Firefighters canvas city, hand out flyers after city leaders discuss cutting up to 15 positions
Possible budget cuts have firefighters taking to the streets of Bristol, Virginia. On Tuesday night, city leaders talked about eliminating up to 15 firefighter positions.
The City Council is attempting to fix a half a million dollar deficit in this upcoming budget. And they said they're also trying to find a long-term solution to save money.
With a fire station and up to 15 jobs possibly on the line, firefighters are not wasting any time. They're canvassing the city with flyers, hoping to get the community's support.
Firefighters are going door-to-door to homes and businesses in Bristol, Virginia. They said budget cuts would raise response times and impact public safety. That is alarming to some residents.
"I just don't think safety cuts is the right idea," Debbie Sourbeer said.
"They're vital to us," William Reid said. "We need them, we need them drastically."
The firefighters union president, Mike Wise, said the fire department is already stretched thin.
"Obviously, we're nervous, scared - that's a lot of staffing reductions," Wise said.
But councilman Kevin Mumpower said he's gotten several phone calls from citizens who agree with the possible cuts.
"It's not about whether the fire department is good or not. We know they're good," Mumpower said. "But you still have to have the right number of people. You can only afford so much."
He said it's not personal. The city should be run like a business.
"What's the right amount of money that we need to put forward to fund this city service properly?" the councilman asked.
Based on a National Fire Protection Association report, Mumpower said a city of Bristol's size should have 30 firefighters. Right now, it has 45 on the payroll.
Mumpower said bringing Bristol in-line with similar cities could save close to a million dollars each year. Those are numbers, firefighters aren't accepting just yet.
"We're doing our own research, getting our facts and numbers together to come back with a rebuttal of why this should not happen," Wise said.
The deadline to settle next year's budget is right around the corner.
"Council never came to a consensus about the number they wanted to cut," Mayor Bill Hartley said.
And he has some concerns as well.
"I'm not sure we have to do that right now," the mayor said. "And I'm concerned a little bit about what the impact will be on safety."
Right now, nothing is set in stone. That is leaving many firefighters uneasy about the future.
"Our guys are hurt. Our guys are broken," Wise said. "We need something done. We can't keep doing this year after year."
Firefighters will continue canvassing the city and handing out flyers throughout the week.
City council is expecting to see a formal budget proposal, Thursday night.