Sandusky Fire Department
Layoffs avoided for time being
Apr 16, 2014 at 3:56 PM
Sandusky officials devised a plan to save money in their cash-strapped budget without laying off a single firefighter.
In short, every fulltime firefighter working for Sandusky today is guaranteed a job with the city beyond May.
But a couple highranking fire commanders leaving won’t get replaced, and thus their vacated positions won’t get filled.
Commissioners plan to forgo delivering layoff notices to any city firefighter this year — a threat they once made to offset a projected deficit. Instead the elected officials plan to reduce full-time firefighter positions through attrition. Attrition is a process to decrease staffing levels by not filling in a vacated spot when someone, for instance, retires, transfers elsewhere or gets fired.
Here’s a quick primer on what occurred:
•Late February: Commissioners announce plans to reduce full-time fire positions from 53 to 49. This would force them to lay off three people working in these positions while scrapping the other unfilled spot.
At this time, there are 53 full-time positions with 52 firefighters in them.
Commissioners approved a $16.3 million everyday operating budget, calling for $1.1 million in cuts. The cuts impacted fire operations harder than any other department mainly because funds from a federal employment grant, maintaining 53 fulltime positions for roughly three years, dries up in May, and local tax dollars can’t support current manpower levels.
•Late February: Sandusky fire marshal Rudy Ruiz accepts job to become fire chief in a southern Michigan township. There are now 52 full-time positions and 51 firefighters in them.
•Late March: Sandusky fire Chief Paul Ricci announces plans to move up his retirement from October to May. Come May, plans called for carrying 51 full-time positions and 50 firefighters in them once Ricci leaves.
•Mid-April: Commissioners discover enough funds exist to keep 50 workers on staff for the foreseeable future but still ax the one unfilled position. Now there will be 50 full-time positions with 50 firefighters in them.
“We will hold at 50 for what we believe will be a brief period of time until another separation occurs,” Sandusky ex officio mayor Dennis Murray Jr. said.
•Near future: One more position will be eliminated through attrition. This will occur when the next firefighter leaves the department for whatever reason. There will eventually be 49 fulltime positions with 49 firefighters in them.
The situation is not ideal, but it’s a best-case scenario for firefighters when considering the city’s bleak financial outlook, Sandusky firefighter Ryan Brotherton said. Brotherton is the department’s union vice president.
“As a union, we’re happy” Brotherton said. “This will make things a little easier for everyone involved”
Many downfalls exist with fewer city firefighters, including: n Longer response times. It’s estimated firefighters would need an additional two to five minutes, on average, to appear on scene at a random area in Sandusky.
•Larger amount of dollar loss from fire damages. In 2010, when full-time fire staffing levels totaled 47 — the lowest level in recent years — damage loss caused by fires totaled $1.3 million — the most in recent years.
•Higher probability of workers feeling demoralized when reporting for duty. City officials continue to discuss ways to possibly create new revenue for fire operations. Some options include raising the city’s income or admissions tax rates to pushing forward with a safety services levy.
Sandusky officials, meanwhile, are still plowing forward in their process to select a new fire chief. It’s not known at this time how naming and hiring a new chief will impact current operations.