By John Schaffner
For the second consecutive week, the Atlanta City Council unanimously passed legislation in an attempt to force Mayor Shirley Franklin to drop furloughs for public safety employees — legislation that expresses the council’s sentiment but has no teeth.
The second vote Feb. 2 was to override the mayor’s veto of legislation passed 14-0 Jan. 26 asking the mayor to eliminate the furloughs for police officers, firefighters, corrections officers and 911 operators. But the furloughs cannot be lifted without the mayor’s support.
The second council vote came one day after Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran was forced to close five fire stations Sunday, Feb. 1. That action left the southwest portion of Buckhead without an operating nearby fire station and crew.
One of the fire stations involved in the Sunday shutdown was Station 26, at Howell Mill and Moores Mill roads in Buckhead, because there were not enough firefighters on the shift to man either Truck 26 or Engine 26.
All five stations reopened Feb. 2.
Fire Station and Engine 23, on Howell Mill Road at Chattahoochee Boulevard, had been the other fire crew to service the southwest area of Buckhead until that station was shutdown Christmas Day as a budget-cutting measure. It will not reopen until July 1, the start of the new fiscal year, at the earliest.
A total of 27 firefighters called in sick on Super Bowl Sunday.
An average of 12 to 16 firefighters call in sick on a typical day, department spokesman Bill May said.
Jim Daws, the president of International Association of Fire Fighters Local 134, said the abnormally high number of sick firefighters is directly related to the city-mandated furloughs that began in December.
He said many of the firefighters are “burned out” because they are working in more dangerous conditions caused by the furloughs, such as fewer firefighters working on each truck.
Cochran closed the five stations and alerted fire departments in nearby jurisdictions that Atlanta might need assistance as he implemented the department’s “brownout” plan to deal with budget cuts.
Franklin ordered furloughs that resulted in 10 percent pay cuts to most city employees, including herself, to help close a projected $50 million revenue shortfall in this year’s city budget.
The mayor repeated her position Feb. 2 that there is little money in the city budget to restore public safety employees to their normal work schedules.
City Council President Lisa Borders said her colleagues’ actions Jan. 26 and Feb. 2 reflected their commitment to better oversight of Atlanta’s finances.