Wisconsin Official Wants to Outsource Fire Dept.

MILWAUKEE --

Milwaukee Alderman Terry Witkowski wants a study done on ways to save tax dollars. He pointed to the cost of city ambulance service, saying hiring a private company instead of using union firefighters could be the answer.

"My intent here is to maintain service, but look at how we do it and deliver it in a different way," Witkowski said.

A spokesman for union firefighters said Alderman Terry Witkowski wants to study how to cut union firefighter jobs in retaliation because firefighters are trying to change a rule that forces them to live in the city:

"This is nothing more than Alderman Witkowski having a vendetta against the fire service and the Milwaukee Professional Fire Fighters Association for pursuing residency legislation at the state level," said Dave Seager of the Milwaukee Professional Fire Fighters Association.

And when the alderman was asked why he did not seek the input of union firefighters for ways to cut the budget, Witkowski referred to them as the enemy.

"What I've learned through my years of city service is that if you want to have an idea sunk before it's launched, go straight to the enemy, and you'll get that done," Witkowski said.

The alderman then back-pedaled when asked, in part, if other union city jobs were going to be considered for outsourcing.

"Are the other unions now going to be dealt with this way by aldermen within the city of Milwaukee?" WISN 12 News reporter Terry Sater asked.

"No. As I said with clarification, they're not the enemy, but they're certainly not management either," Witkowski said.

The fire chief said the alderman's suggestion is simplistic, saying the fire department's emergency medical response often involves complicated situations.

"We do heavy urban rescue. We have a dive team. We do hazmat response," Milwaukee Fire Chief Mark Rohlfing said.

The fire chief said Witkowski did call him for input.

"The fire chief is management. The union is not. The union is not part of city government," Witkowski said.

Sater asked the alderman if this is similar to what Gov. Scott Walker did as county executive and now governor.

Witkowski said because the governor's budget plan exempts firefighters and police officers from pension and health care cuts cities are being forced to look at other ways to save money.

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