Utica Public Safety officials prepare for changes following new budget

By WKTV News

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - Now that the City of Utica's budget has been passed, and any cuts, changes and re-structuring that comes along with it, many departments, such as public safety are adjusting to the changes ahead.

Fire Chief Russell Brooks says he's worried about more than closing just one firehouse. The chief says that the city did not only cut the department, they changed the command structure.

Chief Brooks says each firehouse needs one captain to oversee it.

The city has six firehouses, but he says the budget cuts the department to only three captains.

When asked if that means the city will lose three firehouses, the fire chief said that there will "have to be a major restructuring."

The chief says that the million dollar SAFER grant put in jeopardy by staff cuts appears to be safe. He says the mayor and head of the fire department union came up with a way to save it, but not elaborate on details.

As cuts loomed, many officials said they feared that cuts to public safety would lead to a lack of safety for the city's residents.

The budget that Utica's Common Council passed on Tuesday night means that seven officers will be gone, and the five in the Police Academy won't finish, and won't be put to work.

Utica Police say the experience of other departments in similar situations says that crime will spike.

"We know in 2010 we lost seven officers that were cut from the compliment and we did see a spike in rapes, aggravated assaults," said Sgt. Steve Hauck. "We saw that. We saw a spike in burglaries."

Sgt. Hauck says that response time shouldn't suffer, but that with 11 investigators cut, the actual investigation into crimes may suffer.

The new Utica budget carries with it a 9.9 percent tax increase.

With the average home price in the city of Utica estimated to be $70,000, that puts the average tax increase to $144 a year or roughly $12 more a month.

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