Oswego (WSYR-TV) -- The Oswego Fire Department is facing cuts under the city’s latest budget proposal.
Resident Nathan Emmons has never called firefighters to his house, but he wants them close just in case.
"When you start thinking about people's safety and security and feeling safe, I think that is one of the last areas you've got to look at in terms of cutting,” Emmons told NewsChannel 9.
Facing a major loss in revenues from the steam station's reassessment, councilors want a fire budget close to last year's bottom line, roughly $4.8-million. Mayor Tom Gillen says that's $700,000 less than the chief proposed. Closing the gap involves shutting down the Westside fire station, taking two older ambulances out of service as contracts with nearby towns expire, and reducing the number of firefighters on duty from 12 to 10.
“Our personnel is the highest expense we have right now and it’s the one that we have to adjust and take a good hard look at,” Gillen explained.
Mayor Tom Gillen said no firefighters would lose their jobs and the cuts would be absorbed through attrition. Fire chief Jeff McCrobie says demand for their services has gone up steadily over the years, but their manpower has not. The department responded to roughly 5,200 calls last year, most of them for EMS services within the city.
"I understand these are difficult times in the city. My job is to ensure public safety. The fire service cannot be the same if we go to 10 people on duty. It is not safe," Chief McCrobie said.
Oswego firefighters have had agreements with the towns of Minetto, Scriba and Oswego to provide ambulance services. Those agreements expire at the end of 2012. Mayor Gillen believes fewer ambulances will be needed once the fire department can focus solely on calls within city of Oswego. He also said the ambulances being removed from service are older and have required costly maintenance. McCrobie reports that EMS service to the towns accounted for about 800 of his staff's calls last year.
City of Oswego taxpayer Paul Scullin thinks the city has too many people on the payroll.
"It’s a good idea to reduce the police force, the fire people, the ambulances and the municipal employees” because he says “we can’t afford them.”
Taxpayers could end the debate at a public hearing later this month.