Major cuts to fire department proposed in Petersburg memo

Posted at 6:27 PM, Sep 28, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-28 18:28:50-04

PETERSBURG, Va. -- A memo obtained by CBS 6, from the Director of Human Resources to Acting City Manager Dironna Belton, outlines the attempt to cut $675,000 in the Fire Departments personnel services budget.

Currently, there are five vacant firefighter positions and funding for those vacancies, the memo states, will be eliminated and the positions cannot be filled.

"It does concern me," says Council Woman Treska Wilson-Smith, who represents Ward 1. "It's not a want, it's a need, it's a necessity, we need firefighters."

The memo was obtained by CBS 6.

The memo was obtained by CBS 6.

Wilson-Smith said she does understand the city needs to make tough decisions and cut the budget. However, she said the budget cuts don't need to come at the expense of firefighters.

"The issue is how do we do it and I think there is a way," she said.

As part of the budget reduction, the memo indicates that four vacant positions with Code Compliance are to also have funding eliminated and not to be filled.

Three other fire department positions are also included, which would mean the elimination of the Fire Public Safety Education Specialist and two Division Chiefs.

Petersburg Fire Chief T.C. Hairston has been with the company for 36 years

Petersburg Fire Chief T.C. Hairston has been with the company for 36 years

The memo is dated Sept.19, although Fire Chief T.C. Hairston said he first learned of it this week. "I got a copy of the memo Monday."

The 36-year veteran of the Petersburg Fire Department, who recently announced that he would retire in December, said he has concerns about some of the reductions.

"As I indicated at the council meeting at Petersburg High School, I'd like to see it being done administratively and not from the boots on the ground," Chief Hairston said. "Definitely got to keep firefighters in the station because they are the ones who are providing the services to the citizens of Petersburg."

The memo indicated that the proposed cuts will save $613,423.