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  1. #21
    IACOJ Agitator Adze39's Avatar
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    Default Mayor Albano against Prop. 2½ override

    Albano against Prop. 2½ override

    Thursday, August 15, 2002
    By BEA O'QUINN DEWBERRY

    SPRINGFIELD — Mayor Michael J. Albano said yesterday he is against holding a Proposition 2½ override vote, an option Fire Chief Gary G. Cassanelli and union leaders have said should be considered.

    "We will not meet the financial challenges ahead on the backs of our property owners," Albano said. "We must bite the bullet and make the necessary adjustments to achieve a balanced budget."

    Proposition 2½ limits the amount taxes can be increased each year to 2.5 percent of the prior year's levy without an override approved by the majority of voters in a community.

    In 1990, Springfield voters passed an override after 1,000 jobs were lost in a similar budget crisis. This year, the city faces a $4 million gap in the budget due to vetoes of state funding by acting Gov. Jane M. Swift. An override vote could add as much as $4.4 million.

    Albano acknowledged that several departments, elected officials and union leaders have approached him to lobby for an override.

    City Councilor Robert E. McCollum, who raised the issue at a public meeting, was unavailable for comment yesterday.

    Cassanelli suggested at a meeting with city councilors Tuesday that some consideration could be given to an override. The chief said the Fire Department budget is $19.4 million this year compared to $21.6 million last year.

    "The mayor is in a better position than I to judge on this, but in bringing up the issue of an override I based that on experiences of 1988 and 1989 when the Fire Department fared well after an emotional outpouring to the citizens of Springfield," Cassanelli said.

    The 1990 vote raised $10.8 million in new property taxes. Funds were earmarked for specific accounts including the Fire Department budget.

    Cassanelli said if an override vote went before the public, then funds raised should be designated solely to the Fire Department budget.

    City Solicitor Peter Fenton said a Proposition 2½ override vote must first be approved by the City Council and the mayor before it is placed on a ballot.

    Several municipalities have raised the question including Wilbraham and Hampden, which defeated the measure. Longmeadow voters endorsed a $2 million override in June.

    District Chief George Stavroulakis, president of the Fire Chiefs Association of Springfield, said an override, although not a popular issue, should at least be an option the city is willing to explore.

    Bea O'Quinn Dewberry can be reached at bdewberry@union-news.com
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  2. #22
    MembersZone Subscriber CJMinick390's Avatar
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    Adze, thanks for keeping us updated.
    Chris Minick, P.E., Firefighter II
    Structures Specialist, MD-TF 1

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  3. #23
    IACOJ Agitator Adze39's Avatar
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    Default 2 fires keep department on move

    This isn't directly related to the budget problems, but it is renewing criticism of the FD's budget cuts.

    2 fires keep department on move

    Saturday, August 17, 2002
    By MIKE PLAISANCE

    SPRINGFIELD — Fire destroyed a home at 160 Plainfield St. in the Edgewater Apartments complex last night and prompted renewed criticism that budget cuts have left the Fire Department too thin to protect the city.

    No injuries were reported in the blaze, to which firefighters were called at 6:46 p.m., Fire Department spokesman Dennis G. Leger said. He said the fire was caused by unattended cooking.

    Also, around 11 a.m. yesterday, heavy smoke engulfed Murray Hill Avenue and Franklin Street from a fire in a vacant home at 50 Murray Hill Ave.

    One firefighter was treated on scene by ambulance personnel for heat exhaustion. Arson investigators were trying to establish a cause for the fire, which started in a first floor room in the back right of the house.

    At Plainfield Street, Luz Nieves, 35, who said she has lived in the two-story apartment at 160 Plainfield St. for five years, watched in tears as firefighters battled the blaze.

    She lived there with her three daughters, Lee Sandra, Lucy Mar and Liz Marie, all of whom have the last name Santana, she said.

    Leger said the Red Cross was scheduled to be at the scene to help the family.

    With six engine trucks, three ladder trucks and a rescue vehicle at the scene, only two engines and two ladders were available for the rest of the city, Leger said.

    Jose Claudio, who lives near Edgewater Apartments, at 101 Lowell St., has been criticizing Mayor Michael J. Albano for the budget cuts. He was at the scene consoling Nieves.

    Claudio, a member of the New North Citizens Council, a neighborhood advocacy group, said he believes proper funding of the Fire Department, restoring the out-of-service trucks, would have let firefighters get to last night's fire faster.

    Shortly after firefighters got on scene at Murray Hill Avenue, a decision was made to have them come out of the structure and fight it from the outside for safety reasons. Lt. Neil Hawley said that the fire was made more difficult by the old construction, which spreads fire through the walls quickly; a slate roof which holds the fire in; and asphalt shingles which burn like gasoline.

    Roussa Soffan and her daughter Mona Soffan had some anxious moments when they smelled and saw the smoke coming toward their house, which is next door and very close to the house on fire.

    Roussa's husband Mostaffa Soffan uses a wheelchair and the two women could not carry him out alone. They said that two men, who they didn't know, rushed in and carried Mostaffa out, while they got his wheelchair outside and wheeled him away from the heavy smoke.
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  4. #24
    IACOJ Agitator Adze39's Avatar
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    Default Firefighters seek department funds

    Firefighters seek department funds

    Saturday, August 24, 2002
    By BUFFY SPENCER

    SPRINGFIELD — About 80 firefighters, some joined by their children, held an informational picket in the North End yesterday asking Mayor Michael J. Albano to allot more money to the Fire Department.

    Asked about the picket, Albano said, "Their next picket should be in front of "the little Statehouse" asking the governor to reconsider her vetoes." The 'little Statehouse' is an informal name for the state office building on Dwight Street.

    The pickets circled in front of the North Main Street fire station from 10 a.m.-noon, carrying signs and distributing a handout called, "It's about safety — yours and ours."

    Many cars traveling along Main Street honked in support or cheered the firefighters, and some residents joined the picket line.

    State Rep. Cheryl Rivera, D-Springfield, came to the site, as did representatives of the New North Neighborhood Council.

    "We're all behind the firefighters," she said. "We plan on going to every picket line they do."

    Kevin Garvey, president of Local 648, International Association of Fire Fighters, said that there will be a picket at another fire station next week, although the place and time has not been set.

    "We're not going away. Budget cuts have hit the Fire Department harder than any other department in the city," Garvey said. "We feel we are being treated unfairly."

    Garvey said the union does not accept Albano's response that it should take its concerns to the state. He said although members understand the decrease in state funding, they do not believe the money the city has in its budget has been divided fairly.

    Albano said, "No one in elected office has a stronger record on public safety than Michael Albano."

    Firefighter George Romvos said the cuts in the department are irresponsible and unacceptable.

    "It feels good to have the support of the people," he said as he walked the picket line.

    Garvey said the union has sent a letter to the National Basketball Association explaining that it might have an informational picket at the opening of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in late September. The letter explains the union's concerns, he said.

    Buffy Spencer can be reached at bspencer@union-news.com
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  5. #25
    MembersZone Subscriber CJMinick390's Avatar
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    Adze, thanks for the update and hang in there, Bro.
    Chris Minick, P.E., Firefighter II
    Structures Specialist, MD-TF 1

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  6. #26
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    I would like to add a couple of things to this forum.

    In the UK we have on Union that represents 90% of all firefighters - the Fire Brigades Union (FBU). It is regarded as quite a militant union but I prefer to call it strong.

    If the proposals as being discussed in Springfield were put to a county Brigade over here. there would be an immedeate ballot to take industrial action (Strike). The UK Fire Service is held in high regard all over the world, but that is not through the kindness and benevolence of various Chief Fire Officers and politicians that we are such an effective public service, its because of the FBU and its members who will not tolerate cuts in any shape or form.

    Secondly onto overtime. The FBU has a policy that none of its members undertakes any Pre-arranged overtime. This was brought in back in the 1970's and on the back of this the national 3 watch shift system went upto 4 watches. basically increasing the size of the UK service by a third in 1 go. This overtime ban is still in force today and prevents Brigades putting off the recruitment of replacement firefighters when they are needed.

    Have you all got a national union and if so shouldnt they be doing more to protect their members jobs, pay & conditions?

  7. #27
    IACOJ Agitator Adze39's Avatar
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    There are is a national union, with many locals making it up.

    As an outside observer (aka non-union), it seems that the locals deal with issues like this more than the national does. I know some of the union guys could answer this better. For the IAFF guys: How often does the national get involved in stuff like this?
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  8. #28
    Forum Member DeputyChiefGonzo's Avatar
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    In Massachusetts, it is illegal for public safety personnel to go out on strike. This stemmed fom the Boston Police strike of the early 1930's.


    One thing many contracts have is a "sunset clause" which states that if a contract should expire, the existing contract remains in force until a new one is settled.

    What we can do on the local level is informational picketing and making our concerns known to John and Jane Q. Public by talking to the media and getting outr message out. The statewide organization (the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts (PFFM) and the IAFF assist their locals by giving advice, access to a wide database of information in matters of salaries, personnel and benefits comparable communitites in the area, do studies on fiscal matters and assist in dealing with the politics on the local, state and national level.

    If a local is having a problem and needs help, all they have to do is call their brothers for assistance.

    Personnaly, I feel that when public safety personnel walk out on strike, we only hurt ourselves. In many theads on these forums, we have lashed out against volunteer departments quitting "en masse" because of personnel changes, politics and other factors. Career jakes are no different. We have a trust built up with the public...when we lose that trust, it takes a long time to regain it.

    Politicians come and politicans go, the job is there forever!
    ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
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  9. #29
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    I must say I cannot agree with some of your sentiments posted above.

    You say that if we were to strike then we lose the respect of the public. That has not been the case in the UK. Quite the reverse in fact. Merseyside (the county that Liverpool is in!) went on a 2 week strike last year because the CFOs proposals to employ non-uniformed staff into senior Officer posts. (we have a single entry system where-by all personnel at all ranks have joined initially as Firefighters) This was a major change to the conditions of service. The Union took it up, disputed it, won it yet the CFO still proposed to go ahead. What do you do then?

    The Union in Merseyside balloted its members and the result was a 78% vote to take strike action. I had the privelidge of going on a march through Liverpool city centre on the first day of action. The public stood and applauded and nearly all gave money to the hardship fund. It lasted 2 weeks and the Fire Authority (politicians) gave in.

    You say politicians come and go but the job is for life. I agree but whilst the politicians are there they will try to cut every service to the bone and further and our job is ours for our life but we have a responsibility to look after it and its conditions for the people coming in after us.

    In the UK if that means withdrawing our labour after all other means fail then so be it. We are only guardians of this great profession.

  10. #30
    Forum Member DeputyChiefGonzo's Avatar
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    Things are different on "your side of the pond".
    ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
    Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY

  11. #31
    Senior Member Dalmatian90's Avatar
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    I'd agree with Gonz on his last statement!

    Britain is much more heavily unionized than the U.S., and I'd have to suspect that affects and also shows peoples attitudes a lot more. 29% of the British workforce is unionized v. 13% in the U.S. -- and the U.S. unions can thank teachers, police, and firefighters for keeping that number up above 10% so far.

    They get their strength internally, from sticking together, not from getting broad public support.

  12. #32
    IACOJ Agitator Adze39's Avatar
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    Default Sorry...slipped a little...missed at least 3 articles

    Firefighter overtime fund aided

    Wednesday, September 4, 2002
    By PETER GOONAN

    SPRINGFIELD — Mayor Michael J. Albano is asking the City Council to transfer $850,000 from various budget sources to replenish the Fire Department's overtime account just two months into the new fiscal year.

    The council will consider the transfers at a special meeting at 6 p.m. tomorrow at City Hall.

    The Fire Department has spent close to $900,000 on overtime pay since July 1, which leaves a balance of slightly more than $100,000 in the $1 million account for the final 10 months.

    The proposed budget transfers are from the Department of Public Works, the Parks and Recreation Department, the Department of Facilities Management, and from a reserve city account set aside for contingencies.

    "That coupled with 26 new recruits graduating on Friday should give the Fire Department some breathing room during this budget crisis," said Jennifer E. Murphy, a spokeswoman for the mayor's office.

    Fire Department officials have said the heavy reliance on overtime duty is due to a severe shortage of firefighters. The department resorts to overtime when staffing falls below levels deemed necessary for public safety and the safety of fire personnel, officials said.

    Council Finance Committee Chairman William T. Foley said he will support the budget transfers providing they can occur "without severely affecting other departments," planning to consult with the city auditor and chief financial officer.

    Foley said the Fire Department is his first priority for additional funds given its acute shortage of firefighters.

    Public Works Director Allan R. Chwalek said his department will cope with a $200,000 cut from its accounts to fund the firefighter overtime.

    Chwalek said he will transfer a six-employee work crew from road maintenance to the state-funded task of new road construction to help meet the budget cut. The change will reduce maintenance work this fiscal year such as road patching and storm drainage, he said.

    Chwalek and Councilor Timothy J. Rooke said they hope the firefighters union will reconsider its decision a month ago to reject a pay deferral plan. Albano has asked unions to accept some form of pay deferral to help the city cope with serious financial constraints.

    Rooke said he will find it hard to support the budget transfers for a department not supporting the pay deferral. The union representing district fire chiefs did support working 10 extra shifts this year and deferring pay until retirement.

    In addition to the budget transfers totaling $850,000, Albano said he will file an order seeking to increase fees for Fire Department related services. Specifics of his fee plan were not immediately available, but he said the increase should generate more than $100,000 in revenue annually, to be dedicated to the Fire Department's budget. Peter Goonan can be reached at pgoonan@union-news.com

    ----------------------------------------------------

    Fund shift for firefighters irks union

    Thursday, September 5, 2002
    By PETER GOONAN

    SPRINGFIELD — Kenneth S. Pooler Jr., president of the Springfield Association of Municipal Employees, said yesterday that his union has serious concerns about budget transfers proposed by Mayor Michael J. Albano to replenish the Fire Department overtime account.

    Pooler's union represents 300 laborers in the three departments that will lose funds to the overtime account. He is a laborer with the Public Works Department.

    "It's a serious concern we are going to give up $200,000 out of our budget," Pooler said.

    Laborers agreed to accept a furlough plan this year and defer pay to help the city cope with budget problems, Pooler said. The firefighters union rejected the furlough.

    "All of our overtime is cut back, and they want to give $200,000 for a group that never furloughed," Pooler said.

    Albano has asked the City Council to transfer $200,000 each from the Department of Public Works, the Parks and Recreation Department and the Department of Facilities Management. The remaining $250,000 will come from the reserve account for contingencies.

    The Fire Department has spent approximately $880,000 on overtime during the first two months of this fiscal year, blamed on a shortage of personnel, leaving a balance of about $120,000.

    Albano said he proposed the transfers due to the staffing needs of the Fire Department and after consulting with the city auditor, the chief financial officer, and the affected department heads.

    "I can understand S.A.M.E.'s concerns and appreciate the sacrifice they, and other unions, have made for the sake of the city," Albano said.

    The council meets at 6 p.m. today to consider approving the budget transfers. Pooler said he has contacted some of the councilors to voice his union's concerns.

    Public Works Superintendent Allan R. Chwalek said his department will absorb the cut by transferring one of its road maintenance crews to state-funded road construction work.

    Facilities Management Director John R. Mastrangelo said there will be a slower response to maintenance of city buildings for non-essential work.

    Fire Chief Gary G. Cassanelli said he appreciates the effort by the mayor and the proposed assistance from other departments and hopes it will not cause those departments hardships.

    City Councilor Timothy J. Rooke said he hopes the firefighters union will reconsider and approve the furlough plan. By deferring that pay, it would be "a more balanced approach" in addressing the overtime shortfall, he said.

    Albano plans to ask the council to increase fees for Fire Department related services. Peter Goonan can be reached at pgoonan@union-news.com

    ----------------------------------------------------

    Firefighters seek fair budget share

    Tuesday, September 10, 2002

    SPRINGFIELD — Wearing bright red T-shirts and marching through the corridors of City Hall, more than 120 firefighters demanded Mayor Michael J. Albano allot more money to the needs of the Fire Department.

    "We need to revisit the budget," said Kevin Garvey, president of Local 648, International Association of Fire Fighters. "We think the mayor should be smart enough to properly fund the Fire Department. We don't think the budget was divided fairly."

    Albano said he has done all that he can to fund the department, in light of the state's fiscal crisis and shortfall in aid. Albano said last week he asked the City Council to transfer $850,000 from various budget sources to replenish the Fire Department's overtime account just two months into the new fiscal year.

    The Fire Department has spent close to $900,000 on overtime pay since July 1, which leaves a balance of slightly more than $100,000 in the $1 million account for the final 10 months. Fire Department officials have said the heavy reliance on overtime duty is due to a severe shortage of firefighters.

    Garvey said if their demands are not met — the hiring of more firefighters and replacement of fire trucks — then firefighters will hold an informational picket at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement Weekend later this month.

    According to Garvey, thousands of firefighters from throughout New England and New York have committed to join in the picket.
    Last edited by Adze39; 09-15-2002 at 01:34 PM.
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  13. #33
    Senior Member Temptaker's Avatar
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    "That coupled with 26 new recruits graduating on Friday should give the Fire Department some breathing room during this budget crisis," said Jennifer E. Murphy, a spokeswoman for the mayor's office.
    Sorry maybe I missed it somewhere, but what did they do with the guys from the house's they closed?

    Adze

    You don't happen to have emails for the Mayor and Governor do you?

    Thank you for keeping us up to date.

  14. #34
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    Fire overtime bill sounds alarms

    Sunday, September 22, 2002
    By PETER GOONAN

    SPRINGFIELD — The cavalry is coming in the form of 26 new firefighters, but not before the Fire Department has drained its full $1 million overtime budget in the first 12 weeks of the fiscal year.

    The overtime use has drained more than half of the savings from a $2.2 million reduction in the department's $19.4 million budget this year, raising questions both about the wisdom of the original cuts and the need for overtime at a time when structure fires have decreased over the past several years.

    The department's overtime use has far surpassed those of other city departments that experienced budget cuts.

    The Police Department, with a $35.5 million budget this year, has spent $227,396 on overtime thus far, including investigations and court time. The police budget was cut $1.8 million from last year's amount.

    But Fire Department officials say that, unlike other city departments, they must be prepared for emergencies by providing minimum staffing at the city's nine firehouses regardless of the budget cuts. Summer overtime costs also were driven up by a policy of allowing up to 19 firefighters per shift to take vacations during the summer months.

    "We are short-staffed," Fire Chief Gary G. Cassanelli said. "In order to properly staff our fire apparatus, we have to call people back on overtime. That is why our overtime is running high in order to accommodate this year's budget."

    At least 55 fire personnel must be on duty per shift to staff the nine engine trucks, five ladder trucks and one rescue truck in service citywide, Deputy Chief Jerrold E. Prendergast said. In addition, there are two district chief aides who drive those chiefs to incidents and keep track of firefighters at fire scenes. The tracking practice began after the death of six Worcester firefighters in a warehouse blaze in 1999.

    The staffing minimum is set by department policy based on four fire personnel assigned to each engine truck and three firefighters assigned to each ladder truck. The number per engine conforms with the minimum standard recommended by the National Fire Protection Association, but the number assigned to ladder trucks is one below that minimum standard, officials said.

    Unlike some other departments, Springfield also sends out fire and police staff to respond to medical emergencies, such as heart attacks, chest pains and difficulty breathing, a practice begun in 2000 that accounts for a significant increase in overall Fire Department calls.

    Prendergast said the department voluntarily took part in the emergency responses in the interest of saving lives with its approximate 3-minute response time, and to augment the private ambulance service in Springfield.

    The emergency responses, however, did not cause overtime to rise because the firefighters must be on duty anyway regardless of the number of calls, Prendergast said. Other communities such as Westfield, West Springfield, Agawam and Chicopee also respond to medical emergencies, having ambulance services run by the Fire Department.

    It was not unusual during July and August of this year for a firefighter to work a regular shift — averaging 42 hours per week — plus 24 to 38 hours of overtime paid at time and a half, officials said. Overtime is voluntary and is evenly distributed, fire officials say.

    A day shift is 10 hours and a night shift is 14 hours. Since July 1, the Fire Department called in firefighters to work a total of more than 2,400 overtime shifts, accounting for most of the $1 million in spent overtime funds, according to department records.

    "It was stressful a little bit on the family not being home sometimes three days," Firefighter Darrin R. Tadilla said.

    The department has lost approximately 50 fire personnel since January to retirements, most involving the city's early retirement incentive program aimed at cutting the budget. Mayor Michael J. Albano said he included the Police and Fire departments in the early retirement program out of fairness.

    During the last fiscal year, the city budgeted funds for 302 firefighters and 90 supervisors.

    This summer, the Fire Department had a total of 215 firefighters and 82 supervisors on the payroll while awaiting the arrival of the 26 recruits in training. Last October, there were 262 filled firefighter positions and 87 supervisors.

    Firefighters who are protesting the staffing levels often point to the city of Worcester as a benchmark for staffing. Worcester, with a population of 172,648 compared to Springfield's 152,082, has 330 firefighters and 118 supervisors although its staffing level has been criticized as higher than needed.

    The Worcester Regional Research Bureau, a private independent research group, conducted a review of that city's Fire Department in 1998. The review noted that structure fires were on the decline over a five-year period, while the number of fire personnel was climbing.

    Not much has changed since that report, said Roberta R. Schaefer, the bureau's executive director. She said it is worth examining if fewer firefighters are needed with structure fires on the decline due to more fire-proof materials, more code enforcement and stronger smoke detector requirements.

    In Lowell, with a population of 105,167, the Fire Department has a total of 203 firefighters and supervisors.

    In Springfield, the number of structure fires has dropped from 654 blazes in 1999 to 549 structure fires in 2001, according to statistics filed with the state Fire Marshal's Office. The total number of incidents ranging from fires and false alarms to emergency medical responses climbed from 9,371 in 2000 to 14,701 last year, as the department began responding to more medical emergencies.

    Statistics for the first six months of 2002 show that the numbers of fires and other incidents have climbed, but the Fire Department in July started to reduce its medical responses to address its budget constraints, eliminating responses in certain categories, such as seizures and allergic reactions, to reduce truck travel and maintenance costs.

    At a time when firefighters have reached iconic status after so many New York firefighters died in the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center, most public officials appear to be leading the department's charge.

    City Councilor Angelo J. Puppolo Jr. said the overtime situation is intolerable, directly caused by the mayor's long-term failure to fill firefighter vacancies.

    "It's not the City Council's fault," Puppolo said. "It's poor planning by the administration. Frankly, transferring more money into overtime is like putting a Band-Aid on a shotgun wound."

    Albano has been criticized by both the Springfield firefighters' union and the Professional Firefighters of Massachusetts, a state group affiliated with the AFL-CIO, for the unfilled vacancies. He defended the shortage of firefighters, saying the situation is forced by severe budget constraints.

    Puppolo said the department has been short-staffed for years while funds have been found for many other costs.

    During the summer, firefighters would sometimes work three consecutive shifts — 34 or 38 straight hours — known as doing a "triple." During one week in August, Tadilla worked 48 straight hours before having a break in shifts.

    "Physically, it drained me," Tadilla said. "I felt tired, real fatigue. Mentally, it just kept my mind going."

    Although firefighters appreciate the extra money, their prime concern is for the city to hire more firefighters, said Kevin Garvey, president of the Springfield Association of Fire Fighters Local 648.

    "We need 100 more bodies," Garvey said. "When you are pulling two or three extra shifts a week, it gets crazy."

    Springfield officials including Chief Cassanelli said the addition of 26 firefighters will help but in no way solves the department's shortage of firefighters and the dependency on overtime.

    The starting gross salary for a firefighter is $785 per week.

    City Councilor Timothy J. Rooke said the department has been grossly underfunded "to give the illusion that our budgets are balanced."

    "It would appear to me there is either some mismanagement going on at the Fire Department or a decision has to be made to fill the funded positions to try to reduce the overtime," Rooke said. "We don't have the monies to continue to pay the debt."

    Fire Department officials said they have made cost-saving measures, including taking four fire trucks out of service across the city to partially offset the reduction of firefighters. Albano has praised Cassanelli as one of best budget managers in the city.

    The reliance on overtime has risen each year since fiscal 1998. The Fire Department spent $605,727 on overtime that year, reaching an annual cost of $1,970,602 last fiscal year.

    Citywide, there are nine engine trucks and five ladder trucks in service at all times, along with the Rescue Squad.

    Some city officials and fire personnel question why the mayor has not filled more vacancies and question why the academy training that began July 1 was not held sooner.

    In addition, some question why the Fire Department allows up to 19 firefighters to take vacations every shift during the popular summer months. Prendergast said any changes in the vacation schedule would have to be negotiated.

    With the summer vacation months behind, overtime costs dropped in September to below $50,000 a week.

    Albano said the city simply could not afford to hire the firefighters any sooner. The past fiscal year's total city budget of $402 million ended with a balance of less than $150,000, according to city officials.

    Rooke is among city officials who raised concerns after firefighters refused to take a 10-day deferral of pay this year to help the city face its budget constraints. The furlough plan was accepted by numerous other employee groups — including departments slated to lose funds to replenish the Fire Department overtime account.

    Garvey said the pay deferral would not have solved the overtime problems and there was no guarantee the savings would be directed to the department's needs.

    Other departments, including Police and Parks and Recreation, say they too are understaffed. Police Chief Paula C. Meara said she has grave concerns about having sufficient funds for coverage and investigations, particularly with some recent serious shootings

    "I don't want to get involved in competing for scarce funding with other city departments," Meara said.

    Meanwhile, the City Council has yet to schedule a meeting to consider replenishing the Fire Department's overtime account. Albano has asked for budget transfers totaling $850,000 from three other city departments and the city's reserve account for contingencies. The Finance Committee will discuss the overtime issue tomorrow.

    Peter Goonan can be reached at pgoonan@union-news.com

    -------------------------------------------------------

    Departments decry transfers to help cover fire overtime

    Tuesday, September 24, 2002
    By PETER GOONAN

    Springfield, known to some as the "City of Homes," was described last night as a city of underfunded departments, unable to keep up with the needs of its parks, terraces, schools, roads, sidewalks and tree belts.

    Supervisors and employees of three departments — Parks and Recreation, Facilities Management and the Department of Public Works — met with the City Council Finance Committee last night, saying they can ill afford additional cuts totaling $600,000 from their budgets. Mayor Michael J. Albano has proposed a $200,000 transfer from each department to replenish the Fire Department's $1 million overtime budget depleted just 12 weeks into the new fiscal year.

    City Forester Edward P. Casey estimated he has a backlog of 600 roadside trees in need of removal, some on the waiting list a year to 18 months and potentially hazardous.

    He has a single, three-man forestry crew, with one employee out on injury leave.

    "It's pretty much all emergency calls now," Casey said.

    Parks Superintendent Patrick J. Sullivan said that maintenance of parks and terraces, already suffering, could be worse in the spring.

    Public Works Director Allan R. Chwalek said there is a virtual freeze on new roads and sidewalks as his department concentrates on patching potholes and cracks while maintaining other services such as trash collection.

    Kenneth S. Pooler Jr., president of the Springfield Association of Municipal Employees, representing laborers for all three departments targeted for additional cuts, said the proposed transfers have hurt morale.

    Department officials and a representative of the Springfield firefighters union, however, said they do not want to be pitted against each other in the ongoing city budget struggle.

    The Fire Department's budget was cut $2.2 million from last year's $21.6 million, and officials blame the overtime on a shortage of personnel.

    "It is a very ugly time in the city of Springfield," said Darrell W. Rollins, a union representative for the Springfield Association of Fire Fighters Local 648. "Fire service in Springfield has taken a whack unprecedented in Springfield and even in the state."

    Albano said the city is under extreme financial constraints due to cuts in local aid, and needs to keep public safety a priority.

    Albano said he appreciates the sacrifices made by numerous departments.

    "In times of crisis, you can't be all things to all people," Albano said. "People come before trees."

    Some city councilors, however, said that other avenues must be explored to fund the Fire Department's needs rather than further harm the three targeted departments.

    The Finance Committee will meet again tomorrow to discuss alternate strategies for freeing up funds for the Fire Department, committee Chairman William T. Foley said. Foley said the proposal to cut funds from Facilities Management is troubling because of its responsibility to maintain schools and other public buildings in great need.

    Peter Goonan can be reached at pgoonan@union-news.com


    ============================== ============================

    Tempie, you can probably find an email address for the mayor at Springfield's website: http://www.cityofspringfieldmass.com/

    For the Governor's email, try the Commonwealth's website: http://www.mass.gov/
    IACOJ Agitator
    Fightin' Da Man Since '78!

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