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Plan to keep city jobs vacant next year could affect fire, police service

Sept. 4, 2009

A city budget proposal that call for keeping 12 jobs vacant throughout 2010 is raising concerns that it could negatively affect Wauwatosa's fire and police services.

The proposed "rolling vacancies" would prevent refilling positions left empty by employees who leave through attrition. Those vacancies would providing a savings of about $896,000 in wages and benefits next year, City Administrator James Archambo told the Budget Committee on Thursday night.

If the Budget Committee supports the plan, Wauwatosa residents could see a less than 1 percent or about a $300,000 increase in the property tax levy, the smallest levy increase since 2004, Archambo said.

Half the rolling vacancies are slated to come from the city's two largest department — three from police and three from fire — causing worries about how those departments would handle increasing call volumes with fewer bodies. Using more overtime to compensate is not an option in this budget.

The Fire Department already has two vacancies and Chief Dean Redman said a third one would require some reconfiguration of staffing. The best option would be shutting down a backup ambulance, which would be staffed by two employees, at Fire Station 2. That would allow one firefighter to be shifted to a pumper truck and one fewer employee to work each day.

If all three of the other paramedic units in the city are busy, then additional emergency service calls would have to be routed to Milwaukee, West Allis or private ambulance units, Redman said.

With Mayfair Road and soon the Zoo Interchange under construction, response times could be delayed by seven or eight minutes, a significant amount when it comes to life-saving services, said Hank Wendt, president of the Wauwatosa firefighters union.

“We’re at bare bones now," Wendt said. "One person, one rig less will affect the quality of service."

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