Gulfport Fire Department makes cuts to save jobs

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - In order to avoid layoffs and furloughs, every department within the city of Gulfport is having to tighten its budget. City leaders hope that by the end of this fiscal year they can eliminate the nearly $2 million deficit.

Gulfport Fire Chief Michael Beyerstedt said 93 percent of the fire budget is personnel costs, which makes cutting spending a bit challenging. But he has come up with several ways to save money without getting rid of his staff. It includes everyone wearing more than one hat.

"I am the fire marshal, too. And so on some days, I do planning and reviews, I meet with business people to go over life saving plans, fire protection plans," Beyerstedt said.

Firefighters are also in charge of maintenance and repairs at the 11 fire stations throughout the city.

"At Fire Station 10, we are adding a section to the building to keep the hose inside, and our firemen are doing all the work. I'll be up there helping pour the concrete," Beyerstedt said.

Another way the department is cutting back is by eliminating positions that are currently open. This year, that means six jobs, including a deputy chief position.

"We certainly have a need for that position and would love to fill it but it's a question of what's right for the city, is there a way we can make do with one less and maybe some other department has a greater need than us," Beyerstedt said.

The chief also had to come up with other innovative ways to make cuts to the seven percent of the budget that is not personnel.

"The police chief and I combined maintenance facility so we have been working toward that goal and expect to be moved into full operation at our combined maintenance facility hopefully by the end of October," Beyerstedt said.

With all these changes, the chief said he is proud to say residents will not notice a difference.

"The fire protection the citizens enjoy is unmatched here on the Coast. We provide the highest level of fire protection, EMS protection, anywhere on the Coast, and we are going to continue that. That's my promise," Beyerstedt said.

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