We were grateful that the majority of our City Council had the courage and good sense to adopt a change in the staffing of our fire stations. The new configuration of three firefighters at each of the three stations plus a two-person crew on a rescue truck actually will provide better service even as it saves $437,000 per year.
This plan was proposed by an interim fire chief as part of his assessment and then thoroughly checked out by our city manager, who presented a report at last week’s City Council meeting. That’s enough evidence to convince us.
Knowing how much more money must be cut to reach a balanced budget this year, and how many unfunded expenses will be coming due in the years ahead, the choice was clear. Fire protection expenditures must be brought in line with other city services, and we must seek efficiencies in all aspects of budget planning while trying to preserve the many programs and services, all of which matter.
This is not being against the Fire Department; rather, it’s about our survival as a functioning, solvent city. No one enjoys cutting back on our budget, but here we are in serious financial trouble. Thank goodness our City Council is taking steps toward reducing the current deficit and toward long-term solutions.
We believe our council members experienced unwarranted stress in making this decision in which they carefully weighed the budgetary constraints against the community needs. The feeling of antagonism in the chamber was palpable. Fortunately, Mayor Joe Krovoza, Councilwoman Rochelle Swanson and Councilman Brett Lee stood up to the pressure.
Our hope is that as the budget talks continue and more difficult choices come up for careful examination in terms of what we can afford versus what is essential, we can have open discussions without the pressure.
In this case, we found a compromise that leaves the citizens better protected than before with a cost savings. Perhaps with creative thinking, we can find other positive choices that help us go forward in this challenging time of lower revenues and rising expenses.
Richard McAdam and Lynne Nittler