NAPLES, Fla - It's a budget battle over your money versus your safety. Monday, the Naples City Council voted against adding four new firefighters in the upcoming 2012-2013 budget cycle which goes into effect October 1.
The Naples Fire Department has spent the last 21 years protecting the residents of Naples without increasing staff. If it's up to councilman Sam Saad, they'll have to go one more year without any extra help.
"I don't think we're going to add four firefighters in the upcoming budget cycle," says Saad.
The Naples City Council said no Monday to the fire department's request to spend $320,000 for the new firefighters. While the council could still decide to add the the firefighters into the budget, Saad said it's unlikely they'll reconsider their decision.
Saad says the no vote came down to several factors including high pension costs and the fact the city and union have yet to come to a contract agreement after 10 months of negotiations.
"The fact of the matter is, by not approving those four firefighters, they have put lives at risk," says Naples Union President Adam Nadelman. "I guess they have to put money before lives and that's what they're doing."
The other disagreement is over the need for the extra firefighters. "It's a safety and a service provision issue. Time is everything and it's a very labor intensive job. You need the firefighters and personnel to get the job done," says Naples Fire Chief Stephen McInerny.
The chief says last year they saw a record number of calls and hiring more firefighters is a matter of meeting federal staffing standards, but the city says the current staff can handle the amount of calls.
"If you look at the calls the fire department goes on they are overwhelmingly medical related, over 3,000 medical calls and only 97 fire calls, says Saad. "Do you really need to invest in firefighters when your calls are all medical?"
The Naples Fire Union says they proposed pension cuts that would save the city $30 million over 30 years. The city turned that down on January 11 and declared impasse. In ten months of negotiations they have not budged from their original proposal that would save the city $50 million over 30 years.
At a meeting August 30, a special magistrate will hear the case.
The final budget goes into effect October 1.