Buckeye residents up in arms over proposed public safety cuts

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BUCKEYE – The city of Buckeye is having to make some tough budget decisions -- some that will most likely end up with firefighters and police officers losing their jobs. That's not sitting too well with people who live there.

The growth of Buckeye forced the expansion of public safety -- more firefighters and police officers. But an anticipated deep-holed city budget deficit could now force those protecting departments to lay people off. In the worst-case scenario, 24 firefighters and 16 police officers could lose their jobs.

“This is going to affect the times and how fast they're going to get emergency service,” said Buckeye resident Shelbie Lindsey.

Upset over the idea, Lindsey hopes there's some other solution.

“Have the city council members looked at every aspect or are they just pointing at something that they think is a quick fix?” she wonders.

Buckeye has already started chopping away at next year’s projected $1.4 million deficit. Thirteen vacant positions have been eliminated, as has overtime, and operating costs have been reduced by $1.5 million. Beginning January 1, city salaries will also be cut 5-15 percent, depending on an individual’s pay. But now the council wants Fire and Police to make cuts.

At Tuesday night’s council meeting there was loud applause for residents voicing their concerns over these highly probable public safety cuts.

“There are so many foreclosures and so many homes that are just vacant; we don't need our fire station to be the same thing,” said resident Kathy Flint.

Another to stand in front of council was someone lucky to still be alive: firefighter Marcus Haynes, still bandaged up.

"I was caught in a trailer fire and almost lost my life,” he said.

Last month Haynes had to be airlifted to a hospital after getting caught in what's called a "flashover" during a fire that consumed a fifth wheel trailer. The fire got so hot it melted his gear and severely burned him.

He, too, has some concerns about cutting public safety.

“The economy is bad, we all understand that, but what we do know is some people, all they have is their pictures and their loved ones and we don't want any of that stuff to change,” he said. “We want to get there, we want to help them and save what they have and protect what they want.”

Because the budget issues weren't on Tuesday night’s agenda, the council didn't comment about the public’s concerns.

Department heads are now coming up with a budget plan for the city. They have to turn those recommendations in by December 3, and then the council will review them.