The City of Hoquiam plans to lay off four firefighters, officials announced Tuesday morning. Declining revenue and fewer ambulance calls were cited as the reasons for the cuts.
“These people we are laying off, they are excellent firefighters. They are dedicated to serving and protecting the people of Hoquiam,” said Chief Paul Dean in a press release.
This is the second major announcement from the city and fire department in recent weeks. City officials announced April 24 that Hoquiam and Aberdeen were considering merging their fire departments.
The Hoquiam Fire Department will now operate with 18 firefighters and paramedics, not including Dean.
Ambulance calls decreased by 9 percent in 2013, and fire department revenue dropped about 10 percent, said City Administrator Brian Shay. The city’s ambulance fund borrowed $100,000 from the city’s general fund for the 2014 budget, and further declines in ambulance calls and revenue are forecasted for this year.
“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 Folkers.
Hoquiam Mayor Jack Durney called the layoffs regrettable, but necessary.
“These layoffs of our youngest is painful,” Durney said. “We hired them and work with them every day. They define what kind of professional organization we wish to be and it is regrettable that the combination of your local economy, the reduction in calls for service and the reduction in medical reimbursements has caused this to be needed.”