By jeanne starmack
The city is looking into combining its fire and police dispatching as a way to afford a recalled firefighter for the understaffed fire department.
Mayor George Krinos proposed the idea to council members at their caucus meeting Wednesday. Council President Bill VanSuch told him to check with the police and fire unions to see if they would agree to the consolidation.
Krinos said that he believes the unions will agree. He says the consolidation would save the city $87,000 in manpower and $40,000 in overtime, because there will be only three police officers instead of four on a shift. Out of four on a shift now, one mans the phones while the other three are on the road.
Under the proposal, a firefighter will dispatch for both departments.
The mayor’s recall of the firefighter, in January, boosted the fire department’s full-time staff from four to five, but there was no money appropriated in the budget to pay for him. He costs the city approximately $67,000 a year in pay and benefits.
Krinos said that after paying for the firefighter, the consolidation will save the city $60,000.
He said that if council would amend the budget to appropriate the money, the city could keep the firefighter rather than furlough him again.
Krinos also has gone ahead with a plan to hire 10 auxiliary firefighters. They would be paid per hour per fire and would cost the city $1,000 a year, Krinos said.
The hiring violates the city’s state-mandated financial-recovery plan and its permanent budget appropriations, a violation of state law, said Paul Marshall, chairman of a state commission that oversees the city’s finances because it is in fiscal emergency.
Marshal warned Krinos in a letter dated May 28 that he could be “personally liable for improper expenditures and can be prosecuted for this legal violation.”
Krinos said Wednesday that council can amend the recovery plan, and the city’s use of auxiliary firefighters would hinge on that amendment.
In a related development, Finance Director Sherman Miles said he wants council to resolve a dilemma he has in paying the recalled firefighter.
Miles said his signing the firefighter’s paychecks violates state law because the pay is not included in budget appropriations, but not signing them would violate federal laws requiring payment for work performed.