Charter sections 87 and 89 deals with the minimum staffing levels of the Police and Fire departments, respectively. Currently, Council has authorized a minimum of 44 in each of those departments.
Johnson calls those numbers “artificial” and said those staffing levels cause other city departments to suffer.
“We don’t know what we need, but as long as that remains there we don’t have the opportunity to deal with it. And because it’s there, we’ve had to cut all the other departments to the bone just to support the police and fire departments. And so much of our General Fund is having to go in to support those 88 employees, plus a million dollars being transferred over from water and sewer proceeds — it’s time.”
Johnson said he presented the proposal to Council, but “they didn’t want to deal with it, because certain people were afraid of the unions.”
“That’s not the issue for me,” Johnson said. “It’s a financial issue. If we’re going to look at our budget, we’ve got to look at everything. And that includes the police and fire departments.”
Johnson says he will be working in the next few months to get a group together to pass petitions to get the signatures required to have the issue put before Portsmouth voters next spring. He said the petitions must be turned in by January 2012.
FRANK LEWIS may be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 232, or email@example.com.