For the past week, Town Administrator Keegan has been working with Acting Fire Chief Spillane, Finance Director Murphy and the Firefighter's Union to discuss the amount of overtime that was accumulated.
The town usually spends between $400,000 and $450,000 per fiscal year, according to reports. But due to unplanned vacancies, transfers to other departments, injuries and illnesses, the department has been working with a reduced staff. For that reason, the overtime cost to the Department can top $1 million by the end of the fiscal year.
"At full staff the Fire Department normally has a compliment of 15 personnel
per shift," Town Administrator Keegan said.
But in order to maintain all four pieces of apparatus, the department needs to have at least 11 personnel and one shift commander.
"In evaluating these situations it is always very difficult to maintain a balance between public safety and managing the fiscal responsibility of providing those services to the community," the Town Administrator said.
On Monday the Town Administrator authorized the Acting Fire Chief to implement the following program:
- If the department falls below the required amount of personnel during the daytime shift of 8 p.m. to 6 p.m., Engine 4 will be taken out of service.
- "The response districts will be redefined throughout the Town so that no district will be left without coverage."
- And only two Department personnel will be allowed to take vacation on a given shift.
So because only 8 out of the 11 reported for duty today, Engine 4 was shut down. The personnel who were unable to report were on an authorized leave, according the The Administrator. But Dedham Fire hopes that they will be OK.
"We have another truck," the Fire Deputy said. "We have enough to cover one incident and then from there we will just ask another town if they're available."
In the meantime, the town is hoping to fill the vacancies as soon as possible. But the Town Administrator also wants to be fiscally responsible.
"Since the beginning of the fiscal year the Department has been operating with an average overtime cost of $33,000 per pay period (every two weeks)," the Town Administrator said. "Based on the program that we have put in place we hope to reduce that cost to $22,000 per pay period for the remainder of the fiscal year. Even with this action in place, the Department may still require additional funding from the Finance Committee’s Reserve Fund to supplement the Department’s overtime account."
The town is hoping to get new recruits into the academy as soon as January 2013.
"I fully realize that reducing Engine Coverage is never a popular action but we do hope that by taking this action, earlier rather than later, we will be able to manage overtime costs in such a way that it will minimize the amount of temporary coverage reduction throughout the community," The Town Administrator said.
The Fire Department is right now in the process of filling five vacancies. The Department is just waiting for approval from the academy to accept Dedham's candidates.