CATHEDRAL CITY, Cali. - The public safety budget could not be spared from Cathedral City's controversial budget cuts last July. Two million dollars came out of the fire department alone.
The city manager told the fire department, unless it came up with a way to cut costs, he would make personnel cuts and close a station permanently. So, the department implemented the only plan it could.
Cathedral City Mayor Kathy DeRosa said, "The fire department came forward and said here's what we would like to do, here's how we'd like to reorganize, and this is what we think we can do. Unfortunately now what they did on paper, they're finding that is really not working in the real world."
The new budget cuts five firefighters and forced the department to close station 412, on Desert Vista Road, for about two weeks out of every month. Since the budget passed, station 412 has shut down for the day more than 50 times.
The staff cuts and shutting down the fire station increases the response time for the fire department, sometimes even doubling how long it takes to arrive at the scene. The department often operates under the preferred crew minimum of ten.
Mayoral candidate Chip Yarborough believes the city mismanaged the budget, and if he becomes Mayor, plans to do something about it. "I believe when you keep a communications officer and you get rid of a fire chief, somehow those priorities just don't make sense to me. I believe that one of my first priorities is to restore public safety in the city. The fact that we have two fire stations protecting a population of 54,000 people is just unsafe," Yarborough said.
Palm Springs or Riverside Fire may need to lend a helping hand in situations the short handed department can't handle. The burden on fire staff could increase again during the tourist season, when the population increases in the thousands.
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