down to 53 members.

“Right now our minimum safe number is 11, and as it stands right now we only have 12 on a shift after this lay off going into effect, so if anyone’s off sick, vacation…” said Bilski.

Some people said they worry about safety now, and they feel for those laid off right before the holidays.

“I have a couple friends who are firefighters and the people that want to lay off firefighters, God forbid their house catches on fire,” said Joe McEvoy.

The city said these are tough financial times, and concessions from the unions are the only way to reduce property tax increases and more layoffs of city workers.

Some homeowners said people can’t afford more tax hikes.

The fire union president said the mayor told him at Thursday morning’s meeting that the city will try to bring those firefighters back in 2013 when the revenues come in.

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