SAFETY SERVICES Girard to seek 6-mill police and fire levy Nov. 2

The fire chief says he can longer pay overtime to firefighters.
GIRARD -- City council is proposing a 6-mill safety-forces levy to appear on the Nov. 2 general election ballot.
Lawmakers gave the five-year issue a first reading Monday and will meet in special session at 7 p.m. Wednesday to consider passing the legislation as an emergency.
Councilman Frank Migliozzi, D-1st, chairman of council's health and safety committee, said the millage is not enough to resume the city-operated ambulance service.
Auditor Sam Zirafi said the $3.8 million generated by the levy over five years will only maintain current services.
Among other things, the tax revenue would cover $1.2 million in additional workers' compensation premiums from 2005 through 2010 and $375,000 to purchase three police cars.
Of the 6 mills, 1.8 mills would be for the police department, 1.8 mills for the fire department, 2 mills for workers' compensation payments, and 0.4 mill to support the safety forces out of the general fund.
Here's the situation
Zirafi said the levy is needed. Since 2001, when the city was ordered by the state auditor into fiscal emergency, the city has been transferring money from other funds to prop up the general fund.
There is no other money available now to move into the general fund, he added.
During a caucus session before the meeting, firefighter Phil Cretella, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1220, the union that represents city firefighters, called on council to maintain staffing levels when the levy is put before voters.
"People want to know what they're voting for," Cretella said.
Cretella called on council to develop the Girard Lakes, a matter that has been discussed since 2001 to generate money.
Overtime issue
In another matter, Fire Chief Kenneth Bornemiss said he has received a memorandum from Safety Director Jerry Lambert prohibiting the use of overtime for firefighters.
The fire department was allocated $38,000 in overtime this year and has spent $52,000 thus far.
The city's contract with Local 1220 calls for a minimum of three firefighters to man the fire station on all shifts.
Bornemiss said that because of vacations, the department will have two firefighters or less 25 days for the balance of the year. This doesn't include other time off for things such as injuries, funerals or military duty.
The chief explained that he won't send equipment out to a fire station with less than three firefighters. He will be meeting with his captains and the union to work on a structure policy to resolve the issue.
"Yes, this will decrease response time," Bornemiss cautioned.
"It's a serious situation," Cretella said, noting that insurance costs will increase for residents and businesses because of decreased response time.
Mayor James J. Melfi said there are other communities that staff their fire departments with less than three firefighters per shift.
"They [firefighters] are going to have to schedule it. We can't continue to overspend the budget," the mayor insisted. "There is no reason the city should feel unsafe."

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