Fourteen homicides.

Eighteen rapes.

One hundred two robberies - and more than three times as many assaults.

That's a six-month snapshot of Chester, a four-square-mile Delaware County city where violence is profound. Only about 100 officers police the municipality of 34,000 residents. Law enforcement officials say their jobs get more challenging by the day.

And it could be getting worse.

On Tuesday, a team of economic consultants tasked with saving the beleaguered city delivered a nearly 150-page report of recommendations to residents and city employees at a packed meeting at Chester City Hall.

"Extreme measures" are required, they said.

Among the most controversial: laying off police and closing one of the city's two fire stations.

The report signals the coming weeks could be tougher than first-year Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland anticipated. With a road map to making Chester fiscally solvent at his fingertips, Kirkland must decide by the end of the month whether to accept the consultants' plan - one that could mean layoffs, higher taxes, and other unpopular decisions - or reject it and draft his own.

Kirkland declined comment last week. But he and the rest of the City Council have to act on the recommendations by Aug. 27.

The city is facing high stakes: Chester must exit the state's Act 47 program - a last-resort option for financially distressed municipalities - by May 2018. If city leaders cannot turn around its finances by then (and if denied a one-time, three-year extension), Chester could be forced into receivership, or bankruptcy.

But in a community where police officers, on average, respond to calls for service once every nine minutes, and where firefighters answer more than 12 calls a day, some ask: How can Chester afford cutting staffs when it could mean risking lives?

City employees aren't the only ones asking.

In a show of support that surprised even Chester's police chief and its fire commissioner, residents at Tuesday night's meeting made it clear they cannot spare even one job. Despite tensions that have ebbed and flowed for years between residents and first responders, they said, they need their police and fire departments.

"You're talking about cutting back police officers in a city where people are getting killed every week," resident Tohran Freeman, said. "... Taking things away from the city and the people is not going to help us recover."

The report with recommendations from Philadelphia economic consulting firm Econsult Solutions and its partner firms Fairmount Capital Advisors and McNees, Wallace & Nurick, is the fifth of its kind since 1995 - when Chester was first declared economically distressed.

None of the prior plans worked. And none was as dire as Econsult's.

The city is teetering on the edge of economic collapse, it said. Its deficit has swelled to $16.3 million. By 2020, that could more than double.

Revenues are flat. Expenses, rising rapidly. Concessions must be made, the report stressed. No department will be spared.

"The city must adopt and successfully implement every recommendation of this plan," the report warned.

By the end of 2016, Chester police costs are expected to reach nearly $22 million - more than a third of the city's projected expenditures of $56 million. Fire Department expenses will reach almost $9 million.

"Given personnel costs, the city simply cannot maintain its current employment complement," the report states. The consultants recommended Chester close one of its two fire stations - as long as the department can maintain its average four-minute response time - or cut an equivalent amount of expenses.

Closing one station would cost the department about 23 employees, the report states, saving the city more than $2 million.

Fire Commissioner Travis Thomas said the department is "willing to do everything we can on our end to help the city get back on its feet."

But, he said, firefighters responded to 2,300 calls between January and June and "I will still require the same amount of manpower."

Chester Police Chief James Nolan faces the same realities. Econsult's consultants call for cutting at least 10 police jobs.

"We're short-staffed to begin with," Nolan said in an interview. "If we are going to conduct proactive policing, we need to up our numbers by over 10."

The police and firefighter contracts expire this year. Any recovery plan would shape the new labor agreements.

While maintaining that tough, even severe, decisions loom for Chester, the consultants said they are willing to consider revisions to the plan.

"There's a lot more to the story of reducing expenditures in police and fire," said Stephen Mullin, president of Econsult Solutions. That could mean reducing positions, he said, while trying to increase efficiencies.

"We're not just going to line everybody up and say to the last 15, 'Here's a pink slip.' It's not that at all," Mullin said. "Our recommendations are about negotiating changes. The recovery team understands that fully, and so does the council."

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