Chief responds to suggestions

“With the challenges of today, more and more fully paid departments are seeking part-time staff to meet the demands of the community"
Andy Ouriel
Apr 25, 2014
For Sandusky fire, help’s not on the way.

A reader recently submitted two suggestions helping to offset impending fire cuts. Among the fire service reductions slated to occur by early May:

•Dropping full-time staffing levels from 53 positions to 50.
 
•Closing Sandusky Fire Station No. 7 on Venice Road near Toft Dairy for at least a couple days each week from May to October.
 
•Cutting training and overtime opportunities.
 
The suggestions: Hire part-time help and call upon neighboring fire departments to assist a whittled-down operation. Unlike other local departments, such as Perkins, Sandusky fire operations doesn’t have part-time firefighters.
 
The Register relayed the suggestions to Sandusky fire Chief Paul Ricci to consider. His responses:

On part-time help:
 “With the challenges of today, more and more fully paid departments are seeking part-time staff to meet the demands of the community. It is an evolutionary process that is being reviewed by the Sandusky Fire Department. Part-time employees, however, are not a cure-all to the challenges that face public safety. This is an area of concern that will be the responsibility of the next fire chief”

Note: Ricci is retiring this May.

On receiving help from neighboring departments:
“I have met with the fire chiefs from Huron, Perkins and Margaretta to address any concerns regarding the use of mutual/ automatic aid. It is not our intention to burden our neighbors unnecessarily. We have been working cooperatively for many years to fine-tune our mutual aid and regional efforts. We will continue to support each other as the need arises"

Explaining the cuts

In February, commissioners approved a $16.3 million everyday operating budget, calling for $1.1 million in cuts. The cuts affected fire operations harder than any other department mainly because funds from a federal employment grant, maintaining 53 full-time positions for about three years, dries up in May.

Local tax dollars, meanwhile, can’t support current manpower levels. Through people leaving and retiring, the number of full-time firefighters on the city’s payroll will total 50 by early May.

Commissioners originally intended to lay off firefighters to get down to 50 full-time firefighters by May. “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.

Commissioners will eliminate one more position through attrition. This will occur when the next firefighter leaves the department for whatever reason. There will eventually be just 49 full-time positions on the payroll.

The situation is not ideal but it won’t result in any layoffs because the downsizing is being accomplished through attrition. That eases the personnel issues but doesn’t alleviate the concerns about being understaffed, Sandusky firefighter Ryan Brotherton said. Brotherton is the department’s union vice president.

Comments

T. A. Schwanger

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The community has not heard a peep out of elected officials regarding the suggestion of going to a partial volunteer fire department or other ideas discussed by the community.

The vast majority of fire department calls are for EMS. Rather than close #7 "occasionally" (was to be permanent), why not staff #7 with EMS only? And why close #7? Why not #3 on Fifth Street.

Shame on city leaders for using Safety Services as pawns and holding residents hostage for an income tax increase. The $16 million dollar operating budget has been steady for the last 5 years with a carryover balance in 2009 of $3.1 million--in 2014 the decision was made to have a $4 million dollar carryover balance. Will the decision in 2015 be a $5 million carryover balance?

An increase in the admissions tax, or any tax for that matter, would not be necessary if existing dollars would be spent wisely and city leaders would discontinue playing smoke and mirrors with the carryover balance.

reader

Depending on our neighbors to take up the slack from our safety service funding shortfall is unrealistic.

There is a meeting at 9 a.m Saturday, the 26th, at the fire station on West Market Street for residents interested in collecting signatures to place an admission tax increase on the November ballot.

With the prospect of additional revenues coming in 2015 the city commission can borrow sufficient funds from the fire equipment fund to maintain 3 stations this summer.

Also the additional revenues could fund street maintenance, tree care and planting, parks and recreation, etc.

Hope to see many concerned citizens tomorrow morning.

RES

The suggestion of a partial volunteer department is ridiculous. 1. Who would move to Sandusky just to volunteer to be on the fire department?. Any argument of they don't have to live in town totally defeats the purpose of having them as volunteers. 2. There is a cost to have them trained to even the bare minimum of qualifications. 3. Will the cities' expectations of their performance be different than that of the full time members? 4. Will the citizens be okay if their response is 10-15 minutes because their coming from home or work. But because they are at a lower cost its no big deal. Again I will bring up again, do you really think people are going to move to Sandusky to VOLUNTEER?

GoBigLex2001

I would have loved to Volunteer if I lived there. Where ever I move, I am always looking to see if an FD has a need for Volunteer Firefighters

milemarkerzero

The only differences between part time employees and full time are the facts that they (part time) do not work 40 hours, and do not get benefits. Res brings up some good points. Training, performance expectations, and willingness to possibly give your life in the line of duty are just a few items that are mandatory for both full and part time first responders. They all must be trained the same, and adhere to the same rules and regulations of their jobs, To me, there is no space between a part time employee and a full time employee. There are few that will disagree, but it is very few. Residency requirements have much more meaning in Fire and EMS than other professions, because time is of the essence. This is a serious issue. I can only hope that the right decisions are made.

T. A. Schwanger

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@milemarkerzero

Regarding residency of police and fire, please research how many of the current firefighters live in Sandusky currently. You may be surprised.

Secondly, and I have the utmost respect for the job our safety services provide, Sandusky no longer has the industry (industrial fires) it once had nor the population or number of housing units it once had. Another commenter pointed out the vast majority of fire department calls are EMS.

A little internet research will show you there are a number of communities, including some large municipalities, with at least partial volunteer fire departments.

DGMutley

As Tim Schwanger points out, most of the call are ems calls. Why not just staff #7 with 2 ems techs when staffing levels are down? Folks are more concerned about living than their house burning down.

A BIG question is why are we shutting down services in the busiest times of the year? DO WE ALL HAVE TO START WRITING IN CAPS TO GET THE ANSWER?

One commenter suggested firefighter vacations are the problem. I appreciate that reply but gee if that is the case we are in desperate need of hiring someone who can properly schedule employees!

Publius

How about this?

According to the FD's 2013 response record, they responded to 897 FIRE calls, and 4,542 ambulance runs. Why not eliminate the EMS portion of their mission, turn it over to North Coast (just like the biggest part of Erie County), and reduce their mission to FIRE DEPARTMENT fire fighting?

North Coast charges the users for ambulance service. Sanduskians pay twice for this serice already. If you have insurance (and by law according to Obama - you must) it will pay for this and you already must pay for insurance. If you are on Medicare, you have already paid for ambulance service coverage and it will pay. Same thing with Medicare.

So, because the Sandusky FD chooses to provide this service (at taxpayer expense) you are paying double for this service anyway.

Sandusky FD could downsize to fighting fires only, and rely on private (much more cost effective service) and save us all some tax money.

Bring it on.

MJKSON44

Publius you must work private ems and be upset that you never became a full time fire fighter. That would not work in the city of Sandusky, why dont you ask the fire departments that run with private ems companies (Elyria, Lorain, Norwalk) how many times a day they wait 15 plus minutes for an ambulance to get on scene? When they're sending an ambulance from 3 cities over to your house you're not going to be happy. Waiting 20 minutes for an ambulance to show up is 100 percent unacceptable and the citizens of Sandusky deserve better than that. The call volume would still be the same because the engines would still run on the ems calls. Not a viable option sorry buddy.

Publius

Actually I work in Sandusky, pay income tax to Sandusky, but live outside Sandusky, have no vote in Sandusky(taxation without representation) but live in an area served by North Coast. They do a spectacular job by the way!

MJKSON44

Well your statements are inaccurate because they're called north central and not north coast

Publius

I stand corrected. And by the way, why are my statements invalidated by my calling them North Coast instead of North Central?

T. A. Schwanger

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MJKSON44

Until discussion and negotiations between the City of Sandusky and North Central EMS are undertaken, it's alot to presume NCEMS will "send ambulances from 3 cities over". In all likelihood, NCEMS would set up a satellite facility inside Sandusky City limits.

DGMutley

I'm sure that they would set up a satellite facility within city limits. Would they set up 3? There isn't anything wrong with the system we have now.

topcop1991

Why not get out of the ambulance business and turn it over to a private company, i.e. Northcoast Ambulance?

mrlizzzard

Private company ambulances are just as shortsided as private prisons.

mrlizzzard

Private company ambulances are just as shortsided as private prisons.

RES

North Coast? If the fire department quit running the ambulances where would the city get that 400k from they take every year?

RES

This isn't the Sims folks, Murphy does make appearances. I've never heard a gripe about the services provided by the fire department. Why change them. The issue is funding for all city services. FIX THAT!

DGMutley

+1

Justwow

Good luck Sandtown. And it is going to keep getting worse if you think this is bad. I am glad I am a couple cities over!

Justwow

Charge everyone a minimum of $500.00 for an ambulance call like North Central and you will have more money than you know what to do with and won't have all the stupid calls. You call 911 for North Central and its $500.00 to show up and then climbs from there.

T. A. Schwanger

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@Justwow.

FYI

The City of Sandusky currently charges approx. $500 for an ambulance run.

GoBigLex2001

What is North Coast? Do you mean North Central EMS??

I think the FD's should get out of the EMS business as well. I have seen many people go to Paramedic school just to be a firefighter and their hearts are on the fire side, not EMS side. So, why not separate the two and create an EMS division or just a county-wide EMS service? Let the firefighters be firefighters and Medics be Medics or those that want to do both, can.

MJKSON44

I think you should let the sandusky fire fighters continue to do what they do best and that is protecting the citizens of the city with fire and ems protection and those of you that want to join take the full time test when the list expires and full fill your dreams of becoming full time fire fighters and if you dont make it sorry about your luck!!

GoBigLex2001

Take the test? Why, so they can be laid off first or not hired at all? So much for someone fulfilling their dreams of being a firefighter.

MJKSON44

Take a test anywhere, if you want it bad enough you'll get it! unless you're a quitter which you probably are and just complain about how unfair the process is instead of working hard and getting it

GoBigLex2001

I take tests where there is a good chance they will hire someone, even if it isnt me. If a city is in financial straits then why bother? The likelihood of getting hired is slim and if you do get hired, its likely on a grant so you will lose your job anyhow.

RES

Geez don't thrown in the towel so easy.

MJKSON44

Quitter, test in every state all the time. If thats your attitude then you dont deserve a job anyways. Keep throwing that white towel in.

RES

Tim you seem to know a lot about everything. Shorelines, fire department operations, run for commission, or just continue to arm chair quarterback with Sharon.