PLATTSBURGH — Frustrated over what he sees as a lack of cooperation by the firefighters’ union, City of Plattsburgh Mayor Donald Kasprzak is calling for a restructuring of the Fire Department.
The union says it is the mayor who is not cooperating and has a vendetta against them.
“This department is simply no longer affordable or feasible for city taxpayers, and we have no choice but to look at restructuring this department,” the mayor said.
“They (union members) have shown a lack of cooperation at every level.”
Union President Terry Feazelle said they have tried to deal with the city, but the mayor will not listen.
“We try not to fight with them, but he always comes at us with a sledgehammer and beats us and backs us into a corner,” Feazelle said.
The mayor was responding to a recent decision by an arbitrator giving the union raises of 2.9 percent and 3 percent for 2008 and 2009.
The decision also awarded the union increases in clothing allowances from $450 to $600 for 2008 and from $600 to $750 for 2009.
The union has been working under the provisions of its old contract since that previous deal expired in 2008. The arbitrator’s decision addresses only the first two years in limbo.
Kasprzak says the department budget of about $5.54 million has gone out of control and that the city can no longer afford it. In a 34-minute speech at Thursday night’s meeting, he called for major changes in order to reduce costs.
Chief among them are getting rid of 24-hour shifts and eliminating the clause mandating a minimum staffing of 36 firefighters.
He also is seeking more in health-insurance co-payments.
“Twenty-four-hour shifts are not cost effective or affordable. Eight-hour shifts would dramatically improve firefighter safety and reduce department costs by hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Kasprzak said.