City Fire Union scares downtown businesses (updated)

Yesterday, the Pensacola Fire Union delivered flyers to downtown businesses telling them that the City has put their lives at risk and asking them to “support Councilwomen DeWeese in her efforts to rebuild Fire Department.”

The flyer states that staffing cuts “could (my emphasis) cause your insurance rates go up by 10%.” It tells the business owners that 22 Firefighter positions have been cut since 2008. “You could have as little as 3 Firefighters show up to your fire.”

Deweese made last Saturday an inquiry of the City Finance Director Dick Barker to consider reestablishing the Fire Rescue Units that were taken offline by the Pensacola City Council in 2008. She did not submit any fire personnel increases to the mayor in April when the other council members sent in their budget priorities.

I spoke last night with Chief Administrative Officer Bill Reynolds. “If the Fire Union believes there is a real safety issue, then we may need to look at staffing on shifts and reassigning personnel,” said Reynolds.

Chief of Staff John Asmar agreed that fire staffing has been at all time lows over the past four years. He estimated that the additional firefighters would cost the taxpayers over $1 million. “We didn’t create this problem,” said Asmar, “but, by September, the mayor will have hired six new fighters. We’ve made some progress.”

The mayor’s proposed budget actually has 120 positions which returns the fire staffing to above 2009 levels, but still 18 fewer positions than 2008. I mistakenly picked up the wrong number from the appendices to the proposed budget, using Appendix Q, instead of Appendix M. The staff levels in FY 2012 are at the same level the Pensacola City Council approved last year – 111.

Asmar suggested that one way to bring back the Fire Rescue units would be to reduce the number of firefighters allowed to be on leave on a shift from six to two people. “Bill Reynolds, Dick Barker and I met with the council president on Monday and explained this to her,” said Asmar.

Mayor Ashton Hayward has proposed a $210,200 budget increase for the fire department — from $10,087,900 to $10,298,000. Last year, the Pensacola City Council cut fire budget by nearly half a million dollars.

According to the FY 2012 budget, the Pensacola Fire Department extinguished 227 fires in 2010 and had 6117 total emergency responses for the same period. Using the FY 2011 budget, citizens paid $44,440 for each extinguished fire and $1712 per non-fire response.

2007: 142
2008: 138
2009: 116
2010: 114
2011: 111
2012 Budget: 120
Source: City Of Pensacola

2007 Actual: $11,490,203
2008 Actual: $10,957,039
2009 Actual: $10,543,678
2010 Actual: $10,562,770
2011 Budget: $10,087,900
2012 Budget: $10,298,100
Source: City of Pensacola

See flyer: Fire Union