Firefighters Fear Cuts

By: Linda Russell Email
By: Linda Russell Email

The city of Topeka could lose a big chunk of it's fire department, unless Topekans take a tax hike. 13's Linda Russell explains, it all depends on which city budget council members choose.

City Manager Norton Bonaparte says the city council asked him to come up with three different budgets. One of those wouldn't raise the mil levy at all. Another, he says would raise it enough to keep city services at their current level, and the third would add improvements. Each option leaves a different price to pay.

Some Topeka firefighters are wondering if they'll soon be parking their trucks for good. President of the Firefighter's Union Local 83, Kent Dedrick, says he heard about the city manager's budget proposals in a meeting with Bonaparte early last week. "According to what Mr. Bonaparte said, the zero mil increase would require a reduction of between 25 and 28 firefighter positions," Dedrick says.
That's more than two fire companies, and Dedrick says if the cuts happe, Engine 3, near downtown and Truck 9, on Southeast 29th Street could be at risk, and that's not all. "It would put the citizens as well as our own personnel at risk," Dedrick says.

It would leave fewer bodies to fight the fires, plus about seventy percent of the time when firefighters respond, it's for medical reasons. "If somebody's heart has stopped, we need to be there to get circulation continued to save their life," says Dedrick.

Dedrick says Bonaparte's plan to maintain the current level of services would require a 23 percent mil levy increase, or about 6 to 7 mils. On a 100,000 dollar house, that's about 70 or 80 dollars. Adding any improvements would send the mil levy even higher.

Either way, it looks like there's a big price to pay, but firefighters are hoping they don't get let down, and left without jobs. Dedrick says, "There's already been talk of some of our young people looking for other jobs already at other departments."

Dedrick says in the meeting last week, Bonaparte confirmed that a zero mil budget would also require cutting about 30 police positions, plus employees from other city departments.

13 News spoke with Bonaparte, and he said he would not comment about the different budget options until after he presents them to the city council at 5:30 Monday night.


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