Mitchell: ‘Unwise’ to Use Budget Surplus to Avoid Fire Blackouts [VIDEO]
In his weekly appearance on WBSM, New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell discussed the burning issue of rolling blackouts of the City's fire stations, and why his administration is not using the $4.5 million budget surplus to avoid the blackouts.
New Bedford firefighter Chuck Bailey called into the program to ask the mayor why the budget surplus was not being utilized to help repair fire stations or end the practice of rolling blackouts for fire apparatus.
"The ceilings in our fire stations are falling down. We're blacking out a piece every day," Bailey said. "If we have a $4 million surplus, why is a piece being blacked out every day?"
Mitchell responded by pointing out that the surplus was being used for buying a set of eight new police cruisers, unmarked police vehicles, and better filters for Sassaquin Pond to improve the water quality.
He said the surplus could not be used to avoid blacking out fire services, which he estimated saves a little over a million dollars a year.
"That's an operational cost," Mitchell said. "The surplus is unwise to use for recurring costs. That's how cities get into fiscal messes. If you have a surplus, you use it on one-time things that allow you to address discrete needs."
Mitchell said the City also used the so-called "free cash" of the budget surplus to buy police vehicles under Mayor Scott Lang, and that the City just isn't at a point where it can work police cruiser purchases into the operating budget. He also said residents in the area of Sassaquin Pond have been complaining about the water quality for decades.
He also rebuked Bailey's suggestion that he was neglecting the fire department.
"My administration has put more money into fire stations than any in recent memory," Mitchell said. "And more money into new fire apparatus than any administration in recent memory."
Mitchell said two new fire engines are "in the pipeline," and noted that the new South End Safety Center is in the design phase and should be completed in 2020.
"My administration is going to be the first to build a new fire station in the city since the mid-50s," he said. "We've been putting money into the fire department like few others have in anybody's lifetimes, and we'll continue to do that."