UPDATE 5/21/12 @ 11:55 p.m.
IRONTON, Ohio (WSAZ) -- A group of Ironton city firefighters facing layoffs are a step closer to keeping their jobs.
On Monday night, the Ironton Finance Committee accepted a contract proposal from the fire department. It would keep two of three firefighters from losing their jobs later this week.
The proposal will be presented to council Thursday night.
If council doesn't accept it, the three firefighters will be out of a job. If it passes, council could bypass the laws and do a second and third reading that would be effective immediately -- keeping the firefighters on staff.
We've been telling you about Ironton's budget problems for several months. Many might argue that these latest cuts could compromise safety.
Ironton Mayor Rich Blankenship says he has no other choice but to cut two Ironton city police officers. A third officer took a voluntary layoff, and the department was already down several -- leaving the total number of officers gone at six.
Ironton's money problems have been a well publicized battle over the last several months.Now, Blankenship says the state of Ohio has dramatically cut its allocation to small towns like Ironton.
That has put a big dent in the local budget. The city is negotiating with fire, police and the third city union that covers public works and sanitation employees, trying to negotiate new less expensive contracts.
But, in the meantime, the city is hemorrhaging, and Blankenship says he has no other option.
"It's not only to send someone home," he said. "We have to look out for the safety of our community, and I'm very concerned these layoffs are going to reduce the services to the city dramatically."
There was also a volunteer layoff in the public works department, and a firefighter took a job somewhere else.
While the mayor does hope to bring those employees back, he's fearful things could get a lot worse before they get better.
Blankenship says he doesn't expect the money the state government cut to be restored and fears they may even cut more employees at some point.
The letters from Mayor Rich Blankenship stated the employees may be laid off due to a lack of funding on or after May 18.
The new city budget calls for reduced funding across the board, but the mayor says he'll try to keep as many people as possible on payroll.
According to budget, the cuts are due to take effect on the May 18 date mentioned in the letters.
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