On Wednesday, two Dallas Fire-Rescue workers told Mayor Mike and the rest of the council that two proposals in the city manager's budget were "a disaster in the making." They take issue with Mary Suhm's proposal to alter and reduce shifts for dispatchers, which Suhm says will save around $1 million in overtime pay, and to mothball a fire truck. The latter suggestion stems from a review of where fire trucks are parked at present and the number of calls stations receive on average, the first such look-see in almost 25 years, Suhm says. According to the city manager, the review reveals that a shuffle of trucks -- and fire fighters -- is in order, and that the city can do without the one engine, which will serve as a back-up if and when another needs a repair.
I reached Suhm at week's end to address their concerns, and she has no interest in getting into a back-and-forth with the firefighters, who have been meeting with council members and First Assistant City Manager A.C. Gonzalez. Suhm says she too has had "some conversations" with their reps, and will leave it at that. Last night, matter of fact, we received word that members of a group called Dallas Fire Rescue Associations Stand United will take their fight directly to City Hall with a protest scheduled for Wednesday at 10 a.m. on the plaza. Said the release:
Dallas City Manager Mary Suhm has proposed severe budget cuts to Dallas Fire Rescue that will place the citizens of Dallas in danger if these budget cuts are approved by the Dallas City Council. The City Manager has proposed the removal a Fire Truck and understaffing Fire Dispatch. Removal of a ladder truck will delay the response time to numerous council districts and understaffing Fire Dispatch will cause a severe increase in the time people will be on hold to receive emergency assistance.
Regarding the changes at dispatch, Suhm says that right now, dispatchers work every fourth day on a 24-hour shift, and that the new proposal would have them work four 12-hour days, with three days off a week. The shorter shift, says Suhm, "has less required break hours, which drives less overtime." (This morning, when the council takes up the subject of budget amendments, Sheffie Kadane will propose leaving the schedule as-is.)
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As for moving those trucks, Suhm says "the geography of the city has changed a lot in 25 years," and that "moving a few trucks will bring better response time." She then adds: "I'm not going to recommend something that jeopardizes the safety of the citizens of Dallas."