Friday, September 17, 2004

Fire union lists ways to save


But city says that's not enough;
'brownouts' still needed

By Jane Prendergast
Enquirer staff writer

Cincinnati's fire union hopes to stop the city's plan to save money by not staffing some fire companies each day.

Union president Joe Diebold said Thursday he doesn't understand why city officials rejected the union's money-saving proposals in favor of "browning out,'' or reducing staffing, by up to six fire companies every day through the end of the year.

Each day the department staffs 40 fire companies within 26 firehouses.

Diebold called the city's plan "knee-jerk'' and "Draconian.''

"Brownouts are going to affect the most lower-income areas of our city,'' he said. "Council members know we offered them other options.''

The union suggested canceling an internal audit of the department, the cost of which has been estimated at up to $500,000; billing for emergency medical runs at the maximum allowed by Medicare; and increasing billing for mileage on medical transports, which the union said would generate $648,000 a year.

The union agreed with Fire Chief Robert Wright's other cost-saving measures, including selling the department's spare-parts inventory and handling all inspections for special events with on-duty personnel, to avoid paying overtime.

City spokeswoman Meg Olberding said the union's suggested cuts were good ones.

They'll be considered for the future, she said, but they wouldn't have saved enough money quickly enough. Wright's proposals will save an estimated $2.4 million, officials say.

The plan will be discussed Tuesday at City Council's finance committee.

No firehouses will be left completely dark under the plan. Brownouts will happen only in fire stations that house more than one company, such as an engine company and a ladder truck, and only one of those companies would be decommissioned at a time.

E-mail jprendergast@enquirer.com




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