Lawrence Mayor Dean Jessup will announce Friday which positions will be cut within fire safety after a $2 million budget shortfall.
City of Lawrence Fire Department Chief of EMS Ron Marks said 24 EMT positions could be on the line. If so, he said, it would mean firefighters would replace EMTs in ambulances. Some firefighters would be taking care of patients instead of fighting fires in some scenarios.
Marks is not saying response times will change or that the quality of care will either, but that the number of firefighters called to a fire will more than likely drop because they'll be focused on other roles.
"It's a tough decision. I'm glad I'm not the one (who) is on the hook making it. You can't say our services aren't going to change," said Marks.
Marks believes if EMT positions are cut, it would put a strain on firefighters. He said there will be enough manpower on EMS runs, but not during fire runs.
The mayor's Chief of Staff, Tim Joyce, said the cuts will be made to fire safety. He said cutting civilian EMT positions is one option though nothing has been decided. It is still being reviewed. Joyce said the decision the mayor faces stems from a large investment made in 2010 when firemen were added. He said it cost about $1.9 million. Joyce said last year's budget spent reserves and this year's budget does not have reserves to spend.
"We're trying to pay for something that we never figured out to pay for it two years ago. We have to do it now," said Joyce. "It's an incredibly tough decision and one of which no matter what the decision you make, there's going to be a change and a significant modification in how people have to live."
Marks does not want to see anyone let go. He said civilian EMTs are a big help and it allows firefighters to focus on fires when they are doing their job.
"We are going to do the best job that we can, but when you don't have the manpower to do things that you should be doing, things are going to suffer," said Marks. "For the most part, there's a lot of stress involved when you come to work and you don't know what's going to happen tomorrow and that's been a continuing theme here for some time."
According to Marks, three EMTs have left their positions and taken other jobs partially because of this situation.
Budget cuts may impact fire fighting in Lawrence