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Oswego lawmakers eliminate 4 firefighter positions

Oswego will eliminate four vacant firefighter positions following a vote by the Common Council to abolish the positions in order to save money and balance the budget, councilors say.

In a split vote, the council voted Monday to amend its budget.

The move would save the city $145,912, although firefighters believe that the four positions are needed to keep the department’s staffing at a safe and efficient level.

Firefighter staffing was already reduced as part of the 2013 budget. Lawmakers had originally tried to close the west side fire station, but community backlash kept it open.

Council President Ron Kaplewicz contends that there was a lot of misrepresentation of the facts regarding the removal of the positions.

“I think the firefighters have to understand that they’re all a part of the city and the city budget, and we are all accountable to the taxpayers, and we each have a responsibility to try and do anything and everything we can to operate the city in an effective and efficient matter,” he said.

Kaplewicz added that this issue was discussed and the possibility of their removal was talked about during budget negotiations.

He said that they want firefighters on the payroll but they want enough firefighters to provide for safety, emphasizing that they don’t want or need an excess, which could result in a tax increase.

The council can monitor the impact of the cuts and, if needed, Kaplewicz explained, the budget can be amended again.

He noted that Oswego has a high number of firefighters on staff per resident.

The Oswego Firefighters Association did not respond to messages asking for comment.