"Watch "Between the Lines Live" interview with Sandusky FIre Lt. Adam Butler and firefighter and union vice president Ryan Brotherton and Butler at 5 p.m. today or on demand, anytime, at sanduskyregister.com.
By RYAN BROTHERTON
IAFF Local 327 Vice President
As everyone knows by now, the city of Sandusky is facing a budget shortfall — or is it?
The city is starting the year with a positive balance — $4,227,678 in carryover funds — so why are firefighters being laid off?
The elected officials are looking to take about $800,000 away from the fire department. That includes the elimination of four full-time positions; eliminating $42,600 from the overtime budget; eliminating $41,799 in costs from yearly required medical exams to ensure firefighters are healthy enough to perform their jobs; and an additional $250,000 from the the fire department’s EMS fund on top of the $150,000 the city takes from the fund each year.
The EMS fund is money collected by the fire department from ambulance billing. The men and women of the Sandusky Fire Department responded to 5,428 emergency calls last year; 4,531 of these calls were EMS-related and 897 were fire-related.
Sandusky firefighters and EMTs respond to calls 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year and earned every dime in the EMS fund. It is unfair for the city to deny the fire department access to it to pay overtime costs that would allow a manpower level to respond to all emergency calls.
Denying the fire department access to the account coupled with the city’s plan to tap into it for the additional $250,000 to pay other expenses, essentially means cutting jobs and reducing our ability to respond in emergency situations.
Members of IAFF Local 327 have responded to some of the worst emergencies this city has ever seen, from murders and violent crimes to arson fires that turn into homicide investigations.
City officials are under the false impression a federal grant that is expiring was used to create six new firefighter positions. In reality, the funding was used to maintain six positions that already existed. The federal grant was not used to create new jobs, it was used to bring back firefighters who had been laid off.
Sandusky Fire Lt. Adam Butler applied for and secured the grant money before he was promoted and it allowed the department to maintain stable staffing levels and consequently, safety for our citizens.
So, how can the city target the fire department and deny us the right to use money we rightfully earned? These cuts leave us short four firefighters, and will leave residents less safe.
The most confusing part of this situation, perhaps, is how elected officials are claiming their goal is to rebuild Sandusky, bring in revenue by opening up new businesses and encourage people to move into the city. Sounds good, right? But we are not going to rebuild Sandusky by making it less safe. No one will open up new businesses, move in or visit an unsafe city. An unsafe city is exactly what Sandusky will be with fewer firefighters.
The tourism industry here means, at any given time, the city’s population can jump from 25,000 to more than 100,000 people. Who is going to help these people when they call 911 and no squads or engines are available to respond? Who is going to answer to the people who face loss of life and property because there was no one to help them?
Who will watch our backs while we are watching everyone else’s?
This I can guarantee: The members of Local 327 do this job because we love what we do. We love helping people. No matter what, we will do our best with how thin we will be stretched.
It is not the fault of residents — they’re being used as pawns in this political game, and they should not have to suffer. If city commission follows through with layoffs, however, the citizens who trust us will suffer the most.
If our elected officials wholeheartedly care about this city and its people, they will not throw them to the wolves and put their lives at risk by laying off firefighters and making the city unsafe.
If there is a life hazard, our firefighters will be there, even if it means we’re short-staffed and do not have anyone there to help us if something happens to us inside. We are professional firefighters. We took an oath to protect this city, and that is what we will do.
The International Association of Firefighters IAFF Local 327 urges the city to do the same. Protect the people who elected you; protect the firefighters who protect you. Make the money we earned available to us. City commissioners appear ready to use it for what they want; instead, let us use it for what we need.
I ask commissioners to ask themselves: What if one day you or your family member falls to the floor in cardiac arrest and there are no units available to respond or the firehouse closest to your home is closed? What if your property catches fire with someone inside and there is no one to respond?
You might say that will never happen to me, but think about the people it will happen to. It might not be you, but someone will suffer the consequences of your budget cuts.
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