Council reviews fire budget


Editor’s note: This story was inadvertently cut off in Friday’s edition. It is reprinted here in its entirety.

LEWISTON — Budget cuts would force firefighters to be less aggressive in fighting fires, Fire Chief Paul Leclair told City Councilors Thursday.

Councilors are reviewing a draft 2010-11 budget which calls for $43.6 million in spending, a slight decrease compared to the current budget. Even with the budget cuts, the proposed budget would increase property taxes by about $150 on a $150,000 home.

About $731,171 of those cuts depend on eliminating as many as 20 positions citywide. That could include taking one fire truck out of service and eliminating nine firefighters.

Cuts like that would force the fire department to change the way it responds to fires, Leclair said. Currently, the city responds to blazes with all five vehicles, each taking a different role.

“Remove one of those trucks, and we lose one of those roles,” he said. It’s a job that could be filled by a truck responding from another fire department, but it could take time for those “mutual response” trucks to arrive.

“We end up in more of a defensive stance,” he said. Firefighters wouldn’t be able to rush in and attack a fire until help arrived.

But councilors said cuts need to come from somewhere. Councilor Renee Bernier said she was focusing on the department’s $500,000 overtime budget while Councilor Stephen Morgan emphasized working with unions to reduce salary costs without layoffs.

Councilors will continue their budget discussions at their Tuesday meeting.

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