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PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland city commissioners rubber-stamped a $3.4 billion budget Thursday afternoon.
It included $16 million in cuts. However, despite initial plans to scrap Portland’s mounted patrol, Buckman Pool and Sellwood Community Center, the popular programs were spared in Thursday’s budget approval.
Other programs, and some bureaus, will have to operate with less money — and fewer people. Most of those personnel cuts will come in the form of early retirement rather than massive layoffs. However, this final city of Portland budget approval also means changes for Portland’s rescue crews, including firefighters and divers.
The Portland Fire & Rescue dive team was cut as part of the new budget. Two neighborhood fire stations also will have fewer firefighters per shift.
Firefighters packed council chambers at Portland city hall Thursday, voicing their concern about the changes ahead.
“The public may not understand that, if we pull up and there’s no one hooking up to a hydrant, no one stretching hose line on a fire, we’re trying to do the other job,” said Portland Firefighter Lt. Don Wagner, “to go in and get people out.”
The new budget reduces firefighters at two stations from eight firefighters to four firefighters a shift. The stations affected are Station 8 in the Kenton neighborhood and Station 2 in Parkrose.
Trucks and engines at those stations are slated to be replaced with a quint, which does the job of both.
“We’re concerned about citizens and the effect it has on them,” Wagner said. “We’re also, in the back of our mind, concerned about our own safety.”
Firefighters told council members securing a federal grant is a must to prevent more staff reductions in October. That’s when temporary funding, protecting some positions, expires.
“As of October, if we don’t get the safer grant or the city doesn’t apply for it, we’re looking at another service reduction for eight more people per day,” said Alan Ferschweiler with the Portland Firefighter’s Association.
City leaders told firefighters Thursday they are committed to securing that money.
The positions eliminated from the two fire stations will be shifted to stations gaining rapid response vehicles to handle medical calls. Staffing changes at the Kenton and Parkrose stations are expected to begin July 4.