Johnston City leaders cut fire department

Published: Jul. 20, 2011 at 2:17 AM CDT
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By Arnold Wyrick - bio | email

JOHNSTON CITY, IL (KFVS) - A huge financial hole is costing the Johnston City community it's fire department.

Johnston City's Mayor Jim Mitchell says they can no longer afford a full time fire fighting force.

"It's not good, it's not easy, it's nothing we wanted to do," said Mayor Mitchell.

"We don't feel like this is a choice, we don't have a choice with this. We had to do this. We've got to get this town back in the black."

At this time Mayor MItchell says that's going to take a long time to achieve.

"The city has been spending about 40-percent more then it's income for quite sometime. In the past they've borrowed to get out of that, so we are very deep in the hole. We're more then a million dollars in debt."

So the mayor has decided to make the fire department an all voluntary force. The move will cost four full-time and five part-time fire fighters their jobs.

"We've already sent the street department home. The fire department runs over $400-thousand a year."

But some residents say it was money well spent.

"I think a lot of things could happen. A house could burn down, people could get hurt," said Josh Angone.

"It's just ridiculous we don't have the funds to afford a fire department."

Once the department is an all voluntary force, they will also no longer be the first responders for medical emergencies in town or outside the city limits.

"I can't believe there's any excuse for that, our taxes pay for those kinds of things and we should have them," said Edgar Burnett.

"If the city government has wasted that money somehow or squandered it that's their problem. They should still provide those services."

And some people are worried that help may not arrive as quickly as needed to save their lives.

"I think it's crazy, you're taking our lives the people of Johnston City in your own hands," said Patti Morgan.

"You're deciding whether that five minutes that a first responder can get there to save our lives or not. You're dealing with peoples lives, why would you take that away?"

The cuts to the fire department will go into effect on August 8th.

"At midnight on August 8th, that's when the fire department is shutting down. The chief will stay on and build a voluntary department,' said Mayor Mitchell.

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