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Bristol, Va. looks at making cuts in every department to save money

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Bristol, Virginia is in more than $100 million in debt. Now, with a full city council and a new city attorney on board, city leaders are trying to figure out how to get out of the hole.

The council agreed on a couple of things. First, the city needs to increase revenue and attract more businesses. Right now, city leaders see the opposite happening with businesses like Sears at the Bristol Mall closing. But they hope to turn that around by creating more economic partnerships with Washington County.

City leaders said every department needs to look at making cuts. That includes emergency services like the fire and police departments.

The fire department has already trimmed its services. It had been responding to emergency medical calls as well as fires. But now, for a 90-day trial period, firefighters will not go on medical calls, unless the life saving crew needs the extra help.

Firefighters said they're worried more cuts could lead to job loss and a drop in public safety.

But councilman Kevin Mumpower said running a city is just like running a business.

"I have no emotions attached to any department," Mumpower said. "It doesn't matter if it's fire, education, police. It all comes down to, is that department staffed properly for the size of Bristol? All of them have some issues with their financial position, especially when you compare it to other cities our size."

Mumpower said the city must also create more financial policies to prevent going further into debt. Tuesday's meeting was just a work session, so there was no public hearing and no decision was made.

Next Tuesday, the city council will go through each department's budget. At that meeting, people will be allowed to make public comments.

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