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Citizens Weigh In On Fort Worth Budget Battle

By Joel Thomas CBS 11 News | CBSDFW.COM
(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Joel Thomas
Joel is an Emmy Award winning journalist with more than 15 year...
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FORT WORTH (CBS 11 NEWS) – A budget battle in Fort Worth has flooded city hall with letters, e-mails and calls. The source of the outcry is either an educational campaign or a scare tactic depending on who you ask.

The campaign is targeted at people living inside Loop 820 and it asks them to demand the city not to cut the number of fire trucks in some fire stations from two to one.

“What if you have two fires or a fire you need both trucks?” Asked Lashanda Brown, a Fort Worth resident, after she read one of the flyers.  “What you going to do?”

Its a question spurred by a flier and internet campaign put out by the Fort Worth Firefighters Association. It states the city will deactivate fire trucks and that insurance rates will go up because homes will be at greater risk.  The flyer asked voters to mail their council member.

And city hall has been swamped by the response.  Hundreds of flyers were mailed in just a few days.

“They’re scared and they have a good reason to be,” said David Dodson, one of the association’s leaders. Dodson says some neighborhoods will have a ‘brown out’ of services.

Essentially, the city plans to cut more than a million and a half dollars of the fire department’s overtime money. That means on some days stations with two fire trucks will only be able to afford the staff for one truck.

“What that’s going to do is there are eight stations in town that will be affected,” Dodson explained.  “An average of two stations a day will be down-staffed from two trucks to one. And they’re very busy stations in very prominent locations. “

The fire department estimates the average response time is expected to rise in affected areas by about 55 seconds. Which is why some city leaders say the firefighters union message is a scare tactic.

Critics of the union’s campaign say the fire department did the exact same thing when it faced budget shortfalls in the 90’s with no serious side-effects.

“I want our residents to know that nobody is going to be left without fire protection,” said Mayor Betsy Price. “Public safety continues to be this council’s number one priority and we continued to push that the last few years. But we have to make the right fiscal decisions and the city can’t spend money we don’t have.”

Online: Fort Worth 2014 Proposed Budget

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