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Last updated: February 20. 2013 3:27AM - 468 Views

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WILKES-BARRE ‚?? The 11 city firefighters laidoff since Dec. 1 will be back to work next month, the union and city officials said Thursday.
Mayor Tom Leighton called the firefighters to tell them they would return on Feb. 8. He also notified union officials.
‚??I‚??m thrilled to be back to work,‚?Ě said Tom Murphy one of the 11 firefighters.
The mayor was not immediately available to explain his decision. He is expected to be at tonight‚??s council meeting.
The firefighters were cut to help the city make up for an estimated $2 million revenue shortfall last year.
City council approved a $44.9 million with a 25-mill property tax increase this year with the intent of bringing back the firefighters. But they remained off the job while the mayor sought concessions from them and the other three unions as a condition for the return of the firefighters.
Greg Freitas, vice president of International Association of Fire Fighters Local 104, said he wondered whether the influx of money owed from Centax, the former collector of earned income tax for the city and other municipalities and school districts in Luzerne County, played a role.
The city is owed between $600,000 and $1 million from last year and could be seeing some of that money within a month. The Luzerne County Tax Collection Committee received an update Wednesday on the $7.18 million held in an account for the county.
Freitas said the firefighters are happy with the call back. ‚??Things were very dire for a while,‚?Ě he said.
Firefighters worked overtime to meet the minimum staffing level of 11 firefighters per shift. Two engines have been out of service as a result of the reductions in the department.
Freitas said he spoke to one of the laid off firefighters this morning. ‚??His story wasn‚??t very good. I told him to keep his chin up,‚?Ě he said.
The mayor later called him and Mike Bilski, union president, with the news on ending the layoffs, Freitas said.
Freitas said, Fire Chief Jay Delaney is going to contact the firefighters to come in on Jan. 30 to make sure their driver‚??s licenses and emergency medical technician statuses are up to date and reissue them their gear.
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