Laid-off Gary firefighters to return before the end of June

2011-06-02T17:00:00Z 2011-06-02T17:22:07Z Laid-off Gary firefighters to return before the end of JuneBy Pete Nickeas pete.nickeas@nwi.com, (219) 933-4183 nwitimes.com

GARY | Thirty-four laid-off Gary firefighters will return to work before the end of June thanks to a $3.8 million federal grant, Mayor Rudy Clay announced Wednesday.

"Thirty-four firefighters were laid off. There are 34 coming back to work. You can't beat that," Clay said at Gary City Hall.

The firefighters lost their jobs at the end of 2010 because of dwindling city funds. They will be brought back to work for at least two years under a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant.

The positions will be the only ones in the Gary Fire Department paid with federal grant money, according to city officials. The city will have to reapply for another year if officials can't find a reliable revenue source within the next two years.

The Gary City Council still needs to approve the plan, a move Clay said was all but guaranteed.

City officials said grant planning began under former Fire Chief Jeff Ward, whom Clay replaced with Chief Donald Williamson earlier this year.

Williamson pledged to bring the laid-off firefighters back to work when his appointment was announced and thanked Ward for his efforts.

"All I had to do was nurse this along," Williamson said.

Clay also said two fire department facilities are getting new roofs — Station 5 at 41st Avenue and Washington Street and Station 8 at Fifth Avenue and Bridge Street.

Station 8 construction began Wednesday, and Station 5 construction began last week.

Future equipment and station upgrades could be funded with federal grant money or casino tax revenue that the city began receiving earlier this year, Clay said.

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