By Tom Lehman 6:28am, July 3, 2014 - Updated 2:04pm, July 3, 2014Wilmington City Council is proposing the elimination of seven vacant positions in the fire department to save the city $447,000 in this fiscal year.
WDEL's Tom Lehman reports.
The cuts are part of a package of four bills that supporters said are aimed at reducing the size and expenditures of city government.
The reductions to the fire department were based on recommendations from a study by Berkshire Advisors that was commissioned under the Baker administration in 2012.
City Council President Theo Gregory (D) said he and other council members only sought to eliminate positions that were vacant because of retirements.
"We know that there are seven vacancies there due to attrition so we can start the process of executing or implementing the Berkshire report," Gregory said.
Mayor Dennis Williams (D) could not be reached for comment on Wednesday about the bills, which are set to be introduced a city council’s regular meeting Thursday.
However, Cleon Cauley, the mayor's chief of staff said in a statement that the administration is reviewing the ordinances.
"The ordinances seem to be an attempt by a select few to change items that the majority of Council agreed upon in the approved budget less than 60 days ago," Cauley said.
Wilmington Fire Chief Anthony Goode said he's "completely against" the cuts. He argued the reductions would endanger citizens, businesses and firefighters by hindering a department already making due with nine overall vacancies.
"One firefighter or one truck going up to a working house fire, a working building fire or some type of medical emergency doesn’t get the job done, it doesn't provide the services needed," Goode said.
Councilman Mike Brown (R-At Large) said the department won't lose any existing jobs but would continue functioning at a similar level to its current level of operations.
"We aren't taking any positions that are actively full and being filled by anyone at this point," Brown said.
Goode said he intends to fill the positions and took to Twitter to encourage prospective firefighters to apply for an upcoming recruitment class.
The WFD has begun a recruitment/hiring process to fill current & future Vacancies! Advertisements for WFD positions will begin July 7th!— Chief Anthony Goode (@WilmFire) July 2, 2014
The package of bills also includes legislation to set aside $100,000 for the Williams administration to commission a study reviewing the Finance and Public Works departments for efficiencies.
"We have to find a way to find a way to cut costs and in the City of Wilmington you cant do that without looking at personnel costs," said Councilman and Finance Committee Chair Bud Freel (D-District 8).
Another bill would require the city's Expenditure Review Board to hold each of its required quarterly meetings during regularly scheduled Finance committee sessions. Freel said the measures were intended to increase council's involvement in the budget process and make it a year-round focus.
Gregory said the proposals weren't "carved in stone" and could be changed if the administration is open to discussion on the bills.
He wouldn't speculate as to whether the measures would be vetoed by Williams but believed there was enough support among council members to pass them.
"We are willing to talk with the administration and engage in dialogue and back and forth until we reach a product that we believe everyone can live with it," he said.
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