Last night at the Lowell City Council meeting the Head of the Firefighters Union Lt. David Keene called for the end of the budget-saving practice of closing city fire stations on a rotating basis. Many people in Lowell forget that this practice has been in effect since January 2009, (there are, at times, up to three companies off-line due to the budget crisis).
Keene pointed out “To the layman, this means 60 percent of the closest companies were closed due to budget cuts,” “We worked that fire with a reduction of personnel of 24 percent, one-fourth less manpower to take on the numerous tasks encountered simultaneously at this fire.” At the time of the fire, Ladder 4 on West Sixth Street, Engine 4 on High Street and the rescue company downtown were closed. Had all three been staffed, there would have been nine additional firefighters available.
We have read many reports about the Lawrence situation but many forget that Lowell has seen a loss of both fire and police personal over the years. Lowell is coping with less men and sometimes this results in the tragedy that occurred Sunday. Who knows what may have changed if the closest Ladder on West Sixth St. was staffed that night.
What choice does the Manager and Council have? One would be to raise the Tax Levy to the full 2.5% and generate the almost 5 million dollars the City is under the levy by. That would get us the additional manpower but could the average taxpayer afford that? Probably not. Would the Council want to burden the taxpayer more, probably not. Could the city save money by eliminating the Recreation/Swimming programs it runs? Sure but how would that have worked this summer with the blistering heat? Where would people have gone to cool off? Would we go back to the days of seeing fire hydrants open in the neighborhood to cool off? That just creates other issues. Should we close or scale back Library hours? Close City Hall on Friday’s? Eliminate art, music and sports in school?
Tough times call for tough actions and tough decisions. All of us want a fully staffed police and fire dept., we want fully staffed schools with library aids and computer teachers.
Sure we would like all that but the money isn’t there so the people we elect have to make the tough choices. There is no City Councilor or School Committee member who wants to eliminate city service or school programs. Neither the Manager or the School Supt. want to increase taxes or cut programs and service but in the financial times we are in and are looking forward too it has to happen.
What would you cut to fully staff fire and police? It’s only going to get worse before it gets better so the citizens of Lowell should be prepared to let the Manager, Council, School Committee and Unions know what the priorities are and identify the cuts you would make before blasting others to make cuts.
Today’s Sun has the full story of Lt. Keene’s comments. You can read them here and pick up or subscribe to the Sun to keep up on local news and events.