ELYRIA — The city’s fire department is on pace to reduce its overtime expenditures from the high of almost $900,000 in 2006, but the savings might not be enough to spare a fire station.
Through the midway point of 2007, the department has spent $304,276 on overtime, according to Auditor Ted Pileski.
While the overtime for the second half of the year could rise with more firefighters using vacation time toward the end of the summer, the department is still on pace to spend less than the high hit in 2006 and closer to 2005, when the department spent $579,358 on overtime.
“We had two of our guys go down with injuries for four months each, and we had three guys serving in Iraq for most of the year in 2006, so there was a lot of overtime going around to make up for them,” Elyria Fire Chief John Zielinski said. “I’ve been monitoring the overtime this year, and now that we have them back on staff the overall cost shouldn’t be as high.”
Saving on overtime, however, might not be enough to save the fire station on Broad Street from having its doors shut for the second time in four years.
“We’re evaluating the budget to date, and there is a real possibility that we will have to reduce manning levels, and there is the possibility of closing the station,” Mayor Bill Grace said.
Grace has said in the past that the city will look to reduce minimum staffing levels from 17 to 14, which would likely close the Broad Street station, if the fire department can’t stay under budget.
The city employed a similar tactic from November 2004 until August 2005, when it closed down the station due to budget constraints. That’s not good news for Zielinski, who in his annual report to the city said the department needs not only more new personnel, but a new station.
“I don’t feel our current level of service is adequate at all,” Zielinski said. “When you provide emergency services, there are three things you have to look at — your manning levels, your equipment and your training — and then you have to look at how it is dispersed. Right now, we aren’t set at any of those.”
In the report, Zielinski outlined a five-year plan that would include hiring seven new firefighters, raising the minimum staffing level to 22 on-duty firefighters and constructing a new fire station on the city’s west side.
“We may very well hire additional firefighters, but we won’t be raising the staffing level,” Grace said. “We are more likely to reduce than to raise, and we are more likely to shut down a station for a period of time rather than build a new one.”
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