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Utica budget proposal includes 22 public safety layoffs

By LEXIE O'CONNOR

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - In the Utica mayor's proposed budget for 2012-13, he eliminates 38 city positions. Twenty-two of those are from the public safety department.

Mayor Robert Palmieri's budget includes a loss of 7 fire department positions and 15 positions in the police department. Fire Chief Russell Brooks says the departments have already had to make substantial cuts.

"Basically we were operating bare bones okay, all NFPA regulations require 5 men on a rig, we've been operating with 2 to 3 men and I'm not sure where this is going leave us," said Chief Brooks.

Utica Police Chief Mark Williams shares Brooks' concerns in how the cuts will affect the city's public safety.

"We've been asked to do more with less, we've done that, but it's gotten to a point where we're in a breaking point here," says Chief Williams. "If we lose any more officers it's going to effect services."

Based on union contracts, the layoffs begin with those who have the least seniority in the fire department, and the recruits in training at the Police Academy.

"Actually they're the lowest paid, that are certified paramedics, the most fit, those are the ones that will be leaving so it will have an impact," says Chief Brooks.

Both Chief Williams and Chief Brooks haven't gotten a chance to really analyze the exact positions they'd be cutting and how it would affect their operations, however they both agree the future looks grim.

"You can cut and eventually every fire gets put out, will it affect property loss and lives? That's the type of analysis I'll be doing to see what kind of impact it will have on the citizens and the city," says Chief Brooks.

Chief Williams says from talking to Common Council members who've spoken to residents, public safety is a huge concern, so the city will be cutting something that's a priority to many.

"A necessity for the city to not only maintain safety of our citizens, but potentially grow as a city," says Chief Williams. "Because how are you going to get people to invest here if they don't think it's safe?"

NEWSChannel 2 spoke to Utica residents who, to no surprise, are concerned with the budget proposal.

"That's terrible," says Aubrey Lyons. "I think that we need all the police officers that we can get with all the crime in Utica and the surrounding area, it's definitely really scary."

"I'm really for police and fire and all the safety we can get, I mean our city is pretty large, there's a lot of people and there's other places to cut," says Dianna Cornacchia.

"I'm unemployed, I get $250 a week, 110 goes to child support, I'm already broke," says Peter Carr. "You gotta do what you gotta do, can't have the city go broke, so we all end up in the toilet too."

Thursday's budget proposal is just a first step, the Common Council will determine the exact number of layoffs.

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