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Budget cuts lead prompt staffing and public safety concerns among firefighters

Posted at 8:46 PM, May 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-18 23:25:22-04

MANSFIELD, Ohio  — Protecting residents and responding to emergencies has been a struggle.

“We don’t have enough overall staffing and firefighters to put enough people on the streets,” said Mansfield Firefighters Local 266 President, Scott Miller.

Miller says they’ve battled staffing issues for a while with at least 19 firefighters needed to man the city’s fire stations each day.

“It’s just hard to do when the city hasn’t been proactive to replace retirees that you were coming or we have a lot of young guys leaving taking other jobs other places things that you just can’t predict,” he said.

And it’s getting harder.

Mansfield firefighters now facing overtime cuts as the city projects a 20% decrease in income tax collections for the year.

“We’re not eliminating it totally because we want to make sure that there’s still enough firefighter on hand for emergency purposes,” Mayor Tim Theaker said. “That sometimes in years past has been about an $80,000 bill per month. In the past, it’s been over $1 million in a year.”

But according to Miller, that overtime is what helps keeps fire stations open. Over the weekend, Station Two was forced to close due to approved vacation requests and sick calls.

Strongsville is facing a similar problem. Its firefighter union says it has operated without enough staff several times in the last week.

“Ultimately, it’s the citizens are the ones that suffer,” Miller said.

Theaker says he is trying to reduce city spending in order to prevent lay-offs and furloughs. Theaker says with high unemployment rates due to COVID-19, income tax revenue will take a hit and put the city’s $55 million budget at risk.

“Our income is the income tax. People also feel that we get some real estate tax. The city of Mansfield only gets one percent of the real estate tax generated in the city of Mansfield. The rest of the real estate tax goes to the county, schools, the health department, mental health and all of the other organizations around,” he said. “We have been trying to look at everything to determine ways that we can cut that is the least impactful.”

Timothy Dimoff, a former law enforcement officer and owner of SACS Consulting and Investigative Services, says patience and understanding from the communities will be crucial in helping communities and law enforcement protect and serve during these times.

“We’re just not going to be able to tie up our limited personnel for low-level types of responses,” Dimoff said. “We’re going to see some situations that are serious, and the response wasn’t able to respond as fast or as fluent as they normally did in the past and you’re going to have people upset.”

Dimoff says many agencies across the nation will be forced to strategize new ways to continue protecting and serving the its communities.

“You’re going to be puling your supervisors out of your buildings and they’re going to have to have a more active role to fill in those posts. Secondly, you’re not going to see any hiring. You’re not going to see training of new safety forces across the board.”