EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Opinion

May 6, 2014

Letter: Firefighters aren't causing budget shortfall in Lawrence

To the editor:

In response to Mayor Daniel Rivera’s recent statement in The Eagle-Tribune on April 26, the Lawrence Firefighters Union Local 146 would like to add the following:

First of all, after reviewing the budget it is clear to see the exact issue that the city of Lawrence is trying to deal with. A budgetary miscalculation done last year is the reason why our budget is coming up short. To say that it is the fault of the union members’ “unforeseen retirements and contractual language” is a complete misrepresentation of the problem.

The union feels that while certainly desperate times call for desperate measures, we are not there yet. Our budget is not completely strapped. There is money in there we feel will get us closer to the end of the fiscal year. The mayor feels otherwise.

His decision to “brown out” pieces of apparatus whenever our minimum number of employees is below 24, while it saves money in hiring overtime, also shuts down a front-line piece of what is already a department that is running shorthanded. While we do know that the city has a fiscal responsibility to its citizens, it also has a greater responsibility to provide continued safety to each and every citizen.

When the mayor said “that each member will not take any unplanned personal or vacation time,” this is just untrue and was never even talked about. Any member who has unused personal or vacation time can and should take it as his family needs dictate. When the mayor mentions the fact that if everybody “shows up to work we should have no issues at all.” This is also misleading. If we weren’t running short-staffed to begin with this might be the case. Life gets in the way. Our members have the same typical hardships that arise with any average family. Kids get sick, family members get sick and employees get sick or injured. It is an irresponsible statement to think that we could ignore these facts. Furthermore, to try to place the blame for one member not “showing up for work” being the reason a truck might have to shut down for the shift is just inaccurate.

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