Firefighters React to Year-Long Study of Department
It was standing-room only at the Fort Taber Community Center Thursday night as independent public safety consultant group FACETS Consulting presented their findings after studying the New Bedford Fire Department over the past year.
The two major recommendations that drew the most fire were consolidating EMS services within the fire department as well as reductions to fire services.
Fire Chief Michael Gomes echoed the message of the consultants, who all come from a fire safety background, that nobody wants to close any fire stations, but it is still something to be considered.
"Nobody wants to close or reduce any services. I for one don't want to close or reduce any services either but I'm also a realist that the city itself has some financial issues on the horizon," Gomes said.
One proposal is to combine Station 6 and Station 11 in a new South End facility, while the other is to close Station 7 on Durfee Street in the West End if the city can't manage funds for a new building.
IAFF Local 841 President Billy Cabral argues the city already has the money to fund the department, it just isn't being managed as well as it should be.
"Obviously we don't want to see any kind of service reductions and we feel that there are revenue streams out there and that if there's a better management of assets, we can fund our fire department," Cabral said after the presentation.
Throughout the public comment portion of the night, dozens of firefighters, as well as City Councilors, voiced their opposition to any closures.
The study was commissioned by Mayor Jon Mitchell's office for $75,000 and has so far resulted in 12 recommendations based on the city's financial outlook.
Other recommendations include relocating the Fire Alarm Signal Room to the police department's Dispatch Center, assessing the impact of the city's fourth part-time ambulance used during peak demand and considering staffing a fifth, providing additional training and equipment to firefighters to allow them to provide EMS first responder services, eliminating the use of street fire boxes and radio boxes and a new vehicle replacement program.
FACETS Consulting will continue to take public comments and concerns via email at comments@facetsLLC.com until December 11.