City's approved budget reduces police and fire services

City's approved budget reduces police and fire services
A city plan will cut the number of fire engines by half at Fire Stations Nos. 2 and 8 and be replaced by ambulance-sized rapid response vehicles. Some fear that will hurt service in their neighborhoods.

PORTLAND, Ore. – Starting next month many Portland residents will see reductions in police and fire services.

It's part of the new budget City Council approved Thursday.

Two North Portland fire stations will lose some of their fire engines. The firefighters union told city commissioners to expect increased response times.

Over the last few years as budget cuts have been made, emergency services haven't really felt the belt tighten as much as other departments. That'll change July 1.

About 50 firefighters who had the day off showed up for the council meeting wanting to send a message that even though no firefighters will be laid off, the cuts mean it will take longer for more firefighters to get to some emergencies.

Some fire engines at the two North Portland stations will be replaced with smaller rapid response vehicles.

Crews at those stations will be cut in half.

"Because we have longer response times and longer for those other units to get there, the fires are gonna grow bigger," said Alan Ferschweiler, president of the Portland Firefighters Association. "People are going to have to wait in their cars longer for car wrecks, especially for extrications. We're going to get there as soon as we can, but those services are going to be affected."

Police and fire services took the biggest hit at $11 million combined. The fire department dive team is gone. Multnomah County will respond to water rescues within the city limits.

Water and sewer fees are also going up about 5 percent. City commissioners and Mayor Charlie Hales told the crowd it was a tough budget for them to do.

Not one, but two budget votes

The process of approving the budget didn't come without a hitch.

At 2 p.m. the mayor, commissioners Steve Novick, Nick Fish and Dan Saltzman all voted to pass the budget. Commissioner Amanda Fritz, however, voted against it.

The meeting adjourned. But the city attorney told the City Council chambers clerk that since the budget was an "emergency ordinance" it needed all members to vote in favor of it before it could pass.

The clerk told KATU News it didn't occur to her at the time that the budget needed all members to approve it for it to pass. She said Fritz also didn't realize the vote was an emergency ordinance. An emergency meeting was called at 4 p.m. At that time Fritz changed her vote to "yay" and the budget passed.

According to the clerk, after the 2 p.m. vote, Hales and Fritz met to discuss why she voted against the budget.

After the 4 p.m. vote, Fritz tweeted: "In return for voting Yes on the City Budget, I will bring an ordinance to Council later asking for more funding for sex trafficking victims."

 

The clerk said if Fritz would not have changed her vote, fund allocation and payroll for every city department would have been delayed effective next month.

According to the clerk, if Fritz had been clear about the budget being an emergency ordinance, she wouldn't have voted against it the first time and she never intended to hold up payroll or other funding processes for city departments.