Milwaukee Fire Trucks to Maintain 5-Person Crews

MILWAUKEE --

Most ladder fire trucks in Milwaukee will run with five-person crews in 2009.

This comes as the common council voted to override the Mayor Tom Barrett's plan to cut one person from each crew.

"We are certainly happy with the council's action today (Tuesday), and we can go forward and develop some strategies to provide the level of services the citizens of Milwaukee are entitled to," said Bobbie Weber, with the Professional Fire Fighters Association.

The mayor had vetoed this action in the 2009 budget. He wanted to keep five firefighters on only four trucks. The remaining trucks would only carry four people.

The mayor argued four people is acceptable at departments across the country, and he said the savings would be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"I think that the decision to make the cuts in the manner in which he did was not well advised and certainly did not take into consideration the unique circumstances we have here in Milwaukee," Weber said.

"Despite the fact that no firefighter has been laid off and fire department response times have not been compromised, the issue of financing traditional staffing levels remains and will have to be addressed as we deal with increasingly tight finances," Barrett said in a news release.

The battle has been waged since early summer and Weber partially credits getting the word out in rallies and pickets for educating constituents and aldermen.

The council debated and agreed to keep the mayor's veto of a 1 percent cut, across the board in all city departments - instead, enforcing a variety of cuts in different offices.

Also on the agenda, the council voted to add one battalion chief in the fire department instead of elevating three captains to that higher rank.

"The fiscal forecast for 2009 is gloomy. Many of the issues we debated over the last few months will, more than likely, be revisited prior to the introduction of the Citys 2010 budget," Barrett said.

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