Matteson looking to lay off police, firefighters

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MATTESON, Ill. Deep cuts being proposed in the southwest suburbs.

The village of Matteson is looking to make big reductions to both its police and fire departments, in what union leaders are calling a threat to public safety.

By the numbers, it's 13 police officers and eight firefighters. Those may not sound like major layoffs but union leaders say the net effect will be to cut the police presence on the streets here in half.

Over the last few years, falling sales tax revenue and cuts in state and federal funding have left a $9 million hole here.

Civic leaders are resorting to extreme measures to fill it.

Brian Mitchell, Matteson Village Administrator "Any time you talk about cutting services is hard. Any time you talk about cutting the services that protect your residents is even harder."

And that's just what they're doing. They've proposed eight layoffs in the fire department, a cut of about 25 percent, 13 layoffs on the police force, an over 30 percent reduction.

But the police union paints an even bleaker picture. It says the recent resignation of one officer, plus the layoffs, would cut the Matteson police patrol division by 50 percent.

Saying in a statement:

"This will leave 14 officers along with supervisory personnel responsible to patrol a community of 20,000."

--Metropolitan Alliance of Police Chapter 468

Ditto the fire department, which says it will no longer be able to guarantee public safety. Quoting its union leader.

"The reduction in numbers poses a severe threat to the safety and lives of both the firefighters and the citizens of this community."

--Scott Gilliam, President, Associated Firefighters of Matteson

The village board says it's doing all it can.

Brian Mitchell, Matteson Village Administrator "The main thing is that we have to provide the public safety to the residents, the non-residents and the community. And that is very much so- important to myself and important to the board. But it's also important that we be good stewards of the finances."

The village says it's working with its police and fire unions to make the cuts in both departments smaller ones.

The layoffs will be made next month.


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