Deja Vu....all over again. Seems like we read this headline in city after city after city....
DETROIT (AP) - Faced with a steep deficit and a strained
overtime budget for firefighters, the Detroit Fire Department will
deactivate up to five fire companies per day.
The move comes as the department has faced $1.4 million in
overtime costs for firefighters over the past six months.
"These five companies were identified because there was a
certain level of duplication" of services, Jamaine Dickens, Mayor
Kwame Kilpatrick's spokesman, told The Detroit News for a Thursday
Union officials expressed disappointment with the move.
"We are really upset that this is going on," Daniel McNamara,
president of the Detroit Firefighters Association, Local 344, told
the Detroit Free Press for a Friday story. "We're leaving holes.
Those fire companies were put there for a reason."
Three companies were closed Thursday.
Dickens said the daily deactivation stems from an arbitration
ruling requiring four firefighters on every engine and ladder truck
and comes at a time when a large number of the city's firefighters
are on vacation, calling in sick or are on disability.
With the city facing a $196 million budget deficit, replacing
the firefighters in accordance with the arbitration ruling is a
drain on the department's overtime budget, Dickens said.
City Councilwoman Sheila Cockrel also said the arbitration
leaves the city with few options.
"If four-person crews are mandated, the city can either cut
back or find more money," Cockrel said. "And everybody knows
we're in an extremely tight budget cycle."
The deactivation plan, developed after Fire Commissioner Tyrone
Scott divided Detroit into nine battalion areas, would save the
city about $30,000 per 24 hour shift.
The deactivations are to be implemented on a day-to-day basis,
with certain days requiring only one company to close, Dickens
"It's on an as needed basis," he said. "During the summer
months, this is something that will kick in more. Come fall, there
may be less call-ins (people calling in sick)," meaning that there
would be less deactivations.
Union officials complained that other city departments are
securing hefty overtime.
"Firefighters historically never got overtime and just did with
what we had," McNamara said. "I understand the city is hurting
for money, but there are basic services they are supposed to
provide and they are not doing it."
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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07-11-2003, 12:07 AM #1
Detroit Fire Department Budget WoesProudly serving as the IACOJ Minister of Information & Propoganda!
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07-11-2003, 05:16 PM #2
More Of this Story:
City cuts firefighters' hours
Union says reductions risk safety in Detroit
July 11, 2003
BY BEN SCHMITT
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
Overtime pay continues to afflict the City of Detroit, which on Thursday deactivated three fire companies and will shut up to five companies daily on a rotating basis in an effort to save money.
DETROIT OVERTIME ISSUES
Eight police officers assigned to Police Chief Jerry Oliver's community interaction team logged about 1,900 hours of time-and-a-half pay last year.
In 2002, Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's security staff received $260,000 in overtime, more than triple the amount of time-and-a-half pay the city paid for mayoral security in 2001.
Detroit's Public Lighting Department spent about $6.5 million on overtime last year. One department worker made $120,000 in overtime alone.
As a way to trim $23 million from his budget, Detroit Water and Sewerage Department Director Victor Mercado has said he plans to cut $11 million from annual overtime costs.
The Police Department paid out $97,000 in overtime one weekend in August when it deployed 180 officers to work various entertainment venues.
City officials said firefighter overtime costs since Jan. 1 have reached $1.4 million.
"This is a contingency plan, on an as-needed basis," said Jamaine Dickens, spokesman for Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. "During the summer months, there is an increase in sick calls and furloughs."
On Thursday, Ladder 4 at Vinewood and West Grand Boulevard, Ladder 29 at Coplin and East Jefferson, and Engine 35 at Kenilworth and Woodward were closed.
"We are really upset that this is going on," said Daniel McNamara, president of the Detroit Firefighters Association, Local 344. "We're leaving holes. Those fire companies were put there for a reason."
Dickens attributed the deactivations to an arbitration award that requires a minimum of four firefighters on every engine and ladder truck. The department used to operate with three-person fire engines and nearby backup to control overtime, he said.
But McNamara said four-person rigs are necessary for safety. He said there should be a driver who works the pumps, a command person, and two firefighters who put up ladders, stretch fire lines and rescue people.
"This is not about building up union numbers," McNamara said. "We get there, do the job, save lives and property, and go home safe the next morning."
The city and fire union were in a similar situation 11 years ago when four companies were shut after an arbitrator's ruling that four firefighters must operate a vehicle at all times.
McNamara said the union lost that four-person right in the mid-1990s during a grievance procedure and won it back in its 1998-2001 contract. Now the 1,344-member union is in arbitration for a new contract.
City Councilwoman Sheila Cockrel said binding arbitration leaves the city with no choice. The city is facing a $196-million shortfall in its $1.4-billion 2003-04 general fund budget.
"If four-person crews are mandated, the city can either cut back or find more money," she said. "And everybody knows we're in an extremely tight budget cycle."
The largest concern for all involved is response time, McNamara said.
Fire Commissioner Tyrone Scott said he strategically chose fire companies that were close to other stations.
"We believe that given our fiscal constraints, we have put together an effective plan to meet this mandate and ensure that no area of the city is adversely impacted," he said.
Scott said the city has been paying as much as $30,000 per 24-hour shift in overtime for firefighters who fill in for sick and injured comrades.
On any given day, Scott said, 20 to 40 firefighters are considered to be injured and 10 to 20 are out sick.
McNamara countered that other city departments rack up huge overtime bills and no cuts are made. The Free Press reported in April that Detroit's Public Lighting Department spent $6.5 million in overtime last year. Lighting officials have since reduced the overtime.
Last year's overtime records were not available Thursday for the police department, but McNamara said "the police get overtime for everything."
"Firefighters historically never got overtime and just did with what we had," McNamara said. "I understand the city is hurting for money, but there are basic services they are supposed to provide and they are not doing it."
William Woods, 33, lives on Kenilworth near Engine 35. He said that closing the fire station, even on a rolling basis, would make the neighborhood less safe.
"We never know what's going to happen," he said, while pointing down the street. "You notice how close these houses are."
Woods pointed to an adjacent house and said, "if my house caught on fire, there's a 7 out of 10 chance his house would catch on fire."
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