It's a busy time for Utica Public Safety Officials and the Common Council as they are discussing not only the budget but also inevitable cuts to their departments.
Both Police Chief Mark Williams and Fire Chief Russ Brooks say no matter what cuts are made, they will do whatever they can to provide the highest level of safety to the residents of Utica. However, they say that level is being put in jeopardy, and there is no getting around that.
After Mayor Robert Palmieri's proposed budget came out, citizens were mostly concerned about two things, the tax hike, and public safety.
As public safety officials met with members of the Common Council, they finally were given the opportunity to weigh in on how they felt about those proposed cuts. Both Chief Williams and Chief Brooks say some cuts were not necessarily well thought out.
"They were talking about taking key positions away from this department, like a Deputy Chief and Sergeants, which are just too critical to this agency," says Williams.
"The plan the city is putting forward would actually cost the city money," says Brooks.
Chief Brooks says the proposed cuts involve some positions that are actually federally funded--he says those cuts don't make sense to him. Brooks says for the fire department, it could involve coming up with a retirement incentive, and cutting from the top as opposed to the bottom if necessary. Williams says his staff is willing to make concessions, but reasonable ones. They fully understand the need to tighten the belt, but they say the city could be put at great risk.
"Cuts that deep come at a cost," says Williams
"Everywhere I went this weekend," says Brooks, "people are saying to me 'Russ, make sure the city, try to make sure the city is kept safe.' But the truth is, if there's a reduction in manpower it's not going to be as safe."