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Nutter Administration Hoping to Curtail Fire Station 'Brownouts'

By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- After years of controversy, officials of the Nutter administration today announced that they are considering ending the much-criticized policy of temporarily sidelining equipment at fire stations.

The Nutter administration in 2010 began the process known as "brownouts" in order to save more than $3 million a year in firefighter overtime.

Ever since, the policy has been roundly criticized by the firefighters' union, City Council members, and others.

But now, Mike Resnick, the mayor's public safety director, says overtime savings in other areas within the fire department may allow them to either curtail brownouts or end them outright.

"We realize it's been an unpopular policy," Resnick told KYW Newsradio following his City Council testimony.  "We don't believe it has imperiled the city in any way, or the citizenry in jeopardizing public safety.  We had done it this way to achieve overtime savings, and if we can end it, we would like to end it.  We just need to do it financially and fiscally responsibly."

Resnick said the other areas that could bring savings -- and thus allow brownouts to end -- are the new full-time hiring of nearly 200 firefighters, as well as the creation of a new job class of paramedics (see related story).

He said any firm decision on a reduction or elimination of brownouts would likely not come until the fall.   Lloyd Ayers, the Philadelphia fire commissioner, says implementation would more likely come next year.

The head of the firefighters' union, Joe Schulle, said today he was pleased to hear that brownouts as a cost-saving tool could end.

"I think it's interesting, and I think it's a long time coming.  And hopefully the city holds to it and they stop these brownouts," Schulle told KYW Newsradio.

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