» Firefighter cuts:
Next year’s budget calls for shuttering 6 stations, eliminating 5 fire rigs
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.