DUBUQUE, Iowa (AP) - The City Council has voted to table
proposed job cuts to the fire department after public outrage over
reducing the already lean department.
More than 400 people filled the Five Flags Theater for a hearing
Wednesday night on an amendment to the city's 2004 budget - an
amendment aimed at fixing a $2 million deficit.
Nearly 50 people, many of them firefighters, implored the
council not to eliminate three positions from the fire department,
citing safety.
"You cut us, you could be killing us," said longtime
firefighter Jim Burdt. "My safety counts along with the
citizens."
John Finn, owner of a downtown bar, told council members his
life would be "drastically different" had it not been for the
quick response of the fire department.
"I don't think this is the time to cut back on safety," Finn
said.
Those arguments struck a chord with the council.
"Is it money or safety?" asked Councilwoman Pat Cline. "The
people have spoken and they are still speaking. Life is more
important than equipment."
"I have become convinced that we need those three positions,"
said Councilwoman Ann Michalski.
Struggling to find ways to maintain the firefighter positions,
the council voted to table that portion of the budget amendment
until its July 21 meeting.
While the fire department got a reprieve Wednesday night,
several residents also voiced their concerns about a proposal to
eliminate two police positions and two police support positions.
The council voted to place a hiring freeze on the four vacant
positions, in lieu of eliminating them, the argument being that the
council could fill them in the future.
The council also approved a wage freeze for the city's non-union
employees, which will trim about $550,000 from the budget deficit.
Five unions representing 350 union members rejected a similar wage
concession.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)