Firefighter Union President Mahlon Mitchell was one of nearly fifty union members who attended the City Council’s 2020 budget deliberations last night to voice their support of a proposal to staff a ninth ambulance.
Mitchell noted that the union was not seeking increased wages or reduced hours, but rather the City’s support to protect the community.
“All we’re asking for, and it’s not for us, we have members here that [are] not asking for anything other than [for the City] to adequately staff us so we can serve,” Mitchell said. “We ask that you give us the ninth ambulance, and if it doesn’t happen this year, realizing that there’s budget constraints, we will definitely be back again and again to ask that you help us adequately staff [and] adequately serve the citizens of this great community.”
Even if the City adds a ninth ambulance in the 2021 budget, Madison Fire Chief Steven Davis says he would likely request a tenth ambulance the following year.
Davis says adding five or six more ambulances over the next couple years would be “justified.”
Right now, the City has one ambulance for every 33,000 residents. But Davis says he’d like to have one for every 15,000 or 20,000 residents, which would closely resemble the ratio in other Midwest cities of similar size.
“[There are] a couple reasons for that. One is just [that] the sheer volume of calls has changed. There’s a lot more violent-type calls, a lot more shootings and trauma where we see multiple patients on calls,” Davis says. “Car accidents have pretty much remained the same, maybe a slight uptick and usually there’s multiple victims with a car accident, but [I] think in forecasting, we’re not that sleepy little city that we used to be where ambulances went on six to eight calls a day, and not only that we’re seeing more and more multiple-victim type calls where it requires two or three paramedic ambulances to handle.”
Davis also says he believes Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway would add the ambulance immediately if the City was not limited by a state-imposed levy cap.
To get around those limits, Alder Michael Tierney proposed three separate amendments to staff the ambulance for part of next year. One amendment would have eliminated a police auditor position included in the Mayor’s budget.
One community speaker, Amelia Royko Maurer was a friend and roommate of Paul Heenan, who was killed while unarmed in a confrontation with a police officer in 2012.
Maurer says adding a police auditor or a ninth ambulance shouldn’t be mutually exclusive.
“First of all, I want to say that anybody who puts forth amendments to pit a firefighter ambulance against an auditor is unethical and needs to be voted out,” Maurer argued. “If someone’s pitting the fire department against an auditor, oversight of the police department, then they don’t really care about any of us.”
The City is meeting during its second night of budget deliberations tonight.