FORT MYERS, FL The fight to put more firefighters back on the streets of Fort Myers was stopped dead in its tracks Monday.
The city laid off 21 firefighters in May after the government grant that paid their salaries ran out, something that Fort Myers resident Erika McDermott says makes her feel less safe.
“I, as a person that has lived in this city, who has foster care kids in her home, want to be protected,” McDermott told WINK News.
At Monday’s city council meeting, the city’s newest council member, Terolyn Watson, urged council members to approve her new proposal to pull roughly $2.1 million from the reserve budget to pay the firefighters’ salaries.
“Whatever it takes for these people to get their jobs back, that’s what we need to do,” said Watson.
Fort Myers Mayor Randy Henderson said the city has already debated the issue, and that there are enough firefighters to meet the needs of the people without dipping into reserves.
“We are stable, we can rely on our chief and his staff to protect our citizens,” said Henderson.
Council member Tom Leonardo reminded everyone that the firefighters knew they could lose their jobs when they signed up, and council member Forrest Banks said that 10 of the 21 firefighters don’t live in Southwest Florida.
“You’re asking us to take our money and hire these young men back when they don’t even spend their money here,” said Banks.
“I’m sure when somebody dials 911, the person that dials 911 does not care where that person lives,” Matt Galewski with the firefighters’ union told WINK News.
In the end, the council voted 5-2 in opposition of Watson’s proposal. Council member Johnny Streets voted in favor along with Watson.