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Fire station closings resume in Boardman despite levy OK



Published: Sat, September 5, 2009 @ 12:07 a.m.

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STATION 74 CLOSED - the Boardman Fire Station on South Ave. has been closed due to the layoffs - robertkyosay

By Denise Dick

BOARDMAN — Last November, all three township fire stations reopened after voters approved a police and fire levy, but one of those stations is closed again because of money woes.

The closure will alternate between the South Avenue station and the one on Shields Road at Lockwood Boulevard, said Administrator Jason Loree, and it may not be every day. It will depend on the number of people working per day.

It begins today with closure of the South Avenue station.

“Overtime is over what we appropriated for the year” in the fire department, Loree said. “To stop the overruns in the department, we had to close a station.”

The fire department has exceeded its overtime budget for the year by about $45,000.

Trustee Chairman Larry Moliterno said the revenue from the 2.2-mill police and fire levy is coming in lower than anticipated because of the economic downturn. It had been projected to generate about $2 million annually.

“The economy is taking its toll on the township resources, but we’re doing everything that we can to make sure it doesn’t affect services,” he said.

The township is awaiting completion of an analysis by the state auditor’s office to determine if it’s in either fiscal watch or fiscal emergency.

Fire Chief James Dorman said the department’s overtime has gotten out of hand, forcing the department toward deficit spending.

The department was on track to stay within its budget until four firefighters were off for an extended time after being injured on duty. The department also lost two firefighters — one resigned and one died — contributing to overtime, the chief said.

The fire department was projected to receive $534,000 from the levy but only $319,000 has been collected and allotted for the department, he said.

Dorman said he looked at other options but closing a station made the most sense both economically and in terms of service.

No layoffs are expected. Closing one station when necessary allows all personnel to continue working, the chief said.

Today through the weekend, the South Avenue station will close. After that the station closed will depend on at which one a shortage occurs, he said.

Based on vacations scheduled, Dorman expects all three stations will be open half the time through this year.

To keep three stations open, 10 firefighters must be on duty at a time, Dorman said. Minimum manning in the contract calls for eight firefighters on duty per shift.

“When I close a fire station down, we don’t have to worry about having 10 on duty,” he said. “We revert to eight — three in the outlying station and five in the main.”

Firefighters worry about the perception that they have done something to cause the problem, but it’s contractual, he said.

“People have a right to be upset that they passed a levy to keep fire stations open, but circumstances changed,” Dorman said.

Harry Wolfe, president of the International Association of Professional Firefighters Local 1176, says the problem of high overtime could have been alleviated if the township had replaced the two firefighters. With being down additional people, more overtime should be expected, he said.

The union chief said he met with Loree and the township’s labor attorney about 1 1/2 months ago and the issue of overtime came up. He said he offered to enact a tiered wage system where new fire department hires would earn a lower wage than those already on the payroll. About five firefighters are expected to retire within the next year.

“The township never followed up with us on it,” Wolfe said.

Loree acknowledged the offer but said it came with the condition that firefighters be replaced. The township didn’t believe that would provide the cost savings needed.

While a bifurcated wage scale will likely be beneficial to the township in the long term, it needs a solution that can be applied in the short-term, Loree said. The township will send notice to the firefighters’ union and ask them to negotiate to try to come up with a solution, the administrator said.

Wolfe points out that the union already agreed to pay freezes through 2011 and increased members’ health-insurance contributions to 10 percent uncapped.

Moliterno said the township is trying to make changes that save money while not harming services.

Trustee Robyn Gallitto agreed.

“We tried to put a conservative levy on the ballot to make sure we weren’t taxing people so much — because the 4.1-mill levy failed — but because of the economic downturn, it’s not generating what we thought it would,” she said.

Those factors, combined with the loss of two firefighters and injuries that sidelined others, triggered more overtime, she said.

“It’s certainly not something we foresaw.”

Trustee Kathy Miller, who was out of town, was upset about the decision. “This should have been done in a public meeting with input from the public and from the employees,” she said.

Trustees just met last week, and the issue wasn’t addressed, she said, adding that she first learned about the problem in the fire department budget late last week. No formal discussions among trustees were conducted, Miller said.

The South Avenue station closed for a few months, and the Shields-Lockwood station closed periodically through much of last year because of a manpower shortage due to the layoff of nine firefighters in early 2008. The same week voters passed the levy in November 2008, trustees called six of the laid-off firefighters back to work, and all three stations opened.

denise_dick@vindy.com


Comments

1UnionForever(1470 comments)posted 5 years, 3 months ago

Boardman trustees lied to the voters again!!!

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2harleydog(218 comments)posted 5 years, 3 months ago

All you people that voted for the levy got suckered by all the promises that more police would be hired. Must be the same people that voted for King Obama. Isn't he doing a fine job saving the world.

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3Tugboat(759 comments)posted 5 years, 3 months ago

The Trustees say, “The economy is taking its toll on the township resources," The trustees need to elaborate on that considering the main source of revenue is the property tax. Please show us a list of those delinquent and the amount of the delinquency to prove your point.

Go to the Township building and take a look at the row of take-home cars recently put out-of-service.
What I find interesting is Trustee Gallitto making such a fuss over the few take-home cars there were when Patterson was Chief but had no apparent problem with Berarducci having them - triple the number!

Take-home cars link:

http://www.boardmantwp.com/trustees/M...

And how about Gallitto voicing her "commitment to our community" as part of her re-election bid. Both her and Miller put their name in the hat for Boccierri's State Senate seat. That's real commitment.

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4apollo(1227 comments)posted 5 years, 3 months ago

Taking a wage "freeze" and minimal increases in medical benefits when township revenues are shrinking is hardly the medicine the township needs. The fact is Boardman's employees wages and benefits were based on the DeBartolo inheritance money and unsustainable. Now that no rich people are dying, the contracts are too rich for us regular folks.

A recent study shows that public sector wages and benefits have gotten way too generous in comparison to the private sector and that the private sector can no longer afford to pay the taxes necessary to fund the largess.

http://www.forbes.com/forbes/2009/021...

The time for the market to correct is now.

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5dand1313(20 comments)posted 5 years, 3 months ago

i'm getting fed up with politicians repeating how bad things are and we didn't anticipate....well, start anticipating, suck it up and make the hard decisions or quit. don't wait to be voted out and save us the grief. downsize, merge and consolidate. don't think you can continue to go to the public trough.

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6ytownbar(13 comments)posted 5 years, 3 months ago

There are a couple of things I want to know about from boardman township. One, 319000 is only 59% of 554000. Are you seriously telling me that the township revenue is down 41% from their projection just last year. Seems like someones numbers are off. Second, it seems to me that the fire department has offered several viable solutions to the overtime problem and the township has yet to act. Third, the township has been collecting money from the levy for several months yet however from as far as I know they have only hired one of the ten police officers. According to the 61% that they are supposed to be getting they should collect 881000 just for the police department. Surely you can add several police officers for that money. I think the people of boardman township need to stop blaming the police/fire departments who have already offered concessions. Considering that boardman boarders one of the most dangerous cities in america generous concessions. Maybe you should start asking what the township is doing?

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7ubotherme(53 comments)posted 5 years, 3 months ago

ytownbar, you are correct. they do need to stop blaming the PD and FD. The fiscal officer blames foreclosures and the trustees blame anyone but themselves. Its a shame they would even consider pulling this stunt. And Dorman.... what a great chief. I would be scared to death to have my future in his hands. He hasn't enough balls to say, " I need just a little more money to get thru these next few pay periods." The trustees are too scared to come out and say it themselves, and the fire chief is too stupid to even stick up for himself.
And, I have to ask: " How the heck did they project OT correctly for all the other departments? Only the Fire Dept. is hurting the Twp." Sounds to me like they are trying to crush the FD....

I certainly hope it's not MY family they're cutting service to.

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8joebag09(265 comments)posted 5 years, 3 months ago

Current trustees...running for reelection....you are gone! I do not and will not vote for people who do not do their jobs. Just as I would lose my job for not doing my job. The economy is taking it's toll on the township? Guess what? The economy was bad when you asked for the levy! You made promises that I didn't believe then, hence why I did not vote for the levy! Now look!! No, I don't blame the safety forces, although I do believe the PD wages are too high, it is the trustees that shoulder the bulk of the blame.

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9ytownbar(13 comments)posted 5 years, 3 months ago

I know a police officer, and I will not say his name because he so very badly wants to come to boardman, and I believe he is in the process. He currently works for the city of Portsmouth(Heroin Captial of the east coast for those who haven't been there). He was issued the medal of valor from Austintown as an auxilary. He moved south and worked hard. He got on Portsmouth's full time swat team and in feb. was shot in the leg saving a fellow officer's life. He was recently awarded Portsmouth's top cop award, is up for hampton roads (norfolk, suffolk, virginia beach, portsmouth, williamsburg, hampton, and newport news) top cop. He is also up for there medal of honor and the virginia governor's medal of valor. How much do you think he deserves to get paid? What private sector job would you compair to what this man does?

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10joebag09(265 comments)posted 5 years, 3 months ago

I wouldn't try to "compare" a private sector job to what this particular officer has done. What's your point?

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11apollo(1227 comments)posted 5 years, 3 months ago

I will compare a private sector job. Working at Circle K is more dangerous than Boardman PD. Sorry, but suburban police is not a dangerous job even if it does border on Youngstown. Police work is not in the top 10 dangerous occupations. The township is broke and it's broke for 1 reason. Using inheritance monies to fund wages and benefits and giving it out like candy to the townships employees has bankrupted the township. This is the result of using Mrs. DeBartolo's inheritance taxes to inflate the wages and benefits. Guess who did that? The group controlled by Mancini. The audit says so. The state will soon say so again. Forget about more taxes. You can blame the current trustees all you want but they have their hands tied by past giveaways and a budget that consists of almost entirely wages and benefits. (80% of the townships budget)

Unless and until the employees take meaningful concessions to bring their wages and benefits IN LINE with peer communities and IN LINE with revenues, closed fire stations and layoffs will be the norm.

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