They want more funding to help keep you safe. That's the message from the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue workers out in protest of rolling brownouts taking effect Monday.
"There really isn't a price on human life. Without the adequate funding for the fire department we are putting people’s lives in danger,” said Rowland Taylor, who is the president of the union that represents the fire and rescue workers.
He was a part of a group protesting at Station 56 on Sunset Drive in West Kendall. Taylor said the fire truck that normally responds from that station was taken out of service Monday morning for 24 hours.
According to Taylor, for the foreseeable future six stations a day won't be fully staffed. As a result, for that day their trucks won’t be in of service. After the 24 hours is up, it’s six more stations’ turn to take an unwanted break, and in the business of saving lives timing is everything.
“The human brain starts to have increasing damage after six minutes. The impact of closing these units throughout the community is that we will not be able to get to people in those six minutes,” Taylor said.
The Miami-Dade County Commission voted last week to keep the property tax rate flat for the coming budget year, meaning there would be cuts to the county’s fire rescue and library services.
Some fire rescue members said the decision not to increase funding for the department is something they tried to avoid.
“For the last five years we've made significant cuts,” Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Lt. Omar Blanco said. “We've tried to work within the economy as it was and now they're really taking the rug out from under us.”
Mayor Carlos Gimenez said the problem is that the department has run through much of its overtime, however.
“This is one of the ways that we have to, unfortunately, control our costs in this year’s budget – as part of the concessions that were given by the union two years ago that if we had problems with overtime in this budget year, that the rolling blackouts or brownouts would be put into effect,” Gimenez said. “It doesn’t mean any stations are closing, it’s just closed temporarily depending on the number of firefighters showing up for work that day.”
Gimenez said he doesn’t like brownouts. But the county has to be fiscally responsible, he said.
For neighbor Nicole Nunez, who lives right across the street from Station 56 in West Kendall, the decision to not increase funding is wrong.
“Being I have a family, God forbid there's an emergency one day and we're going to have a rescue truck from somewhere else,” Nunez said. “We’ll have a longer wait and sometimes that means too long is too late.”
Taylor said a tax increase of roughly $20.00 a year per home will negate the cuts, and said the union is going to appeal the decision and ask for an increase at the commissioners’ meeting on July 30. He added that if anyone in the community has an opinion they speak up by then.
Gimenez said the tax rate is pretty much established, however.
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