Photo: Video by nbc26.com
CREATED Aug. 20, 2012
GREEN BAY, WI – Some Green Bay firefighters are speaking out about the closing of one of their stations.
Engine one, located at 501 S. Washington was closed Saturday by the mayor and the interim fire chief as a way to reduce overtime and help control the city's budget deficit.
Firefighters say the closure may put citizens in danger, but the mayor says no services will be compromised.
“This is not going to delay the first responders or the secondary units,” said Mayor Jim Schmitt.
But Bernie Carwardine, a firefighter of 17 years disagrees.
“Two minutes is not big to the normal, average day person, but two minutes in a fire makes the world of difference,” said Carwardine. He and others are concerned about the staffing changes.
“We're doing this not just for the firefighters; we're doing it for the citizens,” said Carwardine. “We just want to do our job to the best of our ability.”
“There's a rise in time responses, it's going to have an impact on the safety of the people we protect and we serve,” said Chad Bronkhorst, President of the Green Bay Firefighters IAFF Local 141.
Bronkhorst said the mayor is targeting the fire department for overtime.
“His agenda is to have us go over and then target the budget as being too big,” said Bronkhorst.
The union said under Mayor Schmitt, they’ve trimmed personnel from 48 to 38 a day.
But the mayor maintains, even with reallocating services, the area of engine one is still covered by three nearby fire departments. He said the union is using this as a scare tactic.
“I mean, come on, give us some more credit, we wouldn't propose anything that would harm the city at all,” said Mayor Schmitt.
He's asking all city agencies to cut back to help with a budget deficit. And the reallocation of services will save about $90,000 a month.
But alderman, Dave Boyce, who represents District 7, isn't on board with changing the services.
“We want to come together. We want the citizens to come together on behalf of the fire department and the wonderful things they've done,” said Boyce.
The interim Fire Chief, Michael Nieft said the decision to close the engine was a tough one. He said with more people taking vacations, they had to fill positions with overtime.
He said he was presented with the problem from the mayor, and he came up with the most manageable solution.
“It’s a tough time for city budget,” said Nieft.
He said the Engine may reopen, after the busy summer-vacation season is over, and they can staff without overtime.
Nieft said this matter will likely come up at Tuesday’s city council meeting.