Published Oct 26, 2015 at www.komonews.com
By Mark Miller
EVERETT, Wash. -- An efficiency report requested by members of the Everett City Council is raising concerns among residents, even though council members say they are months away from even considering specific recommendations.
The report was conducted by the Missouri consulting firm of Finch and Associates and cost the city more than $60,000.
The preliminary suggestions include reducing the number of firefighters on staff and assigning fewer personnel at night when 911 call volumes are lower.
The report also raises the possibility of hiring a private ambulance service to respond to non-life-threatening medical calls instead of dispatching a firetruck and crew.
Another potential cost-savings measure could be closing two of the city's six fire stations.
While the consultants estimate the city could save at least $8 million a year, the idea of a leaner fire department makes some residents nervous.
"I don't like it. I don't think they should be looking at the fire department for any cuts," said Arlene Jimenec. "They should look at their other wasteful spending that they're doing. They spend a lot of money on other things, on the study!"
But other residents support the idea of the city saving money wherever it can, even in the fire department.
"I gotta be careful what I say because I've got so damn many firefighter friends, I love 'em. But we could probably reduce a little bit," said Mike Tuss.
Council member Judy Touhy chairs the council's public safety committee, and says,"It is the full intention of the council to provide the best fire and emergency service possible while being as efficient as possible."
She says there has been no discussion yet among councilors about closing any stations or changing firefighter schedules.
Touhy also says her committee will seek input from fire department administrators and the firefighter's union before making any recommendations, which are months away.
The president of the union, Paul Gagnon, blasted the report and warns it would have negative consequences for residents.
"Fewer firefighters means slower response times, unstaffed emergency rigs and an increased risk to the public," said Gagnon. "That's not sound policy in our view. That's a gamble."