YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Youngstown Mayor Tito Brown wants the fire department to have everything it needs to keep residents safe. The question now is how the city will pay for it all.
Brown released the following statement Tuesday:
“I will meet with the fire department union (IAFF Local 312) to explore all possible solutions to address the issues the Youngstown Fire Department is facing. Chief Finley, IAFF Local 312 President Charlie Smith and I can agree that we need to find an amicable solution that does not put our safety forces and city residents at risk while being cognizant of the financial constraints the city is experiencing.”
Youngstown City Council members Lauren McNally and Basia Adamczak were surprised to hear what Chief Barry Finley had to say Monday night at a public meeting.
He thinks the department has “given enough” and he’s “not willing to give any more.”
“Well, that’s definitely not what I was expecting going into the meeting,” Adamczak said.
Finley said Mayor Brown has agreed to discuss fixing the department’s radio problems and increasing the overtime budget. Finley vowed not to close stations or eliminate two battalion chief positions.
“For the last year, he’s been saying the exact opposite of the things he said last night,” McNally said.
The discussion Tuesday focused on how to pay for it.
“I’m not really sure but it sounds as though with the conversations that were had yesterday, it seems the mayor has a plan in the works or he has some sort of ideas,” Adamczak said.
“Our departments across the board, they’re not fat departments,” McNally said. “They’re very, very lean and I don’t think they can get much leaner.”
McNally suggested possibly using traffic camera money to pay for the radio upgrades but Adamczak said that money has already been committed to paying for a radio system bought two years ago. That system doesn’t keep firefighters at the scene connected with dispatch, which is a safety issue.
“I still think we should go after the company that sold us the deal, told us it’s going to work,” McNally said.
Both Adamczak and McNally said communication between the mayor and city council needs to improve.
“We’re the appropriating body and how can we do our job if we’re not well-informed?” Adamczak questioned.
“We don’t direct answers, like, ‘Here is the plan, here are the concrete details of it,'” McNally said.
Buying $285,000 worth of equipment to upgrade the radio system depends on the outcome of a grievance the firefighters union filed. The union said the upgrade must be done. An arbitration hearing on the matter is expected in mid-September.
There will be a meeting on August 15 to find a way to pay for all of the Youngstown Fire Department’s requests.