City officials are negotiating potential concessions from Tacoma’s fire union that could spare some budget cuts approved for the Fire Department over the next two years, including unpopular plans to close the city’s only fire station in the Port of Tacoma and reduce service in the Proctor district.
City leaders have declined to comment publicly on the ongoing talks, but the fire union’s president cautiously gave some details Wednesday.
“Any concessions we may consider or give would go to the Fire Department, and it would be up to the department to manage what to do,” said Ryan Mudie, president of Tacoma Fire Union Local 31.
“If we consider anything,” Mudie added, “it really would be done to protect our membership and the public.”
Three city insiders familiar with the negotiations said the talks remain ongoing, with an aim to restore planned cuts to the Port and Proctor stations. Station 15 on Tacoma’s East Side also faces service cuts, but the sources said discussions so far have focused on the other two stations.
“The goal is to get enough concessions to restore full service in Proctor and get the port limited service Monday through Friday,” one source said.
Under the city’s 2013-14 general fund budget approved this month, Tacoma’s Fire Department faces more than $7 million in budget cuts on top of nearly $4 million in lost levy and other special revenues over the next two years. To meet the department’s budget cuts, 23 firefighters have agreed to take a retirement buyout and four other vacant firefighter positions are set to be eliminated.
This year, the fire department received a two-year, $7.7 million federal grant to save 37 firefighters from layoffs. The approved fire cuts wouldn’t affect the terms of that grant.
Tacoma’s approved fire cuts involve closing Station 6 in the port, in addition to deactivating the fire engine and reducing staff and hours at Station 13 in Proctor. Two firefighters would staff the Proctor station from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. with an emergency response vehicle, but the station would not be staffed overnight.
Fire Chief Jim Duggan has said fire personnel from other stations could effectively meet national response standards and fill any service voids created by the planned cuts. But the plan drew public outcry during a City Council meeting last month, including from several angry longshoremen, who claimed the cuts could amount to a death sentence to port workers in need of emergency assistance.
Fire union and city officials plan to be back at the bargaining table next week, Mudie said.
“I don’t know when or if this will be resolved,” he added. “We can’t really say much, because we don’t want to bargain this in public.”