(SEMINOLE, Okla.) - Declining population and a bigger budget are being blamed for the layoff of six full-time firefighters in Seminole.
The cuts leave the fire department with eight full-time employees and 30 volunteers. City Manager Steve Saxon said Wednesday the cuts will help city finances.
About 9,000 people lived in Seminole in 1986, but the number residents fell to 6,899 by 2001, according to census figures. Meanwhile, the fire department budget of $333,000 in 1986 increased to $370,000 in 1995. By 2001, it had increased to $708,000.
Other departments have gradually cut back staff ``to skeleton crews,'' Saxon said.
``The only place left with room to cut was in the fire department,'' he said.
The city will save $220,000, which could be used to pay for water system improvements and other needs, officials said.
Only two full-time firefighters will be working each of three shifts now. Volunteer firefighters will be used to offset the decline.
Volunteers will be given the same level of training as other firefighters, officials said. They can be paid up to $3,000 a year.
Mike Sylsberry, one of the six firefighters losing their jobs, believes the loss of experienced firefighters could hurt the department.
In time, he thinks the volunteers will be able to do the job, but there could be problems adjusting, Sylsberry said.
Sylsberry also serves as the local firefighters' union president.
The city gave the affected employees four months' notice. One former employee has already found another job, officials said. Others are being referred to fire departments that are hiring.