Anchorage Fire Department to cut training to save money

Posted: Friday, December 06, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The Anchorage Fire Department intends to put limits on firefighter and paramedic training in order to save money.

The idea is to halt nonmandatory training that results in overtime, according to department spokesman Tom Kempton. He said there would be an increase in on-duty training and possibly instruction through closed-circuit television.

Kempton said it is hard to predict the effect of the training curtailment.

The department also is exploring ways to find a bigger solution to shave its overtime, Kempton said.

The overall fire budget will rise from around $42 million in the current year to just over $44.5 million next year, according to the city. The increase will cover costs of opening a new city fire station on the east side of town.

But the budget just passed left the department with about $1 million less in other areas than Mayor George Wuerch had originally proposed for next year. So the department is scrambling to cut.

It plans to try to reduce overtime costs by about half, compared with the roughly $2 million overtime bill this year, Kempton told the Anchorage Daily News.

Brian Reed, president of the firefighters union, said he hopes the city will just give the firefighters an additional $1 million during the spring budget revision process.

In the union's view, he said, ''cutting fire and medical service to the community is not the way to deal with the budget.''

The $1 million question arose after the Assembly rejected the mayor's proposal to shift the costs of fire hydrant maintenance from the tax-supported fire budget to the bills paid by the customers of the city water utility. The move would have freed up more taxes for fire or other services.

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