JFRD could close 3 fire stations due to budget cuts

Sheriff's Office, city employees also facing cuts

By Jim Piggott - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department has submitted new figures that call for three station closings and major cuts in overtime as a result of city budget cuts.

It would save millions, but as one family learned Wednesday, it would not save their home.

June Joiner's garage caught fire Wednesday morning, and she's lucky the Fire Department got to her house quickly and put it out. Firefighters came from Station 14 in Avondale. But next time they may not be so quick.

DOCUMENTS: Fire proposed cuts | Sheriff's Office proposed budget

Station 14, on Hershel Street, could close because of budget cuts. Joiner has a message for the mayor.

"I want him to know the firefighters and first responders are so important," she said. "That is not a place to start to cut. That should be your last resort."

As part of a proposed budget plan, fire officials have come up with $10.2 million in cuts, which also include closing stations in Tallyrand St. Nicholas. Those stations would be Station 11 on Tallyrand and Station 12 on Atlantic Blvd. Also in the plan is no new equipment, no overtime, and rotating operations at other stations.

Fire union President Randy Wyse said it affects public safety.

"Monumental task to overcome that," he said. "For firefighters to keep up the same level of service, it would not occur."

It doesn't stop with the Fire Department. There are other major city cuts planned, including to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, which was told to cut $29 million.

Sheriff John Rutherford said if pension reform doesn't happen, his department may be forced to lay off hundreds of officers and corrections officials. The sheriff said he can't do that because it would put the public at risk.

He's urging the City Council to pass pension reform so those cuts won't have to take place.

"A $29 million cut would result in the layoff of hundreds of police officers and correctional officers, and that would be a violation, I believe, of my constitutional obligation to supply public safety to this city," Rutherford. "So we're going to have to find some other answer, and I believe this pension reform would go a long way in doing that."

A group of community leaders met on the pension task force Wednesday to look at options that are available to the city. They plan to present proposals to the mayor by August.

"We are continuing to work with the sheriff on his side of the budget," city spokesman Dave DeCamp said. "We got budget submittals from every city department. We are working through that. There are a number of reductions we are considering."

City employees are in danger as well. In fact, 120 positions are set to be cut. That could mean layoffs.

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