August 31, 2014

Elyria
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Lorain saves jobs at Fire Department

LORAIN — Facing unemployment, firefighter Jon Stephanchick was relieved Monday when he heard City Council members had approved a job-saving plan.

“I’m ecstatic,” said Stephanchick, reached by phone after the Council meeting. “It’s for the best of the city that we have a fully-staffed fire department.”

Stephanchick was one of 10 firefighters with two years or less of employment who was slated for layoffs. The fire department initially said 12 firefighters were to be laid off, but the number was reduced to 10 due to two recent vacancies, Fire Chief Tom Brown said. The layoffs were due to the March 17 expiration of a two-year, $1.73 million federal taxpayer grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The $663,000 to preserve the jobs for an additional year will come from several areas, including:

  • $165,860 from higher than anticipated estate tax money. Lorain budgeted for $200,000 for the final year of estate taxes which have been abolished by the Legislature, but has received about $632,000 thus far, according Auditor Ron Mantini.
  • $127,690 from reductions in expenses for promotions the department canceled because an expected retirement didn’t occur.
  • Additional money will come from Urban Development Action Grants, Mantini said.

The grants are federal taxpayer money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to poor cities like Lorain. Mantini said the money is usually loaned to businesses, but can be used to pay for firefighters.

Brown said he is hopeful that the jobs can be preserved when the money runs out in a year through attrition.
He said the department would consider applying for additional federal personnel grants, but wants to avoid getting stuck with layoffs when the money expires.

“It’s a dangerous game,” Brown said. “You can’t expect to come back every two years for federal money.”

Firefighter John Crum, whose job was saved, is aware there are no guarantees, but tries not to think about it. “I’m going to concentrate on being the best fireman I can be,” he said.

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.