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COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI)- After spending more than an hour in executive session discussing personnel issues, Columbus city councilmen voted 5 to 1 to slash a portion of the fire department’s overtime budget.

“The council saw fit to reduce the overtime budget for the Columbus Fire Department from $460,000 to $360,000 for overtime,” said Columbus Mayor Robert Smith.

Mayor Robert Smith says federal law already requires the city to allocate funds for overtime.

“We just asked the Chief if he would work with the overtime because under the federal standards act we automatically have to appropriate enough to cover what he needs under the act, which amounts to about $287,000. So the other $186,000 was just for the purpose of overtime, sick leave, etc.” said Mayor Smith.

Councilman Gene Taylor says the decision was made in order to balance the budget and help out with entities throughout the city. Taylor also says the cut in funds won’t affect the department’s performance.

“This won’t hinder the fire department at all. Whatever the fire department needed we have made sure that the fire department was well funded with trucks and people they needed to operate in the city, said Councilman Taylor.

Councilman Joseph Mickens was the only official who voted no.

“We have the one of the most proficient fire departments in the State of Mississippi. Ken Moore’s department is second to none. Our insurance is down because of Ken Moore and I felt like if we go and keep cutting his overtime that this is going to kill the morale within the department. And if the morale drops down the quality of work from the firemen is going to drop,” said Councilman Mickens.

Residents we spoke to agree with Mickens.

“It’s a very important thing people count on in case of a disaster or fire or emergency so I’m not sure that’s the way to go,” said Doug Colvin.

“Yesterday I was going down 82 and there was a bad wreck and if it wasn’t for the fire department and the volunteer, it wouldn’t have been clear as quick as it was. They do a lot of things for Columbus that people don’t realize so I think it’s not a good cut,” said Shara Beard.

WCBI also reached out to Columbus Fire Chief Ken Moore. He declined to comment.

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