Looming budget cuts to the Anchorage Fire Department is stirring a debate over who to credit for its growth the past few years.
Despite comments from Mayor Dan Sullivan claiming his administration is committed to AFD and has helped the department grow, Anchorage Fire Fighters Union President Rod Harris says most of the new additions to the fire department are thanks to voters, state and federal money- not Sullivan's administration. The mayor says he has spared the department from drastic cuts and layoffs in the past, when nearly every other department took a hit.
"We fought for the SAFER grant which not only allowed federal money to come in and maintain firefighters but it also had conditions that you couldn't lay off anyone in the department for three years. That's quite a commitment to the department," said Sullivan.
He points to millions of dollars in upgrades and new equipment that AFD has received during his time in office. But Harris says funding for the new additions came from the state and federal level.
"The comment by the mayor was, I think, a little misleading in the sense that it really isn't the city bringing this stuff forward. It's the community that supports that stuff," said Harris. "It's always the voters that vote on new fire trucks and new ambulances actually opening. That stuff is never just introduced in the operating budget and added onto the tax cap that way."
However, Sullivan says the first step in the process of advocating for funding and applying for grants begins at City Hall.
"It all starts with the administration putting these forth for consideration so I think his statement is a little disingenuous," said Sullivan.
The Anchorage Assembly will hold its first budget work session on Friday.
Contact Abby Hancock: