Police, fire union leaders voice budget concerns

(WMC-TV) - The Memphis City Council is holding its first ever budget hearing where police and fire union leaders are voicing concerns about drastic cuts affecting their departments.

Those against the proposed cuts say public safety is at risk.

Fire union leaders say they are worried how the cuts will affect response times.

For the first time, the Memphis City Council carved out time for the police and fire unions to publicly present their concerns during the annual city budget hearing.

"The high priority item for the Memphis Fire Fighters is to retain the fire equipment the fire director has proposed to eliminate through this attrition process," said Joe Norman, Memphis Firefighters Association vice president.

Four ladder truck companies and one heavy rescue company are on the chopping block.

Fire union Vice President Joe Norman said that means fire fighters will take longer to respond to your emergencies.

"Any reduction in resources and extension in response time will put the public safety at risk, as well as fire fighters," said Norman.

He said the city has not factored in Memphis' high risk hazards.

"We have oil refineries; the Valero fire, chemical corporations, we've had derailments on President's Island, the derailment on Poplar Avenue," he explained.

Police say their main concern is proposed cuts to time off benefits.

Memphis Police Association President Michael Williams says Memphis leaders put business before people.

"You've got politicians who say we get 66 days off a year. That's a lie. But why do they say that? Trying to politicize it," said Michael Williams, Memphis Police Association president.

"$215 million for the Pinch District, $40 million for boat docks, $22 million for boats. A lot of these are private businesses. What about the citizens?" Williams asked.

Budget hearings continue through Tuesday, May 22. That is when the public will be given their first opportunity to comment on the budget.

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