Excerpts from Illinoishomepage.net:

The Mattoon Fire Department will have to hire a handful of new firefighters after a judge ruled that the city violated their contract last year. The department is supposed to have more than 30 firefighters, but right now they’re at 24.

The city says this is all because of money problems, and they plan to present a budget that’s not balanced for this year at their council meeting. Officials say they’ve been trying to cut back on city staff to close the deficit, but firefighters say enough is enough for cutting down their employees.

As firefighters have left there have been no new hires. After a judge’s ruling, that will change.

City Administrator Kyle Gill says it’s because the city is spending too much on staff and that the department was always at their minimum eight firefighters on duty, but firefighters had to work extra to make up for the empty slots.  Overtime jumped from 1,400 hours two years ago to 5,500 hours this fiscal year.

Even then, the city was spending less than having all 30 firefighters with fewer overtime.

Contract negotiations are at the end of this month and they might end up with less than 30 firefighters in a new contract, but it doesn’t seem like the fire department will let that be an option on the table. Mattoon city leaders are also expecting a ruling soon on whether or not the fire department will keep their ambulance service after the city council voted last year to get rid of it.