Editorial: Cutting B.H.F.D. a dangerous decisionPublished 9:51pm Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
While we concede that there are excesses in government spending at all levels, the apparent decision to cut the Benton Harbor Fire Department leaves us scratching our heads.
We understand that the City of Benton Harbor if facing a multi-million dollar budget crisis, but that doesn’t mean that Emergency Financial Manager Joseph Harris should be looking at this cut.
Harris, who was appointed by the State of Michigan, is planning to cut 21 of Benton Harbor’s 95 city employees, according to media reports.
Of those cuts, 10 would come from the fire department, which is already undermanned. It would effectively put an end to that department.
There are most certainly other areas that Harris could be looking at.
If the fire department gets the ax, that means Benton Charter Township and St. Joseph would have to pick up the slack.
According to reports, Benton Harbor has more than 700 calls a year. Benton Township and St. Joseph combined were called to just more than 700 calls two years ago.
While on the surface it may look like they have enough time to aid Benton Harbor, the reality of it is response time would increase dramatically.
And from a public safety standpoint, response time can mean the difference between triumph and tragedy.
We also find it interesting that a person who is making $132,000 a year, or four times the average salary of a Benton Harbor firefighter, is making these decisions.
No community is immune to budget issues. Some have done a better job than others in making tough decisions and have far less problems than the City of Benton Harbor.
But we believe that none of them would cut an essential service like its fire department.
There have got to be ways to make that department more efficient, but eliminating it all together just makes no sense.
No one should ever be put in danger by budget cuts.
We believe that the city would also be setting itself up for lawsuits by anyone whose structure burns and feels that it was due to the response time caused by this cut.
We wonder of those 21 city employees who could be cut by Harris, how many of them are administrators, who often seem to be immune to budget cuts.
It seems pretty clear that Harris should take another look through the Benton Harbor budget and figure out another area to cut.
After all, we are sure the citizens of Benton Harbor would rather give up something else rather than their fire department.