Citizens pack Anderson meeting to protest budget cuts, public safety job loss

Proposed budget would cut 22 firefighters, 7 cops

ANDERSON, Ind. - There was outrage during a city council meeting Thursday in Anderson, where 22 firefighters and seven police officers could soon lose their jobs. 

The mayor's office is proposing a 2013 budget that would include eliminating those positions.

Hundreds turned out to the meeting to protest the budget cuts, and the attendees had a lot to say to the council.

"We need all the officers we have plus more, and to cut these officers, (it's) just going to be a disaster," one attendee said.

"I pray that nobody in this room needs the police or fire in their new future," another attendee remarked.

"Before you pass this budget, you need to look at everything. The public service has to be number one," advised another concerned citizen.

The mayor's office claims $9 million in lost tax revenue since 2005, a reduction in the number of residents and closed factories combine to necessitate staff reductions in many departments, including public safety.

"Both chiefs of fire and police have assured us that they can maintain our safety levels with the reduced staff," said Anderson Controller Sam Pellegrino. "We need to be more efficient with less."

Scott Calhoun, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, said a staff reduction of seven officers will make it unsafe for Anderson residents.

"What happens if we have two armed robberies that go down in the same time and we have possibly a hostage situation or something like that, how do you respond?" Calhoun asked.

Jamie Grant is one of those patrol officers with little seniority who could lose his job soon.

"I feel like I'm in a state of limbo," Grant said. "I want everybody to understand this is very serious, you lose seven officers, (there's) no telling what's going to happen to the city."

There is litigation under way between the firefighters union and the city over language in the current contract. Union Chief John Smith made a few brief comments at Thursday's meeting.

"The budget before you does not provide for adequate public safety services to the citizens we are all sworn to protect," Smith said.

The council will vote on the proposed budget at a meeting scheduled for next month.

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