Bangor firefighters challenge cuts

As a grant expires, the Bangor Fire Dept. looks at ways to adjust to the funding shortfall

BANGOR, Maine (NEWS CENTER) – Bangor firefighters are fighting back against cuts to the department. The city said it needs to eliminate four positions—bring staffing from 88 firefighters down to 84.

This as the department receives more calls each year. It responded to approximately 10,000 calls last year alone.

"If we lose these four positions it’s going to be a lot harder to get the extra positions down the road,” firefighter John York said.

York is president of the Bangor Professional Firefighters IAFF Local 772 Union. He said he fears it could lead to inadequate staffing all around.

"I don't look at this as a gateway to cutting additional firefighters in another year. That's not the intent,” City Manager Cathy Conlow said.

Conlow pointed to a history of cuts to the positions, including back in 2010. She said a FEMA grant in 2013 provided funding for the positions. That grant ran out was extended through May, but has since run out, according to Conlow.

She said the city would have to pick up the tab of $250,000-$300,000 a year. It is something she said they are not in a position to do as they continue to lose state and federal funding.

“I think that everybody has this problem and it’s unfortunate because a lot of the services at the local level are the ones that people count on the most,” Conlow said.

York is adamant that the vacant positions would leave the city vulnerable and even goes against emergency response standards set by the National Fire Protection Association. However, Conlow said they are ensuring at least 17-22 firefighters on each shift, acknowledging that there may be the need for overtime on occasion.

“Cities are supposed to take care of the community and it's their responsibility to do that,” York said.

York said the union plans to address the council at a meeting Wednesday night.

© 2017 WLBZ-TV


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