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FEDERAL SHUTDOWN PUTS MIAMI-DADE FIRE GRANT IN LIMBO

NO LAYOFFS FOR POLICE; NO CLOSED FIRE STATIONS

Gimenez "pledged to maintain services and not lay off police officers" or close fire stations.

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Sources: Miami Herald, "The I'm-not-Carlos-Alvarez election"

Subjects: County Budget, Jobs

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The federal government shutdown has placed a key public safety promise by Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez in limbo.

During the 2011 campaign, Gimenez promised not to lay off police officers or close any fire stations.

But amid budget negotiations this summer, Gimenez wavered on the half of the promise that related to fire stations. One of his budget proposals included cuts that would close an existing fire station and one under construction. His proposal led us to move his promise to Stalled.

By the time county commissioners voted on the budget Sept. 10, 2013, they tentatively agreed on a budget that included removing a few trucks and laying off 59 firefighters. Gimenez said that if trucks were cut, the county would choose stations with more than one truck, which suggested that no stations would be entirely closed, so we moved Gimenez's promise to In the Works. Commissioners ratified their decision Sept. 20.

But those votes didn't bring the issue to a close, because county officials said they were waiting to learn if they would get a two-year $11.4 million federal grant that would make it possible to avoid the fire-rescue cuts. Miami-Dade County had expected to learn in mid to late October if it would get the grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. But after the Oct. 1 federal government shutdown started, that placed the grant processing in limbo, said Rowan Taylor, president for the fire union.

The fire department directed us to an article at firechief.com, an industry publication, that states federal government staff who handle several functions related to grants won't be working during the shutdown.

Even if the county doesn't get the FEMA grant, it appears likely that county commissioners could revisit the budget and decide whether to use contingency funds to avoid cuts.

"Worse case scenario it would be laying off firefighters," County spokeswoman Suzy Trutie said. "Even if we don't get the grant stations will always open."

We will update Gimenez's promise to not close fire stations when the county learns about the FEMA grant or takes other action. With so much uncertain about the fire department's budget, we rate this promise In the Works.

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Sources:

Miami Herald, "Miami-Dade commissioners approve county budget," Sept. 20, 2013

Firechief.com, "What the federal shutdown means for fire grant programs," Oct. 8, 2013

Interview, Suzy Trutie, Miami-Dade County spokeswoman, Oct. 10, 2013

Interview, Griselle Marino, spokeswoman for Miami-Dade County Fire, Oct. 11, 2013

Interview, Rowan Taylor, President of IAFF, Oct. 11, 2013

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