Thursday, January 18, 2001

Union fights to save fire station

Hamilton force seeks reversal of city decision

By Earnest Winston
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — The union representing city firefighters is counting on public support to persuade City Council to reverse its decision to close a fire station as a way to save money.

        Bill Quinn, president of the city firefighters union, said the union has begun a campaign to inform citizens “what's taken place and what their representatives who were elected decided to do.”

        City Council's decision last week calls for all vacant positions covered by the general fund to remain vacant, including two police officers and three firefighters' jobs. That means one of the city's six fire stations will have to close.

        Beginning today, the union plans to run ads in a Hamilton newspaper that asks citi zens to contact their council members. That's in addition to cable TV ads, and thousands of fliers that were delivered to homes.

        Several citizens and firefighters' wives have begun collecting signatures for a petition to reverse council's decision. Officials from the firefighters union plan to ask council to rescind their vote at a 7 p.m. council meeting Jan. 24 at One Renaissance Center, 345 High St.

        City Council says last year's decisions by International Paper and Ohio Casualty Insurance to cut a significant amount of its work force has forced the city to make up the $1.5 million shortfall in its 2001 general fund. And city leaders maintain they would rather leave vacancies open than hand out pink slips.

        But firefighters fear closing a fire station might result in longer response times, re quire dependency on mutual aid from other Butler County fire departments, and reduce some emergency service programs.

        Instead, Mr. Quinn said the union wants City Council to “make cuts elsewhere (in general fund) that would not have the degree of impact on the community that the closing of a neighborhood fire station would have.”

        In addition to meeting with Mayor Adolf Olivas and Vice Mayor Tom Nye this week, the union invited the four council members whom it endorsed in the 1999 elec tion to attend private union meetings Wednesday and tonight.

        Mr. Nye said he's not sure whether there's enough support on council to reverse council's 5-2 vote last week.

        This week, most of Hamilton's 122 police officers attended a private union meeting to craft a game plan in light of the city's desperate financial outlook. They plan to ask city council to make general fund cuts in the proposed 2001 budget, instead of letting police and fire positions go unfilled.


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