Wednesday, April 20, 2011

City firefighters protest possible cuts today

From the D&C

City firefighters protest possible cuts today
Apr. 20, 2011

Rochester firefighters this morning handed out flyers near the Lyell Avenue firehouse that City officials have suggested eliminating in an attempt to close a $46 million shortfall in the city’s 2011-12 budget.

Off-duty firefighters from Engine 5, the Lyell Avenue station, this morning distributed flyers throughout the neighborhood, asking business owners to place the flyers in their windows and to attend future meetings with city officials to ask that their local fire station not be closed.

Also this morning, about 50 Rochester firefighters met and were told they are first in line for layoffs if the City moves forward with one plan to close the gap.
By 10 a.m., Engine 5 had gone on five fire calls today, said Capt. Scott Joerger.
“I know that the mayor and I know that the fire chief have difficult decisions to make,” Joerger said. “But it’s time that people in this community say these cuts are not acceptable.”

The flyers indicated that Engine 5 firefighters responded to 1,596 calls in 1996, including 274 fires. In 2010, they responded to 2,809 call, including 245 fires.
Community members were receptive to the firefighters’ efforts.

Jason Gross, manager at the Lyell Avenue Smoke Shop, allowed firefighters to hang a large sign supporting Engine 5 on his building.

“This neighborhood has enough problems, I can’t imagine what would happen if they weren’t here,” Gross said. “It’s a safety thing.” It’s good to know they are nearby.”
The firefighters were invited via email to the 10 a.m. meeting at the Public Safety Training Facility “based upon your ranking on the Firefighter Civil Service List” and told by Chief John Caufield the layoffs are one option the city is considering. The meeting was held to explain the budget process and calm nerves.

The cuts would decimated gains in diversity and jeopardize safety, some have said.
City officials have said that nothing has officially been decided and cuts to the Rochester Fire Department are among several scenarios being considered.

The suggested layoffs would slash nearly 12 percent of the firefighting force

The Rochester fire department’s budget has increased by 4 percent since 2005-06, while the police budget grew by 19 percent and the total city budget increased by more than 13 percent. In that time, the number of authorized firefighter positions has been cut by 32. A re-organization, begun in 2008-09, is supposed to eliminate 20 jobs.

Aside from the layoffs and closing the Lyell Avenue station, City officials could cut additional positions, a reduce staff in Charlotte, and cut fire inspectors and additional positions previously authorized beyond full strength. All that would save about $5.5 million.

Firefighter and Monroe County Legislator Willie Lightfoot, past president of Genesis the Alpha, a local chapter of the International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters, estimates that 40 percent or more of the firefighters who might lose their jobs are black or Latino, or women. The city has pushed to improve diversity, with a dismal 15 percent to 20 percent minority representation overall.

"We are behind," Lightfoot said Monday. If the cuts become reality: "That would put us even farther behind."

If jobs must be lost, firefighters argue that the city is going about it all wrong. Lightfoot and Jim McTiernan, president of the firefighters’ union, suggest that, instead of laying off the newest hires, the city should offer early retirement incentives to the most senior staffers at the top of the pay bracket.

McTiernan also points to other areas, including health care plans for management, tightening up procurement practices and tighter scrutiny of day-to-day spending. "We understand that it is very tough financial times and everything needs to be on the table," Lightfoot said.

But the department already is stretched thin, Lightfoot said. "Now you want to take more bodies away, more equipment away? I’m telling you, it’s going to be fatal."

Similar arguments were made three years ago, when the city started the fire department reorganization, said city spokesman Gary Walker. Yet last year the city recorded zero fire deaths — a mark last hit in 2002 — and saw a continued decline in total fires.

The message from City Hall is simple: There is time to discuss all of this, air concerns, consider alternatives. "What is different about this time around is all the cards are on the table," Walker said. "We are kind of sitting down at the dinner table with the family and saying, ’Here’s where we are.’ We’re not holding back anything. We want to hear what everybody has to say."

These are my comments, and some rude man's comment as well. There are more at:

12:55 PM on April 20, 2011

esmith4145: I think you're exactly right. Those that don't mind that firehouse closing won't be affected by it.

RocMetro: The hard-working firefighters are NOT feeding like pigs at the city taxpayer trough. They battle the blazes that no one else cares about, and they do it without fanfare everyday. That firehouse answers the most calls each year in the city. (I'd need to check data to verify the term "most") . It would be irresponsible to close it. Also, I would want my taxes refunded if I was not as well protected by them as I am currently. They truly care about the area, and the neighbors.

1:06 PM on April 20, 2011

welfare recipients pay taxes?

2:24 PM on April 20, 2011

RocMetro: I pay my property taxes, as I hope you do, and I am NOT a welfare recipient. (Why would you even bring that up? Showing your true colors...)

Do you even know who lives in this neighborhood? We border Gates and Greece, with lots of old Italian families with rich history in this area. We have many retirees and empty-nesters down-sizing to live in a comfortable ranch-style home.

We have many young families, like my husband and I, raising our children here, after graduating from local colleges. Presumably, we are the same classmates, and current co-workers, of you and your children. This area is very affordable, and has lovely architectural details that one cannot find in a cookie-cutter housing track.

Every area has its issues. Even the suburbs. We are trying to make improvements here in the city. We want our Lyell-Otis neighborhood to be a modern-day Mayberry. If you naysayers won't help, then please get out of the way. Thank you.

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