HOUSTON – Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner says a list of proposed fire station closures never existed, despite claims made by the fire union.
"I want to debunk this," Turner said during Wednesday's City Council meeting.
"It had no basis in fact. The only thing that we've talked about is moving forward with paying the firefighters in accordance with Proposition B," Turner said.
Council Member Brenda Stardig, of District A, who chairs the Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee said her committee never discussed the matter, either.
"I did not have any presentation or discussion about closing any stations when I spoke with [Chief Sam Peña] yesterday," Stardig said.
What remains undisputed is the prospect of layoffs, which Turner has said is necessary in order to foot the bill for Proposition B, otherwise known as the fight for pay parity among Houston firefighters.
The city has agreed to comply with Prop B, including a lump sum payment of $31 million to HFD firefighters covering January to May.
The mayor said because Prop B lacks a funding source, that payment would come from the city's general fund. In order to balance to books to accommodate that, Turner said the city would have to lay off 400 to 500 municipal employees.
Turner again pitched his proposal to avoid layoffs.
"Phase [Proposition B] in over five years. The firefighters rejected it," Turner said.
Still, Turner said his proposal remained an option.
If firefighters won't support it, however, are there other alternatives?
Councilman Dwight Boykins, of District D, proposed a garbage fee, beginning at $17 per month.
"I presented a solution which was a garbage fee as an option. I was pleased to hear today that the mayor said he would place it on the agenda and allow the council members to vote," Boykins said.
Peña also discussed a budget proposal that could absorb 239 positions.
"Two hundred and thirty-nine firefighters is what I can safely absorb by going to a different shift model and still fill every seat that we have here now," Peña said.
His propoal would require a reduction in the number of shifts firefighters work weekly: going from four shifts per week to three.
Firefighters would keep the number of hours they currently work weekly, but the difference is there would be more firefighters on a shift than is currently the case.
"Still the same number of shifts a month. The pattern would change as in the proposal; so, instead of having debit days where we're asking fire fighters to come back, now these are platoon days or Kelly Days, where we're actually scheduling firefighters off," Peña said.