STOCKTON, CA - At a news conference Wednesday morning, Stockton firefighters painted a bleak picture of how the department is staffed after serious budget cuts.
"A fire station is closed," Union leader Dave Macedo said. "Daily staffing is down by more than a third. Staffing is what it was in the 50's and 60's."
Macedo was announcing a contract agreement between his group and the city of Stockton. But, it was clear, it's not a happy arrangement.
"I never thought I'd experience times like this," Macedo said. "I'm very concerned about levels of staffing."
The new deal helps the city reach it's goal of closing it's $37 million budget gap. But 36 firefighters have been laid off, while those still working are taking pay cuts and paying more for benefits.
At city hall, Assistant City Manager Laurie Montes said it was time for the fire department to take it's share of the cuts. Last year, cuts weren't allowed because of a contract with the fire union.
"The city's in deep financial trouble. We needed to close the gap," Montes said. "What we hear from the public, they want a full service city. They don't just want police and fire departments. They want and deserve some amenities."
By Tim Daly, firstname.lastname@example.org