Moline (Ill.) Firefighters Worry About Vote to Cut 12 Paramedic Positions

MOLINE, Ill. — Moline is developing and expanding its tax base, but the economy and the fiscal realities of public safety plans mean the city’s leaders have difficult decisions ahead, Mayor Don Welvaert said Monday.

Welvaert’s annual State of the City address, delivered to a combined meeting of the Moline Rotary and Kiwanis clubs, also was attended by at least a dozen members of the local firefighters union. The firefighters are concerned about a council vote last month to cut costs by eliminating 12 paramedic positions in anticipation of contracting with a private company to provide emergency medical services.

Welvaert said the city eliminated 26 jobs between 2007 and 2011 and has eliminated 13 positions in the 2012 budget, including the 12 paramedics and one police officer, because of the cost of paying their pensions.

“The current model of public safety service is simply unsustainable,” he said.

Communities and school districts need to consider further consolidation and sharing of resources to help deal with rising costs and lagging revenues, Welvaert said.

Welvaert said development under way in Moline also will improve the city’s budget situation by expanding the tax base and bringing in more revenues. He said $71 million in improvements were under construction in 2011, including the new Sustainable Technology Building at Black Hawk College and the first phase of the Western Illinois University – Quad-Cities Riverfront Campus.

At least $72 million in new construction is expected to begin in Moline in 2012, including a Genesis Health System medical office on 41st Street, the second phase of the WIU campus and construction of a passenger rail station.

After his address, Welvaert called the construction “very positive for the city of Moline and very positive for the creation of jobs.”

Brian Vyncke, president of Local 581 of the International Association of Firefighters, which represents the Moline firefighters, said the firefighters attended the address because they wanted to hear what Welvaert had to say.

“It’s all the same rhetoric we’ve heard in the past,” he said.

Vyncke said the union is willing to work with the city to find a compromise that will save the city money and maintain fire department staffing at a safe level.

Vyncke said there is no quick fix to the problem.

“We didn’t get here overnight, and it’s not going to go away overnight,” he said.

Vyncke said he didn’t think the $152,000 the city hopes to save this year by eliminating the paramedic positions is worth the loss of those 12 paramedics.

Welvaert said after the meeting that the $152,000 the city hopes to save this year will grow to $300,000 to $450,000 in the near future as more firefighters retire and start receiving their pensions.

“It’s a national problem,” he said. “Public pensions are absolutely killing us.”

No posts to display