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Flint City Council members don't like budget plan which cuts police officers and firefighters

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

“Insanity” – that’s how one Flint City Council member described plans to slash staffing in the city’s police and fire departments.

Flint’s emergency manager has proposed a budget that would cut 36 police and 19 fire department positions. The firefighter jobs are currently funded by a federal grant that expires next month, and the city doesn't have the money to keep them.      

The city is also dealing with rising retiree health insurance costs.

Flint’s police and fire chiefs are working on plans to reorganize their departments to absorb the cuts.

Flint Fire Chief David Cox Jr. says his department should be able to keep five fire stations open despite the cuts, but also he says he may have to decrease the number of firefighters per truck from four to three.

Police Chief James Tolbert says his department may have to reduce office hours, pull back from some regional law enforcement task forces and may have to rely more on the Michigan State Police.

Flint’s police and fire chiefs outlined their plans at a meeting last night with the city council.

Council members were not happy with what they heard.

Councilwoman Jackie Poplar says the city of Flint can’t afford to cut back on public safety.

“We can’t keep the city safe,” Poplar said after the meeting. “This is total insanity.”

Council President Scott Kincaid credits the chiefs with trying to do the same with less.

“I think that in the end, it still has an impact on service,” said Kincaid, who suggested the city could save some money by reducing the hours of operation of the city lockup.

Flint city officials are also looking for possible help from the state or federal governments to reduce the need for public safety cuts.

The staff cuts won’t happen immediately.

City officials hope to use retirements and other normal attrition to reduce the city’s police and firefighters over about six months.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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