Layoff notices went out to firefighters in Pleasantville, where officials say cuts have to be made to help try and balance the budget shortfall. City officials are also considering other changes in an attempt to cut costs, but some public safety officials say it's a bad idea.
“Guys are literally seeing their family members walk out the door and know that there's a potential they may not be returning.” They're guys that Julio Sanchez Jr. says have worked together on some of their biggest calls, and will miss both personally and professionally.
Five Pleasantville Firefighters got layoff notices Tuesday night - a move the union Vice President says could have real repercussions. “It's unsafe for us as firefighters,” said Sanchez, a Pleasantville Firefighter and Vice President of Local 2616, “as well as the residents, to operate as a full service fire department with less personnel.”
But city officials say they're forced to make cuts due to major budget shortfalls, combined with losing UEZ public safety funding and the expiration of their SAFER Grant - which they decided not to seek again. “We'd find ourselves in a situation where we'd be looking at layoffs once that grant money expired,” explained Linda Peyton, Pleasantville’s City Administrator.
In another effort to cut costs, the city is also looking at the possibility of outsourcing EMS services, which are currently provided by the fire department - something that could start as early as the beginning of next year. “We're not decreasing services in that area,” Peyton stressed, “whatever agreement that we make with the vendor, the potential vendor, they would have to be able to provide the same service, if not better than our current EMS service is providing.”
“The familiarity and comfort level that we've established with our citizens is gonna be gone,” argued Sanchez, “you're going to bring strangers in who are non-Pleasantville people who are going to run an ambulance for people who are used to a certain level of service.”
Outsourcing EMS services isn't a done-deal, “We would have to see a costs savings for the city, that is our goal,” said Peyton, “we're trying to take the financial burden off our taxpayers without decreasing services here,’ but fire department union members believe saving money could be costly when it comes to the level of service, and say they'll continue to work to stop it from happening.
The layoffs would take effect by December 31st, but union officials say the five firefighters who received the notices are now on administrative leave so they can try to make other employment arrangements.
City officials say they're continuing to work to try and find other ways to makeup the budget shortfall so layoffs can be avoided.
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