KC fire union should keep promises to save taxpayer funds
05/23/2014 11:52 AM
06/03/2014 10:17 AM
Honor your word.
That’s the simple message Kansas City taxpayers should have for members of Local 42 of the International Association of Fire Fighters.
In negotiations with City Hall in 2012, the fire union agreed to close the station at the former Richards-Gebaur Air Force Base and lose a pumper company near Westport.
The union had good reasons to make the deal: It wanted to prevent large personnel reductions at the time. That plan succeeded when the City Council agreed with the closings.
Since then, however, federal grants have kept the station and the pumper company operating. But the funds are running out, and the shutdown is scheduled for July 1.
The union now is using scare tactics to pressure residents to call Mayor Sly James and council members to renege on the deal, at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars in extra tax revenue.
That’s not reasonable or necessary. Fire Chief Paul Berardi says the closings will be safely managed. For instance, Grandview will cooperate with Kansas City in providing coverage out south.
City Manager Troy Schulte points out that, even with the federal grant, it has cost the city extra money in overtime payments to firefighters to keep the station and pumper operating. “We need to implement it and get it done,” he said.
James remains firm in support of the closings, as part of a larger move to control the city’s overall personnel costs.
Meanwhile, the fire union appears to be in job protection mode, not taxpayer protection.
James and his colleagues should resist pressure from firefighters to upend a decision elected officials supported in 2012 — a decision that the union agreed to as well.