Pueblo police, firefighters want voters to approve tax hike

Pueblo police, firefighters want voters to approve tax hike

PUEBLO, Colo. - Pueblo police and firefighters want voters to agree to a tax hike.

Pueblo Police and Pueblo Fire union members announced Monday they plan to put a question on the ballot in November, asking voters to agree to a half-cent increase in sales tax. They want to spend the money on hiring people and buying new equipment.

In exchange for higher taxes, union members said voters can expect faster response times from first responders.

"We've waited for several years for the equipment to get better. There's never enough money in the budget," said Detective Kenneth Rhodes.

Pueblo police and firefighters said they're tired of waiting for Pueblo City Council to give them money to buy new equipment, so they're asking voters for help.

"It's very frustrating for us too because we'd like to provide better service. We'd like to have better equipment," said Capt. Damian Pritts, vice president of Pueblo Firefighters IAFF Local 3.

Some Pueblo fire trucks don't have hoses. Meanwhile, shabby-looking police cruisers are racking up more than 100,000 miles.

Equipment's not the only issue the departments are tackling -- both need more people. The city has frozen 14 officer positions, which means the officers they do have are going from one call to the next in order of priority. For instance, if someone calls 911 because they were robbed, Rhodes said it could take an officer up to five hours to get to their home.

"We're as upset as the citizens are when we get there," Rhodes said.

Firefighters are short staffed, too. Last year many firefighters worked more than 300 hours of overtime.

"We feel that the overtime that we're working, the fatigue, is not the best thing for our customers," Pritts said.

Union leaders want City Council to put the question on the ballot. If council doesn't, union members will need to gather about 2,200 signatures to take the question to voters.

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