Fall River to lay off 25 firefighters, cuts department to 175
FALL RIVER, Mass. —
Signs of support for the Fall River Fire Department can be seen all over town, like in Joyce Silvia's front yard.
"I think that they deserve to have their jobs and we need the safety," she said.
The city has been going back and forth with the firefighters' union as budget cuts approach and federal grants expire.
Mayor William Flanagan initially suggested laying off 60 people, but on Thursday, struck a deal that only 25 would be let go.
The department will drop from 200 firefighters to 175 in July.
The union argues any cutbacks threaten public safety, and that the city knew the grants were set to expire.
"For four years we've known this was the end date. I wish we'd had a cookie jar that said Fall River that we put aside and didn't touch and we prepared for this moment. We didn't," said Jason Burns, president of the firefighters' union.
"We had meetings. We did our best to prep for this day, but a $14.5 million grant is very difficult to wean yourself off," Flanagan said.
The mayor promised to hire these people back as soon as he can.
"In the upcoming years, we'll bring it back to 200. That's the number we agree we all need to be," he said.
Those firefighters being let go are the youngest of the group. Burns said it will have a negative impact on public service.
"Our average age is now going to be up around the 40s and that takes a toll on the body. You're going to see more injuries," he said.
Despite the union's frustration, it is a compromise for the city too. The mayor suggested dropping the number of firefighters to 153 because that's what the city can afford.
To pay for 175 men and women to keep their jobs, Flanagan said he'll have to find money elsewhere in the budget. He said he doesn't know where that will be coming from just yet.