Firefighters heating up over Prattville furlough talk

Posted by: Melissa Johnson - bio | email

PRATT, AL (WSFA) -  As Prattville city leaders prepare to make huge cuts in spending, it seems furloughs are no longer just a possibility.  And the decision isn't sitting well with some city employees, especially the fire department.

Tuesday morning on Today In Alabama, Mayor Gillespie told us, "Furloughs are now a high probability."

His comment caught some members of the Prattville Fire Department by surprise.  Union President Sgt. Mark Rhodes said, "We were assured that wasn't going to affect us. And we've been told multiple times that furloughs were not an issue with us."

Rhodes says that because firefighters work 24 hour shifts, a furlough day affects them differently than other city employees.

"It hits us a little bit harder. Basically that's a 12-15% pay cut for us," he added.

But their concern is not just with their pay checks. They say forcing employees to take an unpaid day off creates a logistical nightmare to keep enough people on the streets.

Chief Stanley Gann said, "You can play a baseball game with less than nine people, but you gotta hope that nobody hits one in the hole where there's no body there."

Chief Gann says the hardest part is dealing the unknown. They're not exactly sure what's next, making it difficult to create contingency plan.

"There may be more than furloughs. There may be layoffs.  There may be lots of things that are going to affect our response," Gann said.

Mayor Bill Gillespie said, "Nobody wants to jeopardize the public's safety or anything along those lines.  We're in this as a family, and no one department will be hit harder or lighter than the rest."

Gillespie will announce more specific plans in the coming weeks.  Until them firefighters say they'll continue to do the best they can with the resources they have.

The mayor also added that his office will also be furloughed.  Even though salaries of elected officials can't be changed, he plans to write a personal check back to the city as a furlough payment.

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