Meriden Fired Up Over Budget Battle

The Meriden city manager wants to close one of five firehouses in the city. Residents are vowing to put up a fight, calling it a matter of life and death.
The city of Meriden is facing a five million dollar budget gap, according to City Manager Lawrence Kendzior.  Closing the Broad Street fire house would save about 620,000 a year, said Kendzior, by eliminating four firefighter positions through attrition and cutting overime at the other fire houses.

"There would be more situations where we would be depending on mutual aid from surrounding towns," said Kendzior.  "That's worked out very well for us, but again, not a proposal made lightly."

At a neighborhood meeting Thursday night, residents voiced concerns that closing the Broad Street fire house would lead to decreased response times for fire and medical calls.

"It's going to be a real big safety issue with us," said resident Dave Swedoch.

During the meeting, Fire Chief James Trainor told the group he worries the closure would cause the number of firefighters per shift to drop from 21 to 18, further hindering their response.

"I see a lower level of service to the community because of the increased response times and less resources available to respond to emergencies within the city," said Trainor.

The city has studied this issue before.
A report a few years ago showed that by closing a firehouse, response times would barely meet national standards and that the overall recommendation was to leave things as is, said Trainor. 

The city council will have the final say.  Their finished budget is due in May.

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