Columbus Council temporarily saves Columbus Fire and EMS from big cuts

By Sara Belsole

COLUMBUS, GA –   For Columbus Fire and EMS, next year's budget cuts are alarming.

Mayor Teresa Tomlinson has proposed a 1.5% cut to every city department's budget, including public safety.

“They are the most difficult departments to discuss,” Tomlinson says.

 But when Fire Chief Jeff Meyer proposed his budget needs to council today, it showed how devastating these cuts can be. In order to cut the necessary $715,000, the department would have to leave two open positions vacant, and fire 14 firefighters, EMTs and paramedics.

“You have got to have personnel on the scene to perform all the jobs we have to do. It's like a football team, you've got to have a quarterback, you've got to have a lineman, everyone has a job to do,” Meyer says.

Right now there are 384 people working for Columbus Fire and EMS. That means 94 employees are on duty at all times. Officials say that is a bare minimum and any more cuts would be a risk to firefighters and the community.

The department has seen a 29% increase in responses over the past five years, but without the right number of firefighters, stations would have to close and response time will suffer.

“We will probably get there in 4-5 minutes, but one minute is a long time especially during an emergency,” Meyer says.

Agreeing with the Chief's concerns, council decided to put the 14 positions on the add-delete list, and the city will have to decide whether or not to use LOST and reserve funds to make up the difference.

But it's going to be tight.

“We are in a very difficult position of trying to make a decision of funding these positions and other positions we will be hearing about the police department and sheriff's department, whether they dip into that 2.2 million dollars of capital,” Tomlinson says.

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