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Fire Department Feels the Squeeze in Budget Talks

Department could look at combining services with other cities in the area.

Funding for the Golden Valley Fire Department came under scrutiny Tuesday as city staff and council members reviewed the proposed 2012-13 budget.

“The big question is, are we going to be able to sustain the way we’re currently structured?” Fire and Inspections Chief Mark Kuhnly asked.

The 2012 proposed budget for Fire Administration would decrease funding from the 2011 adopted budget by a little more than 1 percent, to $908,355.

The fire department has four full-time paid staff members and about 50 paid on-call firefighters. The department has been pushing recruitment efforts, in particular hosting an open house and its first recruitment expo last month. But Kuhnly said it’s been difficult to recruit 24-hour coverage on an on-call, part-time basis.

“If we can’t continue with this structure, instead of a budget under one million we’re looking at a budget of four to five million for the size of this city,” Kuhnly said.

City Manager Tom Burt said the city could save money by eliminating city boundaries and having a unified dispatch center. He said the fire department has a good relationship with the St. Louis Park department, and their firefighters often respond to calls within the Golden Valley city limits.

“No one cares what color the truck is, as long as the fire is put out,” Kuhnly said.

If the city could share capital costs—such as equipment and trucks—it could cut considerable spending from the budget. But a full merger would require legislation, which Kuhnly said is probably a few years away.

Council and staff will continue to review the proposed budget throughout the summer and fall before the council approves it in December.

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