The city of Fall River finds itself in a familiar spot, facing the possibility of significant layoffs in the fire department.
Mayor Will Flanagan is warning of significant staff reductions. About one-third of the city's firefighters are on the chopping block.
“I'm doing everything I can as mayor to prevent layoffs within the Fall River Department,” Flanagan told NBC 10 Monday.
Firefighters’ union president Jason Burns said, “It's a scary day. It's a scary thing.”
This all started 5 years ago. A budget mess back then meant big cuts. The fire department was reduced to 153 firefighters in 2009.
But temporary federal grant money brought the numbers back. Now that money is running out in June.
The city has not added funding to the budget to replace the expiring grant money.
“This is a difficult fiscal year for me,” Flanagan said.
The mayor says 60 firefighters could be laid off and the department would be back to the smaller size of 153, down from the current 213.
Flanagan said, “Currently at 153 firefighters you are meeting national standard response times.”
Burns says technically that is correct, that a first fire truck would get to a scene on time, but help would lag behind.
“If he thinks that's adequate, I don't. I don't want my family's health, I have four daughters, they shouldn't be waiting on just two people,” Burns told NBC 10.
The mayor says he's looking at ways to save, like early retirements or changing health insurance. Flanagan said, “It's important that the fire department work together with me during these difficult times to do everything we can to prevent layoffs within the department.”
Burns says the union already went to the city to recommend not filling 20 positions, saving $1.5 million.
He says now the burden is falling back on the firefighters, “I'm asking, where's the shared responsibility?”
The union claims Flanagan made it seems to them that the cuts were coming no matter what.
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