YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Youngstown’s fire chief said he has received a commitment from the mayor that the city will find the money needed to keep his department operating in a safe and efficient manner.
During a public meeting Monday night, Chief Barry Finley stood before 50 people, including 15 firefighters, and told them he was done conceding to cuts.
“Honestly, I think we’ve given enough and I’m just not willing to give any more,” he said. “It’s not my job to deal with the money for the city.”
Finley said Youngstown Mayor Tito Brown committed to:
– Somehow finding a way to spend $285,000 to upgrade the city’s radio system
– Keep the city in compliance with the fire department’s SAFER grant
– Increase the fire department’s overtime budget to make it through the rest of the year
Finley himself said he is not going to get rid of any battalion chiefs and he’s not going to be closing any stations on a rotating basis.
The evening started with Finley telling city council he was told to eliminate two battalion chief positions to pay for the radio system upgrade, should the city lose a grievance filed by the firefighters union in arbitration.
“As far as decreasing the battalion chiefs, I’m not doing it,” Finley said.
He cited safety as the reason why.
When it comes to upgrading the radios, there will be a meeting with everyone involved on how to pay for it.
Finley also talked about a federal SAFER grant to pay for four firefighters. The grant stipulates the city must maintain 122 firefighters. It has 119.
The city can claim hardship, but defaulting would mean the federal government would be hesitant to grant the city money again. Finley will need federal money for an ambulance service he’s planning.
“At least three to five years, we can forget it. Three to five years, we can forget asking the federal government for any money at all,” he said.
Finally, Finley addressed overtime. He said the police department has already spent over a million dollars, while he was only budgeted $40,000.
“That is not fair. What are you saying to us as safety forces? That they’re more important? I don’t think so.”
Charlie Smith, president of the firefighters union, said he’s pleased to hear what Finley is saying the mayor will do.
“First thing I’d like to do is thank the fire chief for being an advocate for the fire department and leading by example.”
The issue now will be paying for everything, especially the radio system upgrade and the overtime.
Councilwoman Lauren McNally, who also chairs the finance committee, said it may be possible to pay for the radio upgrade with traffic camera money but the overtime is going to be more challenging.