Budget cuts jeopardize MFD accreditation

Jan. 28, 2014 @ 02:08 PM

Since 2011, the Monroe Fire Department has lost 11 positions due to budget cuts. Two positions were eliminated in 2011 and 9 positions were eliminated in 2013. 

The fire department is currently accredited by the Commission on Fire Accreditation International, which is a subsidiary of the Center for Public Safety Excellence. 

However, due to the positions they lost, the department is no longer able to meet the criteria needed for accreditation. 

Fire Chief Ron Fowler explained that a department must meet "core performance criteria" in order to achieve and maintain accreditation. 

The department needs additional personnel in the inspections and fire prevention programs. He said in a Monday morning meeting that the department needs to return five positions in order to meet the standards. 

The personnel is primarily related to the inspections, as the department does fire inspections on all public buildings, Fowler said in an interview. The inspection schedule is set by the state. 

The department is currently accredited. It was accredited in 2012 and that is good until 2017, however, they must send in annual compliance reports. 

"In order for us to maintain that accreditation in the future, then we need to refill those positions," Fowler said in an interview. 

Two of the five positions are in the fire marshal's division doing the inspections and the fire prevention and the other three are in the operations division. 

"Another goal that we strive to meet is to have four firefighters assigned to each company," Fowler said. 

Returning the five positions would allow them to bring all of the on-duty companies up to that standard. 

Fowler explained that the positions were cut when the budget took effect in July of 2012 and their site inspection was in February. 

"When the site visit happened, we were meeting the criteria," he explained. 

In a budget workshop with the Monroe City Council Monday, council members said returning the positions needs to be a priority. 

Council member Debra Duncan said the cuts "did not come without consequences." 

She said that one of the strengths of Monroe is that both the police and fire departments are accredited. 

"This needs to be a priority," Duncan said. She said they cannot eliminate positions and move people around the way the police department did after budget cuts. 

Fowler said he was very pleased to hear that it is a priority for the coming year. 

The department is still focused on protecting residents, Fowler said. 

"We're certainly doing everything we can with the staffing that we currently have to keep our citizens safe," Fowler said. "It's my opinion that we need to add the staffing back to do two things, one is to deliver the level of service that we want to deliver to our citizens (and) to keep our firefighters safe...also to maintain the accreditation."