Wednesday, January 17, 2001

Hamilton police vow to fight cuts

City cites tight budget

By Earnest Winston
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — Concern that officers might lose their jobs and a decision by City Council last week to absorb vacancies through attrition is spurring the city's police union to action.

        Nearly two-thirds of Ham ilton's 122 police officers attended a 3 1/4-hour, private meeting Monday night at Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 38 to decide the union's stance on the city's grim financial outlook, FOP President Brian Robinson said.

        Police Chief Neil Ferdelman and two captains were invited to speak during the 7 p.m. meeting.

        “I asked them not to play the blame game, but to look towards fixing it, to look for funds, to work with the finance department and to take their concerns to city council and emphasize that we feel that safety funding is extremely important,” Chief Ferdelman said.

        Officer Robinson said the union has developed a “game plan.” Rather than let public safety positions go unfilled, he said, the FOP will ask council to cut general-fund spending from the proposed 2001 budget “that we don't see as being absolutely nec essary.” They include:

        • A $361,000 subsidy for the Butler County Regional Transit Authority.

        • A $120,000 contribution to the Greater Hamilton Convention & Visitors Bureau.

        “We're not saying that we don't support transportation for people who don't have vehicles or people who have driver's licenses,” Officer Robinson said. “What we're saying is that at this point in time, considering the financial status of the city, that police and fire protection are more important than subsidizing the transportation system.

        “We're setting up lunch meetings with all of City Council to present our ideas to them through the rest of this week,” he said.

        Councilman George McNally said he would like to see vacancies filled in the police, fire and health departments.

        “They're preaching to the choir. I'm already on their side,” said Mr. McNally, a former Hamilton police chief.

        International Paper's closing of the former Champion International Knightsbridge administrative complex, compounded with the loss of jobs last year at Ohio Casualty Insurance, has left the city with an expected $1.5 million general fund shortfall this year.

        City officials last week announced plans to close one city fire station as a way to save money.


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