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.
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.