The City of Hoquiam is laying off four firefighters. City Administrator Brian Shay said they gave formal notice to the department early Tuesday. Staff said in a press release Tuesday “The City of Hoquiam has been able to manage its way through The Great Recession, the subprime mortgage crisis and even the permanent closure of its largest employer. However, in 2013 ambulance calls for service dropped by 9% and revenues declined by over 10%. Further declines in calls for service and revenue are forecast for 2014 leaving the City no other option but to act and to act quickly.
“These people we are laying off, they are all excellent firefighters,” Chief Paul Dean said. “They are all dedicated to serving and protecting the people of Hoquiam.”
Changes in firefighter staffing have been discussed since last year when the Ambulance Fund had to borrow $100,000 at the end of 2013. “We had hoped that 2013 was an anomaly and that calls for service would pick up in 2014 and return to 2012 levels. But they have continued to decline even further,” said Finance Director Mike FoIkers.
With this notice, the City of Hoquiam will have seen a 24% reduction in its workforce touching almost every department through layoffs and attrition since 1992. “Each loss has been a painful yet necessary step,” said City Administrator Brian Shay. “In these economic times, we cannot ignore difficult budget problems, and we must make the tough decisions that ensure we are providing the most efficient and effective service as possible within our available resources.”
Mayor Jack Durney said, “The City will continue to stay focused on the basic municipal services we provide our citizens, including public safety, public works and emergency services. These layoff of our youngest is painful. We hired them and we work with them every day. They define what kind of professional organization we wish to be and it is regrettable that the combination of our local economy, the reduction in calls for service, and reduction in medical reimbursements has caused this to be needed.”
The Hoquiam Fire and Ambulance budget is $2.8 million with 23 employees.
The firefighter’s local union 315 asked for prayers on their facebook page this morning, stating that the four affected were told that they would not have a job in 30 days.