Evanston weighs budget cuts that would eliminate police, fire positions

EVANSTON, Ill. (WLS) -- North suburban Evanston is struggling to close a budget deficit of over $7 million. Residents attended a series of public meetings Tuesday about proposed budget cuts that would cut police and firefighters and shut down a fire station.

According to the firefighter's union, Station 4 is one of the busiest fire houses in Evanston - but it's also the oldest. Facing a budget shortfall, Evanston city leaders have proposed closing it and eliminating nine firefighter positions.

"The proposed cuts are drastic, they're significant. We're adamantly opposed to the cuts. They pose an immediate safety risk to the citizens of Evanston, and firefighters as well," said Billy Lynch, president of Firefighters Local 742.

There are signs around the neighborhood urging the city council to keep the station open. A number of residents who live close by say they are concerned about response times for emergency crews coming from other parts of the city.

"We need police and fire. They're the most essential people in the city," resident Mark Miller said.

The proposed budget would also eliminate five positions in the Evanston Police department. City leaders say they have an unexpected shortfall in revenue and they need to balance the budget somehow - and personnel is the biggest expense.

"Police and fire make up more than 50 percent of the budget so when evaluating these services and looking for expense reductions, it makes sense to also take a look at those positions," Evanston spokesperson Patrick Deignan said.

Most of the jobs on the chopping block are vacant right now, so there are few people who would be laid off. But that's little consolation to union leaders who say they are worried about possible consequences.

"When you're compromising public safety, that's never a good thing," Lynch said.

The proposed budget calls for eliminating a total of 38 city positions, 14 of which are police and fire. The city council is planning to vote on November 19.
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