OSWEGO, NY – At Monday’s meeting of the Oswego Common Council, the burning question was yet again – just how much money does the fire department need for overtime?
Councilors sailed through the nine items on the agenda.
However, the council waived the rules and allowed a new resolution to be brought to the floor without first going through the appropriate committee.
Fire Chief Jeff McCrobie requested a budget amendment to cover the short shift overtime for the department due to various injuries, illnesses and transfers.
By a 5-1-1 vote (Councilor Dan Donovan was excused), the councilors authorized the city chamberlain to execute a weekly budget amendment to the fire department’s overtime account as required to balance the account, but not to exceed $95,000.
Chief McCrobie said he has met with his command staff and is doing everything they can to curb the amount of overtime in the department.
“We’re trying to work out a few things; trying to move some time off out, move some new hires around,” he said.
The department and the council are both on the same page, he said, adding, “It is a difficult thing to manage. We’re looking at some non-traditional ways of staffing, moving people around.”
“I’m not making any excuses, but there have been injuries that have happened since I asked for 190 (thousand dollars for overtime). Some were on duty some were off duty. I have, obviously, some decisions to make,” he said. “We’re doing a heck of a lot of (ambulance) calls.”
The ambulance service, Councilor Fran Enwright pointed out during the meeting, is what is causing the bulk of the short shift problems since every time an ambulance goes on call it means there are fewer firefighters available.
He said it was “a full-time ambulance service” and “a part-time fire department.” He said he wouldn’t support the resolution.
The council agreed in principle to work with the chief and his command staff to seek a long-term solution.
However, Council President Ron Kaplewicz drew a line in the sand.
While he would support the resolution Monday night, but he will not support any new request for overtime – and that includes any transfers from anywhere in the department into its overtime account.
Councilor Mike Todd said he had a problem with the overtime issue because it has an impact on other departments. It hinders what people in other departments, such as police, can be paid, he pointed out.
Councilor Mike Myers said the council has to work collectively with the department to solve the problem.
“This is a tough call,” Mayor Tom Gillen said just before the roll call vote. “I think what the councilors are offering is a compromise … to settle through mutual concessions.”