(Memohis) What level of safety services do you want this city to have? That’s the question the Fire Services Director of Memphis led with Tuesday’s budget meeting.
The operating budget was passed, but other questions were raised about how the department is being run.
Alvin Benson is the Director of Fire Services in Memphis.
He summed it up by saying, “We are in tough times here in this city. There has to be some hard choices and I think we have a menu of bad options.”
It’s a game of numbers. Seventeen-hundred firefighters, 21 trucks and $160 million to pay for it all.
That’s the same amount of money the department asked for last year, but Benson says it’s not enough to last.
“Today we are down 74 firefighters. Next year we are going to be down 136 fire fighters.”
That drop in staff means when too many people call out sick, rather than paying overtime, the city pulls a truck off the street for the day. They call it a brown out.
It’s a risky gamble, and so far it happened 170 times this year.
Some councilors argue a massive jump in sick days within the department are causing the problems.
Others think this is a game of back door politics.
Councilman Harold Collins claims the mayor’s office wants all budgets to pass to push the city into a corner and force a tax hike.
Councilor Harold Collins said, “If the mayor and administration wants a tax increase they ought to tell the pieople they want one to get things done. not do it, in my opinion, by slight of hand.”
It’s been two years since there was a new class of firefighter recruits here in Memphis, so the department is asking for another $1.2 million to pay to have them trained and fill some of those vacancies on the force.
That money has yet to be approved.