Press-Republican

Local News

February 24, 2013

City fire budget compared to similar communities

(Continued)

“They have the most generous contract in the state, and it has never been adjusted to become more affordable and efficient,” the mayor said.

“During difficult times, we need to adjust every department, and the Fire Department should not be the only department that continues in its present form. It is not an affordable or sustainable department as it is structured.”

He wants to eliminate the minimum-staffing clause and 24-hour shifts and would like to see the city be allowed to use volunteer firefighters.

Kasprzak wants to explore the idea of implementing eight-hour shifts, which he thinks would be more affordable and safer.

“We would save hundreds of thousands of dollars if they come to work five days a week, like everybody else in the city. And it would be much safer to have a completely awake, around-the-clock shift on duty.

“It is simply not affordable to pay people to sleep in any department,” he said, in reference to a union contract that allows working firefighters to sleep from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. as long as there are no calls.

OPEN TO SOME CHANGES

Terry Feazelle, president of the firefighters union, says it is willing to work with the city on 24-hour shifts and even implementing volunteers.

But there is no way the union would give up the minimum-staffing clause.

“When pigs fly,” Feazelle said.

The department feels staffing levels are already dangerously low, he said, and he does not want to see any firefighters laid off. 

Feazelle vigorously defends his members, saying they are among the best-trained, hardest-working emergency-service workers in the state — and that they do it all with constant budget cuts and threats hanging over their heads.

The mayor has offered the Fire Department union the same contract the Police Department has, which does not include a minimum-staffing clause, but Feazelle said that won’t work.

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