Fresno city council members have approved mayor Ashley Swearengin's budget proposal, but it comes at a cost. The fire department must layoff four fire prevention inspectors and re-assign two others holding those positions.
The move is not strictly about saving money. The city council argues that insurance companies already do inspections, so there's no sense in having city employees double up on that work.
“They work in concert with other departments in the city and they multitask. They don't just do one thing they do a variety of things and that's going to be tough to replace,” said Fresno Fire Chief Kerri Donis.
The decision to make the cuts comes as the city shifts away from inspecting buildings that are not mandated by the state. Chief Donis argued there would be other losses; things which often go unnoticed.
“It's fire education to our children, it's cost recovery, it's those fireworks booths coming up on July 4th that want to be inspected,” said Chief Donis.
City Manager Bruce Rudd says Chief Donis must shoulder this burden because she's choosing to add a handful of administrative positions to her department.
“It can't be both. sometimes you have to say what are my higher priorities,” said Fresno City Manager Bruce Rudd.
Fire Inspector, Bridgette Morgan, pleaded to save her job.
“We may not be out there fighting fires directly, but we are definitely fighting to keep fires from occurring,” said Fresno fire inspector Bridgette Morgan.
Councilman Sal Quintero made a motion to delay the vote.
“I think we have to get a good understanding of what we're voting on,” said Fresno City Councilman Sal Quintero.
However, his colleagues did not agree. His proposal lost 4-3 in a vote.
Councilman Clint Olivier says he believes Chief Donis will work things out.
“I think she's going to be able to craft a leaner, meaner, more efficient fire inspection program than the one that currently exists,” said Fresno City Councilman Clint Olivier.
The four fire inspectors still hold their jobs for another 60 days, so there is a chance the city could find a new role for them.
The council's budget approval does add $600,000 to the proposal, which puts the total cost just above $1 billion.
Mayor Swearengin issued a statement following the meeting.
It says in part, "By adding new spending at the last minute, we risk our long term stability for short term fixes. My hope is that we can work with the council to scale back their last minute spending and focus on long term financial health for the city."
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