Firefighter layoffs would start Dec.6 Plans would reduce firefighting budget $3 million and furlough 200.

October 16, 1991|By Patrick Gilbert and Michael A. Fletcher | Patrick Gilbert and Michael A. Fletcher,Evening Sun Staff knB

A Fire Department plan to cut $3 million from its budget by laying off some 200 firefighters is the first of a series of city budget proposals due to land on Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's desk by Monday.

The Fire Department layoffs are slated for Dec. 6. Schmoke ordered the department to cut $3 million from its budget after learning that the city was losing $21 million in state aid. All city agencies are being ordered to cut back by varying amounts.

Gov. William Donald Schaefer had ordered cuts in state aid to the city and other jurisdictions to close a $450 million deficit in the state budget.

City library officials have announced that they may have to close as many as 13 of the city's 28 library branches and lay off 60 employees.

School officials are scheduled to outline their proposed cuts tonight.

Meanwhile, the Police Department has already sent at least one plan to the city. An administration source said the police proposal does not call for layoffs of uniformed officers.

Police spokesman Dennis Hill said the department is studying a range of cost-cutting options. "The last thing we want to consider is laying off sworn personnel," he added.

"The mayor is not going to talk about any of the budget proposals now," said Clinton R. Coleman, Schmoke's press secretary. "The situation is much too fluid. Many of the proposals may not be in their current form when the mayor makes his final decision on the cuts."

Coleman said Schmoke did not say when he will make his final budget decisions.

But some City Council members and community group leaders are already alarmed by proposed cuts.

City Councilman Joseph J. DiBlasi, D-6th, chair of the Budget and Appropriations Committee, said the cuts in the Fire Department are "dramatic" and "grave."

Gary E. Frederick, deputy fire chief for administration, said the department may be forced to close eight fire houses and eliminate as many as 18 fire companies.

During a meeting yesterday of the city Board of Fire Commissioners, Frederick said he has submitted to Fire Chief Peter J. O'Connor for review three different plans for cutting the department's budget.

Frederick and O'Connor said the cuts would have dramatic consequences. Among them:

* The number of fire units initially responding to an alarm would be reduced. Currently, four engines, two trucks and one battalion chief answer a one-alarm call.

* The department's ability to battle multiple-alarm fires would be limited.

* It would take longer for fire units to arrive at the scene of a fire. The longer the response time, the greater the risk to life and property, O'Connor said.

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