Council reviews fire budget

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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.

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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.

staylor@sunjournal.com


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