Council Approves Oswego’s 2017 Budget; Firefighters’ Positions Cut

It was standing-room-only at Monday night's Common Council meeting as the fate of 15 firefighters was decided.

It was standing-room-only at Monday night's Common Council meeting as the fate of 15 firefighters was decided.

OSWEGO, NY – The Oswego Common Council voted unanimously Monday night to approve the budget for 2017 – effectively ending the careers of 15 new firefighters. One recent retirement won’t be filled.

8-year-old Brooke Trevett presents Mayor William Barlow with a baggie of money she collected to try to save firefighters' jobs. At left is Emily Bradshaw, Deputy City Clerk, and at right is Deana Ascenzi Lafond, City Clerk.
8-year-old Brooke Trevett presents Mayor William Barlow with a baggie of money she collected to try to save firefighters’ jobs. At left is Emily Bradshaw, Deputy City Clerk, and at right is Deana Ascenzi Lafond, City Clerk.

The council did what it had to do considering the city’s financial crisis, Council President Shawn Walker said following the vote.

“It was nothing personal,” he explained.

Mayor William Barlow said after the meeting that he hates to see anybody lose their job, “but it’s the reality of the situation. The fact is, the financial situation that the city is in and the numbers the fire department projects, we just can’t afford a department that size.”

The mayor originally proposed a $47.8 million budget with a tax levy increase of 3.87 percent.

Councilors sailed through and handful of amendments Monday night that brought the increase to less than 2 percent.

The figures won’t be official until the City Chamberlain goes over the numbers and confirms them.

It was standing-room-only at Monday night's Common Council meeting as the fate of 15 firefighters was decided.
It was standing-room-only at Monday night’s Common Council meeting as the fate of 15 firefighters was decided.

There are more positions (for others) in next year’s budget, more equipment and there are improvements for the current equipment. There’s a lot of stuff having money spent on it when we’re over here fighting for needs,” John Gearci, president of the firefighters’ union, said prior to the meeting.

Any time you reduce a department that is responsible for all your emergency services by 27 percent, “there will be impacts,” he told a large crowd of supporters outside City Hall.

“There will be a reduction of services that we can provide,” he said. “There will be a reduction in our ability to protect the city and the citizens of this town, our town. It was perceived as a fiscal crisis that the city was facing. When we took a better look at the budget, we realized that they are paying for the deficit for the water tunnel out of the general fund and increased spending in other departments across the board. This is not a situation where the doors are about to close on City Hall.”

The mayor has maintained that the reductions in the fire department won’t have an impact on public safety.

According to Geraci, the councilors had 10 business days to process the budget information.

“For the type of cuts that we’re talking about, I think those jobs deserve more than 10 days’ consideration, to make a determination as to what’s safe for this city,” he said.

The fight doesn’t end tonight, he told Oswego County Today.

“Our fight continues. It continues tomorrow, it continues next week and it continues next month,” he said. “It’ll continue to two Novembers from now when there are elections again if it needs to.”

He hopes they can re-open discussions and find a way to get through this without cuts and weaken the department’s ability to protect the city, he added.

During the public hearing on the budget, the speakers ranged in age from 8 years old to nearly 100 years old. The common thread was their support of the Oswego Fire Department.

8-year-old Brooke Trevett made a brief statement to the council and then marched up to Mayor Barlow and presented him with a plastic baggie with more than $30, mostly in loose change.

She doesn’t want to see anyone lose their job, she told Oswego County Today.

Geraci also addressed the council. Sam Frisina, president NYS Professional Firefighters’ Association, was also on hand to support the local.

Frisina urged the city to re-open the lines of communication with the union.

“Cutting firefighters should be the last, last resort when there’s nothing left to do,” he told the council.

Kathryn Harris is well into her 90s, yet still remains as active as possible in the affairs of the city.

She said she came to the council meeting because she cares about the city, its people and their protection.

“Do not cause any one of these men to lose their job,” she said of the firefighters whom she referred to as the city’s “protectors.”

“It’s nothing personal against anybody. I didn’t want to do this. It’s a sad situation, but we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do,” Walker said following the vote. “We can’t keep kicking the can down the road or we’ll be here again next year. And, I don’t want to see that.”


  1. Had to be done. Funny…when private sector people lose their jobs there’s no uproar over it. Trust me, I know that from experience and living in this overly-taxed state.

  2. Thank you Mayor Barlow!
    Finally a mayor looking out for the taxpayers!
    No more food runs.
    No more taking turns sleeping on shift.
    No more pension padding.
    Bet some of those wish they took the overtime now.

  3. If they are worried about the impact of our safety, why not fill the gaps with volunteer firemen? I hate to see anyone lose their job, but playing scare tactics and saying they will not be able to perform and protect is bull. Utilize volunteer firemen to fill the gap.

  4. I will repeat my promise: If my loved ones are hurt or die due to the reduced response times of the fire department because of these cuts I will, without hesitation, sue the city of Oswego, the Common Council and the mayor. There were increases in some areas of this budget that could have been used to alleviate this drastic and ill thought out action.

  5. Now, if we can just get the water/sewer rates back to an intelligent level then maybe I can stay here & not suffer from famine.

  6. Well done, now all that’s left is getting rid of the ambulance and fire boats. The fire department can’t man them and fight fires at the same time so get rid of them. While we are getting rid of things lets get rid of the kitchens as they don’t use them either as they are always ordering out. Keep that in mind when they come for a raise. If they can go to restaurants to eat then they can well afford not to have a raise. Mentor can do the ambulance, Coast Guard can go back to handling calls on the river and lake, Homeland Security can back them up with there many boats Along with the county, DEC, and State Troopers. Gee do we have enough boats? Talk about waste of tax dollars…..

  7. Why does Mr. Geraci refer to the city as “our town”?
    Like most of the firemen, Mr. Geraci does not live in the city.

    Since the majority of firemen live in towns served by volunteer fire departments having zero people on shift, how can a full time, paid fire department with 10 members per shift be dangerous? Answer that Mr. Geraci.

  8. Why does it seem like its always the fire department who suffers the most with all these budget cuts? I do understand some jobs needed to be cut to fix this budget that has been messed up for many years, but why take so many from the one department that is here to help save our lives? Why not take the amount that you feel you will be getting back by upsetting so many families and split that up among each department in the city and take how ever many people from each department to cover their share instead of putting our lives at risk. Do you feel safe if you home or your loved ones homes catches on fire Mayor Barlow? I know I wouldn’t.

  9. I applaud this Mayor and Common Council making this decision. Although it is sad people are losing their jobs, things need to change. We can’t keep adding, adding and adding more. That is what has happened over the years and now this young lad is coming in and making decisions others weren’t able to. How many years was it discussed about closing one of the stations?

    As far as risk, it’s funny how it was stated earlier it would leave 8-9 on staff at all times and then last night the Union rep who does not live in Oswego stated it would leave seven, so which is it? Also one has to remember that there are many communities around for backup such as Scriba, Town of Oswego, Minetto, etc. I think with the right management to schedule the shifts it should be doable.

  10. Okay so you lay off 16 firemen and they go on unemployment.
    Why would they work part time when you are paying their unemployment.
    School district did the same thing in laying off many and paying their unemployment.
    It is still costing taxpayers, just less.

  11. Mayor Barlow you are a man of credibility and you use the backbone given to you. I don’t live in Oswego but that doesn’t mean I don’t recognize you doing the right thing.

  12. I feel safer in the city if my house catches on fire than in towns where most of these firemen live that are served by a volunteer department.

    6 to 8 paid, on duty firemen will get to my house faster than a volunteer department would.

  13. Good job Barlow!!! You and the council as a whole have done the right thing!! You have earned my vote next election

  14. I read today that after not filling positions that may already be open ir retiring it only comes down to nine positions. Little different than 16.

  15. Want to improve Oswego like the old days? Here’s how to do it!

    – Return industry to the area, (This can be learned from Oswego’s history)

    – Stop increasing taxes on a city that is struggling as it is!

    – Stop creating laws that burden all citizens

    – Stop electing officials that are not solving these very issues!

    If you want change, let’s make it happen together! Let’s bring back the Oswego we all loved so much when everyone had a job, and opportunities were plentiful for all.

  16. Instead of the 15 firefighters that just got laid off look at the top 15 in the department that can retire. The city would start off paying the 15 firefighters a little less than the top 15 are being paid right now. If they have their 20 years in to retire then the top 15 should retire. This way they are saving 15 younger firefighters their jobs. Or is that the right thing to do.

  17. Miranda Jackson – please explain where you get the notion that come budget time the fire department is ALWAYS suffering the most? Our mayor did what needed to be done and long over due!. How many times have they been caught buying groceries on company time? How many times have they come to the council for overtime money and been given it? How long has this department been illegally padding their pensions by ignoring a binding agreement with the city to distribute overtime equally among all members not just the ones getting ready to retire? Where was Geraci when the union contract was not being followed with this little overtime cash cow? This department has been blatantly thumbing their noses to the taxpayers of this city for too long. Don’t give me this crap about them risking their lives for us. Guess what? It’s their JOB! It is the job THEY chose to pursue. Party’s over!

  18. Landlords on the council (and Friends of the boy Mayor) we’re saved tax increases and Code Enforcement expansion reviews, Increased spending in the Parks and the DPW (where he has friends and family) One of which was made DPW commissioner and donated $5000 to the Mayor’s Campaign, Our “Free” wifi that cost us thousands and managed to get a 7-0 vote to lay off 16 Firefighter first Responders who are already stretched thin. If We have a huge fire like we did a few years back, yes there were other departments called in but they are VOLUNTEER departments and if a major event happens during a week day, and Scriba gets called in, then New Haven has to cover them, etc. it won’t work because Volunteers WORK. The chances of a protective replacement for their districts is slim leaving their districts unprotected’

  19. Fed Up I think you are stretching it saying neighboring volunteers would not be able to assist in case of a major fire. Your theory of the volunteers all being at work, means that on any given day that no surrounding towns have any fire protection. Yes if one town gets called in the next one covers for them, it’s been done for years and will continue to do so. The realistic number appears to be nine jobs that are actually being cut, the other six are not filled at this time so please don’t complain that there are 16 cuts when already a bunch of them have been vacant.

  20. So far, there are just two vacant positions. What happens before the end of the year is anyone’s guess.

  21. Thank you Mayor Barlow, and the Common Council, for looking past the scare tactics and to the root problem (and doing something about it) – a fire department that is bigger than a city the size of Oswego needs, bending all the rules to pad pensions besides. We’ve all seen the firemen taking a huge truck out to do grocery shopping, or bringing three trucks to an ambulance call, and using that to pad the number of real calls they’ve made. Thumbing their nose at this city is right!

  22. The problem that I don’t see mentioned here and I don’t think people realize is: you are not just paying for one fire person, you are paying for the ones that just retired and the ones that retired before them!

    The fire department unfortunately killed the golden goose by allowing that retirement scam to go on and on basically illegally boosting benefits for senior fire officials. Now the whole system is paying for it.

    Should be a “clawback” on some of these over payments on pensions!

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