Fire Department must ‘step up’ as Hobart cuts costs
By Karen Caffarini Post-Tribune correspondent February 20, 2013 8:46PM
Updated: March 22, 2013 10:29AM
HOBART — City Council members said Wednesday it is the fire department’s turn to take the brunt of budget cuts as the city continues to operate under a frozen tax levy, which is why the city is looking into the feasibility of privatizing emergency medical services.
Councilman Dave Vinzant, D-4th, said other departments have done their part to cut costs.
For instance, the police department went to having some reserve officers a number of years ago and the street department is in the process of going to one-man garbage trucks.
“The fire department needs to step up and do its part,” Vinzant said.
Vinzant’s comments were made in reaction to recent discussions on the city’s ambulance service, in which some residents asked that the service remain within the Hobart Fire Department and not with a private ambulance service.
Residents have said they fear the change would mean longer wait times and lesser service.
But Council President Jerry Herzog, D-1st, said the biggest problem has been the rumors spreading through the city without any facts or figures.
“When something is losing that much money, something needs to change. I don’t know what that change will be,” Councilman Lino Maggio, D-3rd, said.
Mayor Brian Snedecor said he is still in the process of hiring a consultant to look at the fire department as a whole to see what changes can be made.
No decisions have been made and, at this point, he said he doesn’t know if outsourcing is the best alternative.
Councilwoman Monica Wiley, D, at-large, and resident Larry Brown both suggested there could be other places to cut costs besides ambulance service.
Wiley, who said her husband had to wait more than an hour for a nonemergency ambulance transport from a private service, said other departments could probably take some cuts.
Brown suggested either a pay cut or four-day work week.
“The last thing we ever wanted when making any financial change was to cut safety,” he said of his own business. “With the city, it’s public safety.”
Snedecor said the council isn’t necessarily looking at any cuts in the department.
“We just need to look at doing it in a better way,” he said. “We owe it to the taxpayers to see if we can do it better.”
The council already passed an ordinance limiting the number of ranked officers within the fire department. Fire Chief Brian Taylor said the department was officer-heavy, causing him to go way off-budget each year in that line item.