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Mayor Barlow Ends Fire Department’s ‘Abusive Overtime’ Practice

OSWEGO, NY – Mayor William J. Barlow Jr. announced today (Aug. 16) the signing of an Executive Order that orders the immediate end to an overtime practice within the Oswego Fire Department that rewarded the most senior firefighters with overtime in direct violation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the city and its firefighter’s union, according to the Mayor’s Office.

Mayor Barlow’s action was taken in light of confirmation that the fire department established a “Do Not Call List” in which junior members of the fire department were encouraged to sign off on all overtime opportunities which would then pass to those senior members within their last three years of employment before being eligible to retire, often with twenty years and full health insurance benefits and a pension equal to one-half of their last years of post-retirement employment.

“This blatant disregard for the taxpayers of the city of Oswego has come to an end,” Mayor Barlow said. “For too long the culture of the fire department allowed this pension padding to occur where firefighters were encouraged and allowed to take as much overtime in their last years before retirement thus increasing their pension benefits.  I put an end to this practice.”

The Executive Order was issued on August 10, 2016, and directs the fire department to follow the clear provisions of the agreement between the union and the city.

The agreement dictates that overtime opportunities be evenly spread out amongst all firefighters.

If the agreement was followed, no one firefighter would have earned more than approximately $6,200 in extra pay, with the vast majority of firefighters each making between $4,000 and $5,000.

Instead, an investigation by the Barlow administration revealed that several firefighters in the last years prior to retirement made anywhere from a low of $15,000 in overtime up to a high of more than $42,000 in one year.

“Adding $30,000 to $40,000 to one’s base pay, in direct violation of the overtime policy, has a long-lasting cost to the taxpayers of our community and I say enough is enough,” Barlow said.  “I can’t help but feel as though the taxpayers have been ripped off by a group that is now trying to engender public sympathy in the face of staff reductions that are, quite frankly, long overdue.”

The Common Council has scheduled a public hearing on the 2017 budget for Monday, August 22, at 7:10 p.m. at City Hall.

29 Comments

  1. What is Barlow’s problem with the fire department? If he truly believes the overtime practice was abusive and is saving the tax payers money, he had better check the practices of ALL other city departments.

  2. Another thing ripping off the temporarily-remaining taxpayers is the water/sewer rates, lets get those back to an affordable($100 or less/qtr.) & maybe I’ll be able to stay here but if not…ADIOS!

  3. Fire union boss Geraci is not going to like this. How will he pad his pension now that he’s about to enter his final three years?

    Amazing how no mayor prior to this one ever thought to do this.

  4. Well done Mr Mayor! About time! Now dig your heels in and stand your ground! They will try to make threats of voting you out of office and making sure you are only a one term mayor. Little do they know, there are more taxpayers than there are fire department personnel. You take care of us tax payers and WE will take care of you!

  5. I thought Cuomo changed the law on that…only $10,000 a year in overtime can be counted towards retirement. Not the whole $40,000 some were running up.

  6. Since most of the firemen don’t live in the city, good luck with them voting Barlow out of office! Congrats Mayor. Great job!

  7. Fire Chief Jeff Mccrobie has known about this practice and promoted it, he even benefited from it himself. And if he knew the agreement between the city and union was being violated isn’t it his job as the chief to end it. How does he still have a job?

  8. If I were the mayor I would negotiate that no overtime would go towards a pension only straight time. Same with teachers. Money paid to teachers for coaching, bus duty,or anything extra wouldn’t go towards a pension. Only there base salary. I agree with what a previous poster said,now he has to look at other departments.

  9. Look at see thru ny and see who the top earners are.Not the DPW by any means.This young mayor of ours is actually doing his job.I am glad to see it.

  10. Nice job Barlow. This happens in Fulton too. I hope this has the trickle down affect here. Thanks for having the guts to make this public

  11. Now I know why I left Oswego a long time ago, too many people that have no idea what they are talking about. First, the pension doesn’t cost the City any money once a person retires from the OFD, OPD, City school district etc. except for medical insurance. Chief McCrobie is not eligble for OT, he is a salaried employee. If these young people want more opportunities then they should leave before the City goes out of business. Have a nice life.

  12. On behalf of my elderly mother in law who lives in the City of Oswego on a fixed income my family would like to thank the Mayor for his courage in putting a halt to this shameful practice by the Fire Dept. There is no way that the Fire Dept needs any more than 45 members according to my research and comparisons to other cities of comparably size and similar population.

  13. You make it sound like the firefighters leave with huge pensions… Without that “padding” and sometimes even with, their pensions aren’t nearly enough to live on… That’s the problem!

  14. This makes me so happy to hear. Finally someone is willing to acknowledge the problem and make the city departments answer to someone. Maybe there is hope for our futures in Oswego County.
    The few taxpayer left can’t afford to pay another dime.
    Now someone needs to go after the City of Fulton FD and PD.

  15. Glad to see that we FINALLY have a Mayor who has enough guts to do something about the TWO Oswego Fire Departments that have been ripping the tax payers for years. Get rid of the West Side Fire Department. We DO NOT need two locations….plain and simple! Now lets see if our Common Council has enough common sense to get this abuse of tax payers money ended once and for all. After all the Council members were voted in by the tax payers to represent the tax payers of this city and those who decide to vote against the tax payers best interest should be voted out next election! Could next Monday’s meeting have one council member absent like they did when the water/sewer rate hike was voted on with a 3-3 vote forcing the Mayor to cast the deciding vote? If so, I should like to think that our Mayor, unlike the previous one will stand behind the tax payers. We can only hope!

  16. This is one good idea the Mayor did have. Lets see what is going to happen with the 16 firefighters he wants to layoff. With the overtime out I am sure they will talk about getting the layoff to not happen.

    But a good starting point would be the water/sewer bills now.

  17. Hey “ugh”…try earning a pension in the private sector and see if you could live on it…if I live to retirement age which for me will be about 70, my pension will amount to about 800 a month…that’s if the funds are even there to pay it out…constantly get letters in the mail about how much money the fund has lost. I think with this recent move Barlow may have secured himself a second term in office if he chooses to do it again. He’s trying to look out for the few taxpayers left here….ya know…the types that actually built this city over the years…

  18. Ugh…
    Really? They cannot live on their pensions? Maybe they should not retire after only working for twenty or twenty five years? Work til 65 or 67 like the rest of us. Most of these “heroes” have other jobs while they are working for the city! You know, jobs like Burkes, Mentors, McFee, Minetto Painting, Chase Enterprises, Smegelski Lawncare, landlords etc…

  19. IF it is as presented than good for the mayor and its should be applied to all other departments as well but that still doesnt change the fact that he has proposed cuts for a department that already is running well below industry standards for manpower . If the current cuts go through teams that should have 14 members currently are running typically at 10 will be running with 7 . I am not a firefighter but I know something about crew sizes and working in dangerous occupations that is not efficient or safe.

  20. I totally agree with the cut on overtime to make pensions bigger, but not so much on getting rid of the firefighters! I also agree with the fact that they can’t live on their pensions and they need to work til age of 65 or 67 and something does need to be done about the water/sewer bill. It’s outrageous that we have bills as high as car payments (sewer part that is) and we hardly use water as it is!

  21. Too funny there Tim. Below industry standards! LOL! Who do you think sets these standards? Yes firemen do! If firemen had their way, there’d be double the manpower on shift with unlimited OT!

    One question there Tim, what’s the industry standard for volunteer departments since most of these firemen live in volunteer districts?

  22. Bottom line, it is 2016. Anyone who counts on a pension as their entire retirement plan, whether from fire department or a major corporation or teachers union or otherwise, is going to be left in the dust. The world has changed. You have to supplement your retirement by doing more than banking on a pension and putting money in a 401k. You need to buy real estate, or start a side business, or work multiple jobs, or develop skills that are more highly valued in this day and age. It isn’t 1960 anymore. Congrats to the mayor for making a stand. This should be a wakeup call to everyone who goes to work for 8 hours and then comes home and plops on their couch watching reality TV for 6 hours or just sits around complaining about other people, instead of looking in the mirror and making their own lives better.

  23. On Monday night August 22 2016 the Common Council of the City of Oswego will vote on the 16 Fire Fighters jobs. Lets see if they will be intimidated by the large turn out of fire personal and their families or will they remember the tax payers who voted them in to represent them. They must remember that all the fire related people can fit into the City Chambers, The over taxed people in the City of Oswego cannot. Can these leaders be intimidated? Stay tuned folks and we will soon find out the ones that are there for the over taxed tax payers and who is not!

  24. To All Taxed Out. We can’t get ri of the west side fire house as there’s a river running right through the middle of the city. Law says that we have to have two in case of a major catastrophe of both bridges going down to be able to protect both sides of the river.

  25. Wow, after 23 years of service in the military, with 7 month deployments and 24 hour duty every 5 days, my pension is about a third of what OFD makes. Lets see them deal with someone trying to kill them everyday ontop of doing an already dangerous job.

  26. Are you people that ignorant or just that gullible to fall for what “elected officials” try to make you believe? First if all, pensions are based on a tier system, anyone in tier 2 gets a percentage of the retirement not the whole thing. 20 yrs equals 50%, and every yr after adds 1.7 percent. Second, I’d like to see any of you do this job day In and day out missing birthdays, holidays, and time spent with your families. Third, and this will probably be debated by you people but it’s facts, a firefighters pension is FULLY FUNDED by their contributions Into the retirement system, and the state pension fund which is over 100 billion dollars of fire and police money contributed. The cities share is the buyout (unpaid vacation and sick time), and Healthcare if it even still has to contribute. This short fall is more than likely caused by mismanagement of fund for years, not because a couple of firefighters took a couple extra over times. And lastly, let’s not forget the lives of the people in oswego. If you can honestly say you life has not been made better or affected In some way by these heros then you are not paying attention to your own community.

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