KCMO Considering Plan to Cut 100+ Firefighters from Force

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A showdown is looming at City Hall, as Kansas City Missouri Firefighters square off against city officials over proposed cuts that could leave some firefighters out of a job.

Kansas City Missouri City Manager Troy Schulte is proposing cutting over 100 firefighting positions from the force through buyouts. Schulte says that the number of fire calls have dropped by nearly 60 percent over the last decade, and the his proposed cuts would not affect public safety.

The proposed cuts would reduce the number of firefighters on crews responding to calls from four to three, a move that KCFD Chief Smokey Dyer says could mean a delay in getting crews inside a burning building to save lives. Chief Dyer started pushing for the four person crews ten years ago to meet National Fire Safety and OSHA standards.

"If anyone should have the blame for beefing up the fire department and staffing it falls on shoulders," Chief Dyer said.

City manager Troy Schulte says many cities operate with three people on a pumper. Committee chair person John Sharp opposes the idea.

"I just can't imagine a worse way to make cuts in the budget," Sharp said.

Councilman Michael Brooks says he still isn't convinced one way or the other.

"Certainly everyone is concerned about public safety who isn't?" said Councilman Brooks. "The reality is we have a tough budget session we have to deal with and if it's not the fire department where is the money going to come from -- how do we get to a balanced budget? "

Firefighters union president Mike Cambiano says he understands the tough times but he says the city manager making this proposal without even consulting the fire department is troubling.

"We've always worked with the city," Cambiano said. "We made substantial sacrifices in our last contract so they wouldn't shut down two fire stations or pumper companies.  We made that sacrifice and we'll work with the city to make the city safe."

The debate over the city  manager's proposed budget is just getting started. A final vote would happen in March. Mayor Sly James is expected to offer his response to the proposed budget on Thursday.

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