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City Government, Economy

2013 Budget Puts Firefighters at Risk

As part of the proposed City budget, the fire department could face cuts. Photo courtesy of The Ithacan.

By: Emily Miles and Nicole Ogrysko

The City of Ithaca is searching for ways to generate more revenue in the midst of a $3 million deficit. If Mayor Svante Myrick’s proposed 2013 budget is passed Nov. 7, the City of Ithaca Fire Department will lose four of its positions — two through layoffs and two by retirement. Myrick said these changes were necessary to combat the city’s deficit.

“That’s the nature of a government in a time of scarcity,” Myrick said. “Unless a major change happens on a federal level, we can’t expect to see those kinds of resources again.”

Fire Chief Tom Parsons said the department has already had a reduction of about 10 percent of its workforce since 2009 through retirements. There are four Ithaca fire stations, including one on Danby Road near the college. Currently, there are four volunteer firefighters working in Ithaca, in addition to 63 career firefighters. But the number could lower to 59 if the mayor’s budget is passed.

Many at the Ithaca Fire Department say the station is stretched too thin.

“The department is understaffed,” Gary Farwell, vice president of the Ithaca Firefighters Association, said. “There are standards that say you should have 15 firefighters showing up at a fire, and we show up with 11.”

In total, Myrick’s budget would eliminate 25 positions within the city government, including one administrative assistant in the building department and nine positions in the Ithaca Police Department.

The  budget also proposes to consolidate the planning department and the building department to simplify fire code and building inspections. The Fire Prevention Bureau would be eliminated.

Full the full story, check out Ithaca Now’s collaboration with The Ithacan.

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