Mpls. City Council to assess fire departmentby Curtis Gilbert, Minnesota Public Radio
MINNEAPOLIS — Two Minneapolis City Council committees discuss how to improve the city's fire department Monday.
The Public Safety and Ways & Means committees will go over the findings contained in a 200-plus page Fire Department evaluation conducted by Emergency Services Consulting International.
The independent consultants found the department "consistently provides excellent service" but they also flagged some areas that need improvement. The report found eight of the city's 19 fire stations are in poor condition.
It also found that Minneapolis has fewer firefighters per capita than other comparable cities. Minneapolis has cut almost 90 people from the department since 2001 — a staff reduction of more than 18 percent. In 2001, the department had 483 employees. Today it has fewer than 400.
"Clearly it is not the ideal number," said Don Samuels, chair of the council's Public Safety, Civil Rights and Health Committee.
He acknowledged that the cuts have taken a toll.
"Every area of our city has been operating under the stress of somewhat, slightly understaffed, and that's one of the sacrifices we've been making over time. There's no doubt about that," he said.
Samuels said he's not sure when the city will be able to rehire the laid-off firefighters, because the economic outlook remains uncertain.
The report also notes the city's firefighters use an unusually large amount of unplanned sick leave, especially on Saturdays. The consultants say that places, "the entire system in jeopardy on its busiest day."