Heated Debate Over Fire Safety At Peoria City Council

Alpha Media/Ed Hammond, File

Peoria City Council heavily debated the final recommendation officials have offered to close the city’s $8 million budget shortfall.

After the nearly two-hour discussion, council voted 7-3 to support the hike of fees related to fire safety and hazardous materials. City Manager Patrick Urich estimated it would raise about $200,000 for the fire department.

Mayor Jim Ardis, 5th District Councilman Denis Cyr and At Large Councilman Eric Turner voted no to the cut.

But the overarching issue wasn’t settled. Council put off a vote on the fire department’s budget, asking Peoria Fire Chief Charles Laus to come up with $900,000 in cuts.

City Manager Patrick Urich said the decision was a compromise. As opposed to forcing the Peoria Fire Department to do away with one of their trucks, which was the original discussion, council handed the responsibility to Laus to determine what is to go.

The department’s budget is $23.5 million after the cuts.

“The $900,000 for us to try to come back with, we really have to work hard and come up with a lot of options…we have go back and dig more,” Laus said.

Second District Councilman Chuck Grayeb spoke up adamantly against the budget cut.

“We should reject this and send our City Manager back to the drawing board… let’s not compromise the safety of the people in our community,” Grayeb said.

Grayeb opposed plans to decommission one of the department’s engines at previous meetings.

Grayeb proposed cutting management positions within the city to close the budget gap, a suggestion that failed to gather momentum with other council members.

Ryan Brady, president of the Firefighters Local 50 union, stressed that they are already spread thin.

“We are cut to the bone; make no mistake about it,” he said.

Mayor Jim Ardis noted that the number of fire calls had increased over the past year, but only a small percentage were fire related. Most were about medical reasons.

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