Police, firefighters discuss possible reductions as Cottonwood Heights deals with budget issues

COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS, Utah -- Cottonwood Heights city officials said Sunday the city is short approximately $2 million for their budget this next fiscal year, and they’re looking at how to make up the difference.

Mayor Mike Peterson said the city needs to make critical road improvements, and they might have to make reductions in other areas.

He said police and fire make up more than half the city’s budget.

While he and other city council members couldn’t say if the reductions could translate to laying off police officers and fire fighters, Kevin Salmon—a traffic officer and the president for the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 24 Cottonwood Heights—said city administration confirmed the cutbacks.

He said both police and fire personnel could be reduced by drastic percentages.

“They’re looking at reducing the police force by 10%, and the fire department by nearly 50%,” Salmon explained.

When it comes to the police department, he said that’s five officers. It may not seem like much, but he said it could impact response time.

“It would be one entire shift of officers not on the street,” Salmon said.

He said officers might spend less time on calls because they’ll need to respond to other calls instead, and that calls may end up stacking up because there aren’t enough officers to respond.

“The citizens are going to feel the crunch from this,” he said.

Nile Easton, Director of Communications for Unified Fire Authority, said they’ve already been talking with Cottonwood Heights city on how the fire department might be able to make cuts to balance the budget.

“One of the things they have looked at, is going from what’s called a 4-person crew to 3-person crew at two of the stations there,” Easton explained.

That means every shift at the two stations would lose one person, but that might not necessarily mean layoffs. Easton said it’s possible that they’d be able to move the fire fighters to other UFA duties.

Easton said they operate 3-person crews at other stations around the valley, but that it gets difficult and it can impact service.

“That’s part of the information we are looking at, is what kind of impacts would that make on firefighting, on medical response,” he said. “That’s the information we are actually working with the city to provide them with.”

Peterson said the council will look at any impacts from proposed reductions. The council is expected to look at and vote on a tentative budget proposal on Tuesday.

Easton said a UFA representative will attend the meeting, and Salmon said the Cottonwood Heights FOP will as well.

The council will spend several weeks on changes before adopting a final budget.