Hemet budget issues may cost city firefighters their jobs

HEMET, Calif.

"We love our fire department. I pray for them every day. I think they are the best. If they need a raise, we need to give it to them and the police department," said Hemet resident Carla Hecht.

For city officials facing a $2.7 million shortfall, it's not raises, but cuts, they are looking at. One solution under consideration is contracting out the city's fire and paramedic services to Riverside County.

"We've cut 144 positions, we've furloughed employees, we've cut staff salaries, we've cut programs, we've contracted out several services, including our community center," said Ron Bradley, Hemet's interim city manager.

The city also outsources its animal control and trash collection services. But residents say they don't want to see their 115-year-old fire department disbanded to save a few dollars.

"The proposals submitted by the county, which I've read, doesn't make sense for Hemet," said Emily McDonough, a Hemet resident who is part of a group questioning the outsourcing proposal and whether it would save money.

McDonough said two of the three proposals submitted by Riverside County CAL FIRE cost more than what Hemet's own fire department costs to operate.

"The third option, while it is lower in cost, does not meet Hemet's Measure C mandate of reaching service calls within five minutes 80 percent of the time," said McDonough.

Whatever the decision, the city says part of any negotiation with the county would include the futures of the 45 firefighters currently employed by the city.

"These are young men and women with families, mortgages, children to educate, and part of our negotiations would be what happens to them," said Bradley."

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