Faced with the potential of massive budget cuts, Clinton’s firefighters took their opportunity to tell their side of the issus as they filled the council chambers during Tuesday night’s Clinton City Council meeting.
Lt. Jeff Chapman, who spoke for the firefighters’ bargaining unit, said the proposed $300,000 in cuts detailed in City Administrator Jeff Horne’s budget amendment proposed at an earlier meeting could mean the loss of five firefighters. He said the firefighters were already working shorthanded, not having replaced two retirees.
“Our safety, as well as the safety of our citizenry, will be compromised if these measures are taken,” said Lt. Jim Fullan, reading from a letter prepared by the firefighters’ union.
Minimum staffing requirements have been eliminated to cut costs, according to Chapman. Previously, the fire department was required to have 11 staff members on hand. Now, Chapman said they can’t run with more than 10, and are frequently only able to staff nine firefighters at a time. This results in the closure of the Lyons Fire Station, and can mean only having one ambulance staffed at a given time.
He encouraged the council to consider alternative options, and expressed the union’s belief that the department was being punished for actions it was not responsible for, namely the $4.5 million Medicare settlement. The union believes that the city should be able to recoup some of those expenses through insurance.
An earlier version of the city council agenda called for a resolution supporting Horne’s budget cut framework, which suggested, without providing details, more than $1 million in cuts to the city’s budget. Horne said the item was removed a few days prior to the meeting to allow him to gain a more thorough understanding of where the budget should be trimmed.
As no actionable item appeared on the agenda, no action was taken. Chapman said the firefighters felt it was important to be present.
In other action, the council:
•Approved a Rip Rap Bank Protection Project be funded by the city. A bid was awarded to Connolly Construction for $424,181.
• Approved a resolution supporting Clinton Jr. Baseball’s proposal to seek funds for a new headquarters. Third Ward Council Member Bev Hermann felt it was important to note that the passage of the resolution did not award any funds to the organization. It allows Clinton Jr. Baseball to explore funding options at no cost to the city.