Augmenting the force with volunteers is a possibility but can’t be used to justify reducing staff. Response time is crucial in any fire but especially in a city, where homes and businesses are nestled closely together. Volunteers can’t possibly respond as quickly in all circumstances as paid personnel who are waiting to rush out.
Furthermore, finding volunteers has been an issue regionally for years. Every volunteer department in the North Country has had trouble recruiting and maintaining members as the time and expense for training have increased.
City Police Department: Kasprzak has focused all his attention on the Fire Department in a seven-year war of words with its union. In the meantime, the City Police budget has grown 46 percent from $3,744,780 in 2002 to $6,860,782 last year while staffing has stayed about the same. Overtime costs, staffing, salaries and benefits should be assessed to ensure taxpayers are getting their money’s worth.
City officials certainly must look closely at expenses and revenue options in both departments. But we also caution that public safety should outrank money as the priority when it comes to these essential city operations.