The Kansas City Council will vote today on a measure that would enhance Fire Chief Smokey Dyer’s retirement.
Dyer, who could not be reached for comment, has not announced he is ready to retire — but the benefit change comes as he is confronting painful budget cuts.
A proposal Wednesday to provide for retirement options for a fire chief after 10 years of service was endorsed Wednesday by the Council’s Finance and Governance Committee. Currently, the city’s retirement options are only available to a member of the firefighter’s pension system after 25 years of service.
Council members say the move will give Kansas City a competitive edge in luring professional chiefs to run the department. They say the 25-year rule could be difficult to recruit other high-caliber fire chiefs who haven’t risen through the ranks. But the measure would also apply to Dyer, who has been Kansas City’s fire chief for just over 11 years.
Dyer is scheduled to make a presentation to the city council today on how to cut $7.5 million from his budget. City Manager Troy Schulte had suggested the city could achieve those savings by eliminating 105 firefighter positions, but Dyer said such a reduction in the ranks would jeopardize both public safety and the safety of crews responding to fires.
Mayor Sly James then said he would leave it up to Dyer’s expertise on the best way to reduce his department budget. But council members acknowledge there is no desirable way to make cuts of such magnitude.
Dyer was hired to head Kansas City’s Fire Department in October 2000 following his retirement after 13 years as Lee’s Summit’s fire chief. In Kansas City, he has established a reputation for running one of the best-performing departments. But he’s also pushed for tax and fee increases and big staffing increases even as other city departments have been slashed in recent years.
The fire department has also endured some labor unrest and upheaval since 2010 related to the merging of 300 ambulance workers from the former MAST ambulance agency into the fire department.