Firefighters at Station Five in Chico hosed off their engines this morning for the first time in more than a month, as the doors of the Manzanita avenue fire station opened once again. And Chico Fire Chief Jim Beery says he's glad to have all fire stations in service. "It's good for our ability to provide service to the community. That's the bottom line. ... Taking just one component out of our deployment model has a ripple effect throughout the city," says Chief Beery.
The city closed station five April 22nd in an effort to save 95,000 dollars in fire department overtime costs, which was included in a 900,000 dollar budget shortfall that needed to be dealt with before the beginning of the new fiscal year, July first. Chief Beery says, "To come up with that amount of money in such a short period of time, meant people. That's the only way we could come up with these savings."
City Manager Dave Burkland says sometimes it has to come from public safety departments. "Police and fire are almost 80-percent of our expenses so at some point we have to be able to generate those savings, we have to affect safety," says Burkland.
The station initially was scheduled to reopen by July first, but the city-wide effort to make cuts across the board changed the stations re-opening date. Burkland says, "We have adequate savings from all departments, that we were able to open that station a month earlier and we're really glad to do that."
And residents living in the neighborhood say they're relieved. Terry Irion says, "I was afraid something was going to happen before people came to their senses for the station up here." Cris Guenter says, "That's wonderful and it's opening a head of schedule, good for Chico."
As a result of cost-cutting, Chico will have a balanced budget as this fiscal year comes to a close. And Burkland says the city has made good projections for next year's budget, in hopes that this won't be an issue again.