Minneapolis City Council dumps controversial fire department board-up program
Photo: Minneapolis 79 Screenshot.
The Minneapolis City Council is dissolving a controversial program that tasked on-duty fire fighters with boarding up homes and buildings around the city.
Implemented in fall 2010, the council predicted the board-ups would generate $400,000 per year, which could be used to help the cash-strapped department hold onto jobs. But as we reported last September, the program had lost more than $280,000 in its first 11 months, according to city data.
"I'm glad that we're getting rid of it," says City Councilmember Cam Gordon. "It's clear that it wasn't making the revenue that the council had hoped at the time."
The board-up program has been unpopular in the fire department since it began. Though it was designed to save jobs, it also takes fire fighters away from emergencies, aggravating concerns within the department that staffing levels are already dangerously low.
Late last month, the City Council's Ways & Means committee voted to dump the board-up program after a financial analyst deemed it "unsustainable," though it's unclear when the change will go into effect. At another council committee meeting last week, Minneapolis Fire Chief John Fruetel also noted the program was contributing to overtime costs, which has been a contentious issue between the department and the council.
"We've looked at the cost of the program, and it is an expensive program," Fruetel told councilmembers. "I think money would be better spent to have that let out to a private contractor, and allow me to put those firefighters that are presently assigned to that --which is three firefighters - back on the [rigs]."
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