Firefighters appeal layoffs

STEUBENVILLE – Five city firefighters appealed their layoffs to the Steubenville Civil Service Commission Tuesday afternoon, citing failure to provide adequate notice and disputing the city’s claim of insufficient funds.

Terence Cooper. Kristopher Dight, Justin Boley, Mike Bess and Chad Smith were officially laid off Monday.

“I will have to excuse myself from future proceedings regarding this issue because I also serve as a negotiator for the city,” said commission member Rob D’Anniballe during the emergency meeting.

“I suggest we find a hearing examiner who will hold a hearing on these issues. The examiner will issue a recommendation with a findings of fact after hearing and reviewing the evidence,” proposed Law Director S. Gary Repella.

Commission Chairperson Delores Wiggins said the hearing is tentatively scheduled for April 22.

“I have been told the firefighters union will have an attorney for the hearing,” she said.

City officials have cited the expiration of the three-year federal Staffing Adequate Firing & Emergency Response grant as the reason for the layoff of two of the firefighters.

Fire Chief Carlo Capaldi told City Council last week the fire department can run all three fire stations with the department’s current 10-person staffing level.

“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 move forward,” explained Capaldi.

Chris Blackburn, president of International Association of Firefighters Local 228, said the union is, “very disappointed the city laid these gentlemen off. But we will continue pursuing every avenue to get these gentlemen back to work. Bringing them back to the fire fire department will benefit the residents of this community and our firefighters.”

“These gentlemen have lived with the threat of layoffs for the past five years. But, they maintained their commitment to the city. We need to do the right thing and put these men back on their jobs,” added Blackburn.

Blackburn thanked the city council last week for keeping the Pleasant Heights fire station open for the remainder of the year.

“We plan on working diligently to bring the five firefighters back. For the past five years we have given the city substantial concessions. I appreciate keeping the fire station open, but I don’t like laying off five firefighters,” commented Blackburn.