MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The Brainerd City Council has unanimously voted to change the way it staffs its fire department.

City Council President Gary Scheeler confirmed they voted 7 – 0 Monday night to eliminate the five full time firefighters and, instead, have a paid on-call staff.

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He recently told WCCO the change would save the city close to $300,000 a year.

The Union representing Minnesota’s firefighters put that number at $80,000 when unemployment and new hiring costs are factored in.

Chris Parsons, President of Minnesota Professional Fire Fighters sent a statement, saying in part:

“The Brainerd City Council did a huge disservice to the citizens living within the fire department’s service area…The Council has been negligent by its refusal to allow for public input regarding fire department staffing.”

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Parsons also said in the statement that the city had been dishonest in their dealings with the board.

“At last Wednesday’s meeting of the Fire Advisory Board, Brainerd Fire Chief Tim Holmes and City Administrator Jim Thoreen asked the board for a recommendation on the city’s fire department restructuring proposal.  At that time, the members of the board asked for more time so they could obtain input from their constituents, given the gravity of the recommendation.  A meeting was set for next month to allow the members to report back on their findings, yet the Brainerd City Council still went ahead with its vote tonight, essentially thumbing its nose at the FAB.”

Parsons then asked citizens served by the Brainerd Fire Department to call their alderman and Fire Advisory Board representative to voice their concerns.

It’s not yet clear how moving from a full-time staff to an on-call staff will affect response time in Brainerd.

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Ninety-percent of Minnesota’s fire departments operate under the volunteer or paid on-call model.