Fewer police and firefighters in Galveston?

August 12, 2010 5:21:07 PM PDT
Galveston's city manager is recommending that the city cut up to 20 percent of its police force. The population of the city has dropped after Hurricane Ike, and council is looking at its upcoming budget. The summer may feel carefree on Galveston beaches, but not for the people who are running the city. With fewer people living on the island and lower sales tax income, the city is proposing some drastic cuts, much to the dismay of its former fire chief, Michael Verala.

"It don't matter if there's 20 people in there or has nobody in there, it still takes a certain number of firefighters to do the job safely," he said

The city manager just presented the proposed public safety cuts to city council. The police force reduction would go from 169 to 133 officers. In the fire department, it went from 120 to 108, potentially saving the city $3.3 million in this upcoming fiscal year.

"We're really trying to do a lot with a little and we're making cuts and efficiencies where we can," said Galveston spokesperson Alicia Cahill.

Cahill says city Manager Steve LeBlanc didn't want to make a public statement about the potentially drastic cuts, but insists he's simply trying to make ends meet.

"It's a a very difficult balancing act," said Cahill. "Our city manager and our city council and our mayor have a challenge in front of them, trying to develop a sustainable balanced budget that also provides adequate public safety."

But to the firefighters involved, they believe there must be somewhere else for the city to cut.

"When firefighters start getting laid off, people are subject to die. We're subject to lose more property and more subject to have firefighters injured or killed," said Verala. "So that's the difference."

The budget hasn't been finalized. We don't expect that vote to come until late September. In the meantime, the city is encouraging firefighters and officers to take early retirement or other means to make the cuts less painful.


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