EVEN IF City Council were to provide the Fire Department with the money needed to end the controversial rotating "brownouts" of fire stations, the Nutter administration said it would still stand by the policy.
During his budget presentation to Council yesterday, Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers was asked if given the $3.8 million the city says it saves from brownouts, which began in 2010, would he discontinue the policy?
"If Council came up with $3.8 million to eliminate brownouts and I were allowed to? Yes, of course I would," Ayers said. "Management is handling the money in the general fund. I don't act like I have that authority."
"Management" meant Mayor Nutter, whose position on brownouts has not changed.
"At this point in time it is the mayor's decision that the brownouts are occurring, so that's the current position," said budget director Rebecca Rhynhart.
Under the city's brownout plan, about three fire stations are temporarily shuttered once a week, which saves the city on overtime. Meanwhile, the Fire Department is projecting to spend $7.2 million over its budget because of increased overtime, mostly due to slower-than-anticipated hiring.
Rhynhart said that without the brownouts, overtime would be higher.
The firefighters' union has blamed the brownouts for increased response times.
"We've been living by luck," said Bill Gault, president of Fire Fighters Local 22.
The administration has said that the brownouts have not compromised the safety of Philadelphians.
Ayers is seeking a $632,468 budget increase for new firefighters and new emergency safety and rescue equipment.