Minneapolis Fire Dept. board-up program lost $281,977 in 11 months

Fire Chief Alex Jackson will present the data to a City Council committee today.
A program designed to turn a profit for the cash-strapped Minneapolis Fire Department has been bleeding money since it launched last October, according to city data.

Fire Chief Alex Jackson will report to City Council members Wednesday afternoon that the board-up program, which tasks on-duty firefighters with boarding up Minneapolis properties, is already $281,977 in the red.

This is particularly bad news -- and bad timing -- for a department so financially troubled that it announced layoffs just last month.

"You talk about us being over-budgeted," fire union secretary Joe Mattison told City Pages. "That $280,000 we spent on it -- that was probably a couple firefighter positions."

When the city started the board-up program last fall, council members predicted it would make the department $400,000 a year, which would be used to save firefighter jobs.

But not everyone was so optimistic. Bert Castrojen, an independent contractor who took care of board-ups before the fire department, told City Pages in an October 2010 interview that the city's numbers seemed inflated. Many firefighters have also been skeptical of the program, especially because it takes firefighters away from emergencies.

We first reported skepticism of the program in our November cover story on the fire department's budget woes, "Man Down."
"We predicted that this would fail," says Mattison. "I even believe our administration believed it would fail. It was just forced upon us."

Six months into the program, the numbers looked bleak. The department had only billed about $39,000 for board-ups. Factoring in costs of materials and manpower, the program seemed destined to lose money.

"If you ask me, are we going to reach that mark that they were looking for, I'm going to guess and say no," said Asst. Fire Chief Dave DeWall in an April interview with City Pages.

The report comes at a bad time for the fire department, which announced layoffs just last month.
At the time, DeWall hoped the program would be more successful in months to come. But the new city data suggests that any pickup in business was insignificant.

In the 11 months since the program began, the fire department has billed $88,848, according to city data. The board-up program has cost $370,825.

The cost breaks down like this:

-$292,009 for personnel.
-$59,337 for tools and materials.
-$19,480 for the board-up truck.

"Where did this money go?" asks Mattison. "It's kind of like smoke and mirrors...City Hall politics amazes me."

Jackson will report the data to the Public Safety, Civil Rights & Health Agenda committee of the City Council today at 1:30 p.m.

Previous Coverage:

  • Minneapolis Fire Dept. board-up plan failing after six months
  • Man Down: Minneapolis Fire Department faces perilous future
  • Minneapolis firefighter who saved referee to be laid off

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    My Voice Nation Help

    "That $280,000 we spent on it -- that was probably a couple firefighter positions."A firefighter costs $140k/year?

    That should at least be 5-7 jobs.  Shouldn't a firefighter get paid in the $30-50k range + benefits?  It's not like it requires a college education.

    Mn Voter
    Mn Voter

    Sounds like Obamanomics. It saved or created a job or two. Now there is no more money so lets layoff a couple of firefighters. When are people going to wake up and FIRE the mayor, the administration, the council and all the elites who are destroying our city, state and country.Jackson will report the data to the Public Safety, Civil Rights & Health Agenda committee of the City Council today at 1:30 p.m. Let's get back to basics. PUBLIC SAFETY

    Larry Arneson
    Larry Arneson

    I dont get it Mary and not being a smart ass I dont how any of it works the fre fighter boarding up is all ready getting paid....So why is that cost so high?...This sounds like big goverment at work in Mpls....Sounds like fire dept railroading the city Cause they dont want to do it to start with....And fire fighters should fight fires and cops crime amd teachers teach and the damn banks should board up there own houses or be fined hard....And Go Vikes

    Mary Mohn
    Mary Mohn

    Larry, this was not a case of the firefighters sabotaging the outcome. I believe what happened was the council thought they were doing us a favor by giving the fire dept the money for this program and thinking we could do the board-ups in our spare time, so to speak.The thought was we would save money on the labor end because the firefighters are already being paid, like you said. In reality, with the rules imposed on us, it took a full-time, 24 hour a day person to do the job. So, not only, did we not come out ahead on the money end, it took a firefighter off the rigs. This program was "supposed" to help us keep a firefighter, instead it cost us one.I agree, in part, with your statement about firefighters should fight fires, teachers teach etc.  But, I must say that there are certain duties, that we can do as  add ons to firefighting that make sense, like emergency medical calls, and  building inspections....And go Vikes, back at ya!

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