Police, fire unions speak out about Ogdensburg’s proposed cuts

Published: Nov. 11, 2021 at 5:42 PM EST
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OGDENSBURG, New York (WWNY) - Unions say proposed cuts to police and fire departments in Ogdensburg are dangerous. The city administration says cuts have to be done to keep spending in check.

As few as two police patrols per shift on the streets. Sometimes just four firefighters arriving at raging house fires. Unions for both those departments say the cuts have to stop.

“We, simply put, need more than four people to properly start an initial attack on a structure fire,” said Jason Bouchard, Ogdensburg Professional Firefighters Local 1799.

“People are getting burnt out. The mental health of our officers is declining...and it’s definitely worrisome,” said Matt Erwin, Ogdensburg Police Supervisory Unit president.

The proposed city budget for 2022 cuts three firefighter and five police officer positions. There would be 18 firefighters as compared to 28 two years ago. Police would have 18 sworn officers. That compares to 28 two years ago.

“I think a municipality’s number 1 obligation is to protect its citizens,” said Bouchard.

The city administration says there’s another obligation as well.

“This is not about wanting less firefighters. This is not about wanting less police officers. This is the city operating within the means that has been given from the taxpayers without increasing the burden on the taxpayers,” said Stephen Jellie, Ogdensburg city manager.

Jellie said he doesn’t believe public safety is endangered. He said no layoffs will take place as the positions to be cut are already vacant. The police department has requested three additional officer positions in the proposed budget.

These are still only budget proposals. A public hearing is coming and, at some point, the city council will have to take a final vote.

The public hearing will take place November 22. Two jobs are also being cut in other city departments. The proposed budget includes a property tax cut of more than 10 percent.

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