» Fire­fighter cuts:

Next year’s bud­get calls for shut­ter­ing 6 sta­tions, elim­i­nat­ing 5 fire rigs

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - MARY SPICUZZA AND ASH­LEY LUTH­ERN MIL­WAU­KEE JOUR­NAL SEN­TINEL

More than $9 mil­lion would be needed to save 75 Mil­wau­kee fire­fighter po­si­tions set to be elim­i­nated in next year’s bud­get, city of­fi­cials say.

More than $9 mil­lion would be needed to save 75 Mil­wau­kee fire­fighter po­si­tions set to be elim­i­nated in next year’s bud­get, city of­fi­cials said Thurs­day.

The money could pre­vent five fire rigs from be­ing de­com­mis­sioned, with 15 fire­fight­ers per ap­pa­ra­tus, city bud­get di­rec­tor Den­nis Yac­carino said.

Dur­ing a bud­get hear­ing at City Hall, Yac­carino told al­der­men that a bud­get boost of nearly $9.2 mil­lion could keep all five rigs — one fire engine and four lad­der trucks — op­er­at­ing. That amounts to a cost of about $1.8 mil­lion per rig, he said.

The to­tal would cover the salaries and ben­e­fits for 75 fire­fight­ers.

Bud­get cuts pro­posed in the 2018 bud­get would also in­clude clos­ing six fire sta­tions.

The depart­ment has 36 sta­tions through­out the city, and is propos­ing clos­ing those at 100 W. Vir­ginia St.; 1313 W. Reser­voir Ave.; 1693 N. Franklin Place; 300 S. 84th St.; 424 N. 30th St.; and 2400 S. 8th St.

It’s un­clear whether the ad­di­tional $9.2 mil­lion would keep all six sta­tions open.

Mil­wau­kee Fire Chief Mark Rohlf­ing said re­sponse times would still be faster than the na­tional stan­dard if the sta­tions shut down.

“We did ev­ery­thing we could to keep those sta­tions open,” he said.

Rohlf­ing added that, since 2009, the Mil­wau­kee Fire Depart­ment has taken six com­pa­nies out of ser­vice.

Mayor Tom Bar­rett has been push­ing for a half-cent lo­cal sales tax to avoid cuts to po­lice and fire­fighter po­si­tions, but Mil­wau­kee has not re­ceived the author­ity from Gov. Scott Walker and the Re­pub­li­can-con­trolled Leg­is­la­ture to pur­sue the tax.

With­out it, Bar­rett said, the city will elim­i­nate 33 po­lice of­fi­cer po­si­tions as well as the 75 fire­fighter jobs. No lay­offs are planned.

Bar­rett has faced crit­i­cism over the move, es­pe­cially from fire and po­lice unions.

Al­der­men have also voiced con­cern over the pub­lic safety cuts and sta­tion clo­sures.

“It’s re­ally dif­fi­cult to put this in dol­lars and cents when lives are on the line,” said Ald. Milele Coggs, chair­woman of the city Fi­nance and Per­son­nel Com­mit­tee.

Rohlf­ing ac­knowl­edged the clo­sures were hard for the com­mu­nity.

“It’s a dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion and there are emo­tions at­tached,” he said.

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