OSWEGO, NY â€“ The Administrative Services Committee gave a favorable recommendation Monday night to replenishing the fire departmentâ€™s payroll account.
The budget line is nearly depleted, according to Chief Jeff McCrobie.
â€œRight now our accounts are down, almost drained completely,â€ he said.
He requested committee approval to transfer $110,000 to cover the short shift overtime from the Fund Balance to Account No. A3410.0101 Illnesses and Vacant Positions.
Last year, (former) Chief Joe Perry requested $304,980 for that account, McCrobie said.
â€œYou donâ€™t see what the department head asked for,â€ McCrobie explained. â€œThe amount that ended up being budgeted and approved was $236,980. So, from what he asked for we were $68,000 down right out of the gate. So what happens when this occurs is you get into this time of year and thereâ€™s not enough money. He (Perry) wasnâ€™t over-inflating this budget. In fact, he was doing pretty accurate based on his experience.â€
The chief explained to the committee that the shortage in manpower has occurred due to retirement, injuries and the death of a firefighter.
The department currently has four people off, one from each shift, for different reasons, McCrobie said.
â€œWe have 16 people on each shift, so that gets us to 15 right out of the gate again,â€ he said.
He hasnâ€™t allowed any personal days or compensatory time if it is going to cause overtime, he told the committee.
â€œMy goal is to keep 12 people on duty at all times,â€ the chief said. â€œThatâ€™s eight east and four west (side stations).â€
He wants to keep 12 on, as a safety issue, he explained.
â€œWeâ€™re doing more calls, more calls to Syracuse. Last year to Syracuse we did 105 calls.Â This year, to date, weâ€™re at 116,â€ he said. â€œWeâ€™re doing more calls, weâ€™re short people. All I want to do is keep 12 people on, itâ€™s a safety thing.â€
â€Iâ€™m frustrated with overtime costs that are out of our control,â€ said John Geraci, firefightersâ€™ union president. â€œThe bottom line is that we spent $50,000 in 90 days because we were unable to replace personnel timely. I think that the system there needs to be looked at so we donâ€™t find ourselves in that situation any more. Itâ€™s very frustrating to see all that overtime spent when itâ€™s really not in our control.â€
â€œThe bottom line is you cannot do this job with less than 12 guys (firefighters) down there,” he continued. “We cannot jeopardize the lives of our citizens and our firefighters by operating with less than 12.â€
He said heâ€™s willing to sit down with the councilors to try and figure out a way from preventing things like this from happening in the future.
The committee sent the matter to the full council for consideration Sept. 27.