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Police, fire chiefs push for Beverly trash fee

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  • Police, fire chiefs push for Beverly trash fee

    Police, fire chiefs push for Beverly trash fee


    Staff writer

    BEVERLY -- The city's top public safety officials told city councilors last night that their ability to keep citizens safe will be severely compromised unless a trash fee is implemented.

    The trash fee, which would raise $1.8 million, would keep Police Chief John Cassola and Fire Chief Richard Pierce from having to make further cuts to their departments, which they say are already understaffed in comparison to other North Shore cities of similar size.

    Some city councilors have balked at the idea of a trash fee, but Mayor Thomas Crean has said it is the only way to bridge the budget gap without layoffs. The pay-as-you-throw system would cost each homeowner $88 for the first six months. Beginning in January, each home would be allowed to throw out one bag of trash per week for free. Stickers that will cost $2.75 will be required for each additional container per household.

    Even if the council approves the trash fee, Pierce explained, he will be forced to take one fire engine out of service for at least half a year because of the $450,000 in budget cuts he has already had to make.

    "We're in desperate straits here," he said. "We're still going to do our job, but the response times are going to be longer."

    Having three trucks instead of four would mean more time getting to neighborhoods like Centerville that are poorly covered. It could also mean that if all three trucks are at a fire, there will be no trucks available if there is a medical call like a heart attack somewhere else in the city. In addition, having three trucks will also decrease the city's insurance rating, making it more expensive for residents to buy homeowner's insurance.

    Without the trash fee, he would have to lay off six firefighters, leave one vacant position unfilled, and demote three of his officers. He would also lose the fourth truck for the entire year, instead of six months.

    Pierce said such reductions would be devastating for a city that already lags behind its neighbors in terms of fire protection. When he joined the Fire Department in 1977, there were 120 firefighters. Today, that figure is down to 64, almost half that number.

    "Percentage-wise, we're way behind the times here," he said. "I can't believe we're going to be reducing anything. We're already below a safety issue. We're not even in the ballpark in this city."

    Cassola said things look just as bad for the Police Department. "There really is no fluff in our budgets," he said. "We have cut and cut and cut."

    Even if the trash fee passes, he will have to shift several officers around because of retirements and the $200,000 that has been cut from his budget. Two school resource officers, and a DARE officer will be shifted to patrol duty, and two detective positions will be eliminated. One traffic enforcement officer will also be reassigned to other duties.

    If the trash fee is rejected, Cassola said he would be forced to cut his patrol force by 25 percent, from 60 to 45. That would also mean only five cruisers on the streets at all times, instead of the current six. All three meter men, and a half-time secretary would also be cut.

    But even after the two presentations, some city councilors still seemed unconvinced that the trash fee is a good idea.

    Councilor Maureen Troubetaris said she has spoken to a few citizens who support the idea of a trash fee, "but by far the majority of people can't afford it."

    Others acknowledged that the trash fee may be a necessary evil in order to maintain the level of city services residents have come to expect.

    "I think the citizens of this city have to make a decision about what kind of city they want," Councilor Roger Morency said. "Do they want a Class A city, Class B, or Class C? This isn't about saving jobs. This is about saving these departments' ability to do their jobs."

    The council could vote on the trash fee as early as Monday. A public hearing on the trash fee is scheduled for 6 that night.

  • #2
    Free Garbage pick up?

    I just assumed everyone paid to have their garbage picked up. The choice here is obvious.
    "We shouldn't be opening firehouses in Baghdad and closing them in New York City."



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