City commission stands by fire cuts

“We urge the city commission to amend the (budget) to reallocate enough money from the EMS fund to maintain the current level of service throughout the city of Sandusky until such time that additional revenue can be secured”
Andy Ouriel
Mar 25, 2014
Despite pleas from residents, Sandusky city commissioners Monday reiterated their stance to downsize fire operations by May.

About a month ago, commissioners voted to approve a $16.3 million everyday operating budget, which included $1.1 million in reductions significantly impacting fire services.

Among the fire cuts:

•Slash full-time staffing levels from 53 today to 49 by May. This would include laying off three firefighters in these positions and eliminating one unfilled spot.

•Scale back on overtime, training and taxpayer-funded physicals.

•Close Fire Station No. 7 on Venice Road near Toft Dairy from May to October, prolonging response times for residents on Sandusky’s west side.

The reductions bothered a batch of residents speaking against the cuts on Monday at City Hall.

During a public meeting, Pinewood Condominiums resident Bill Armbrecht said he was speaking on behalf of his neighbors. Armbrecht and others wanted officials to withdraw enough money from the city’s EMS account in order to maintain present-day fire operations.

Through ambulance billing, the EMS account generates about $800,000 a year and is used for equipment and vehicle purchases, such as new fire trucks. The account’s balance totaled about $1.7 million in mid-February.

“We urge the city commission to amend the (budget) to reallocate enough money from the EMS fund to maintain the current level of service throughout the city of Sandusky until such time that additional revenue can be secured” Armbrecht said.

Commissioners responded to the request — but not at the same level residents sought.

The elected officials voted 7-0 to withdraw $400,000 this year from the EMS account, an additional $250,000 taken compared to years past.

But the additional amount only represents a sliver of what’s needed to save firefighter jobs and keep the station on Sandusky’s west end open.

Ex officio mayor Dennis Murray Jr. responded to residents by echoing his longtime stance on these cuts.

Murray contends draining the EMS account would place an even greater burden onto Sandusky years later than what officials face today.

“The reserve has to be there for equipment purchases going forward,” Murray said. “All we are doing by burning through the reserves is delaying difficult decisions. I would rather be able to see the force (with four fewer) firefighters for the foreseeable future as opposed to (six or eight fewer) firefighters and burn through all your money to buy equipment.”

Developing a plan to avoid future financial problems might include potentially raising the city’s 1 percent income tax or 3 percent admissions tax rates. Officials could also push forward in placing a fire levy on an upcoming ballot, which would increase property taxes if approved.

Comments

local man

Most homeowners insurance policies have a provision to pay up to $500 for fire department calls, does the city bill or collect from this provision when they respond to a house fire?

slightthroat212

It would have made MORE sense to keep venice road open and close one of the other stations than to close it but that is the decision they will have to live with. God help them if they are wrong which I think they are. Just my opinion. I will watch from afar to see who is right.

slightthroat212

Like it or not, this city commission is either going to have to tax visitors or tax citizens and whoever gets taxed, they need to find a suitable long term bases for a long term goal. That means a sustainable tax base or BUSINESSES coming to this area. Good luck with that one, they just don't seem to get that concept because they like their parks and the tourists. What a shame. Before long, Perkins will own this place. What a shame.

Retiredfirefighter

slightthroat i agree with you but there is nothing wrong with perkins fire. they are a good department.

Retiredfirefighter

Well all i can say is the city commision better pray that nothing happens to my mom and dad between may and october. They live west of Station 7. If something happens i can see a negligence and maleficence lawsuit coming againist each individual comissioner. It is their duty to provide a safe community and by closing station 7 they are not providing for a safe community. I know about response times because i was a firefighter. The time it takes for 911 to come from station 1 even running code 3 (lights and sirens) is still greater then 6 minutes and in a heart attack or stroke those minutes are critical. The city commission better be ready for lawsuits when they come. I hope you read this so called mayor murray.

margaritaville88

I will back you up there!! What would happen if a large disaster would happen at a well known West Side restaurant that affected several hundred people??....just a thought

margaritaville88

and the school kids..

DGMutley

Closing No.7 during the busiest time of the year and leaving it open the slowest time of the year doesn't make sense. What am I missing?

Darkhorse

I don't get the closing from May to October when the services are in demand the most unless it is to promote the tax increase. It is strategic planning to get the taxpayer to come through with the money.

DGMutley

The strategic plan isn't very strategic. An income tax raise of .25% isn't enough. It only raises 1.6 mil. Plus nobody will vote for it.

reader

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Bogtrotter

?

reader

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donutsh0pguy

11 am April 5th Mr. smith's coffee shop.
Make a difference day and show the commission how to fix the situation .

"Save City Services Tax the Tourist.

Erie County Resident

Start the petition to get a BIG jump in admissions tax on the ballot to bring Cedar Points in line with other parks in the country.
This will not cost Cedar Point money just the tourist who are the reason this is happening anyway.
The commissioners can't even think fair share can they.

Bogtrotter

We're working on it. April 5, Mr. Smith's, 11 am. Hopefully, enough people will show up to get the ball rolling. Obviously, one of the key goals of raising the admissions tax would be to keep the fire department fully staffed.

FantasticFred

Erie County Resident is making a very ignorant statement in saying an admission tax will not cost CP money. CP hires the best people around to ascertain what price the market can bear. CP charges the highest price possible and if other entities are adding to that price then CP has to lower what they charge. Do you think the tourist really cares what the split of the $55 is or do they correctly blame CP for the final high price?

kURTje

This is why I pay insurance. All must sacrifice.

donutsh0pguy

Hahaha, a lot a good your insurance is going to do you when a ambulance doesn't show up to take you to the hospital to use your insurance.

"Save City Services Tax the Tourist"

Forward Looking

I think that if people are so critical about cutting services when money is not available, then increase the income tax. You want it, you have to pay for it. Not sure if admission tax increase is answer, but a slight increase would not be horrible. Point is this: money pays for services and we have to generate more money. Everyone is against development and don't want tax increases, so services have to be cut until revenue is increased.

Rosa

RAISE C P ADMISSIONS TAX & TAKE CARE OF THE CITIZENS