Firefighters’ fate in balance

STEUBENVILLE – The fate of five city firefighters who were recalled to their jobs will be determined tonight at the regular City Council meeting.

City administration officials as well as council members met behind closed doors Monday night to discuss, “all options,” according to 6th Ward Councilman and Finance Committee Chairman David Lalich.

The five firefighters were originally laid off on April 1.

But, the Civil Service Commission agreed to return the firefighters to their jobs after a factfinder’s report by attorney Joe Corabi cited the city’s failure to provide a 14-day layoff notice.

City Law Director S. Gary Repella said the city did not agree with the commission, “but we will not appeal the ruling.”

According to Civil Service Commission Chairwoman Delores Wiggins, “the layoff letter issued by City Manager Cathy Davison did not provide the 14-day notice required by the Ohio Revised Code. The Civil Service Commission does follow the Ohio Revised Code. We have no choice but to rule the five firefighters should be reinstated. We made our decision after meeting with Joe Corabi, who skillfully and diligently studied the Ohio Revised Code.”

Lalich said Monday night all five firefighters are now back on their jobs.

“We have to make a decision on the overtime in the fire department and what it will do to our budget. The city budget is very sensitive and reacts to actions our city officials and the council makes,” said Lalich.

“At this point, we are looking at all of our options,” said Lalich.

Davison had originally proposed closing the Pleasant Heights fire station, but agreed to keep it open after announcing five firefighters would be laid off.

“We can run all three stations with our 10-man manning levels. We have five firefighters at the downtown station, two firefighters at the Pleasant Heights fire station and three firefighters at the West End fire station. With these layoffs, we will be down to 31 firefighters, including myself. And, that covers the manning level. Yes, this is a band-aid approach. Something needs to be done for next year and moving forward,” explained Fire Chief Carlo Capaldi during a finance committee meeting prior to the March 26 regular meeting.

“I am looking at the safety factor on the hill tops and I want to stay within the budget. I would also like to avoid moving the security cameras at the fire station that are used by the police,” noted 3rd Ward Councilman Greg Metcalf, who held behind-the-scenes discussions with Capaldi to explore ways to keep the station open.

“I have no problem keeping it open. It definitely needs to stay open,” said 2nd Ward Councilman Rick Perkins during the March 26 meeting.

Fifth Ward Councilman Willie Paul agreed, citing, “the older homes and abandoned houses on some streets. I don’t want to let the hill top residents down.”