Fire chief looking for more OT funds

  • Greenfield Fire Station RECORDER STAFF/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 4/19/2019 11:17:00 PM
Modified: 4/19/2019 11:16:46 PM

GREENFIELD — Fire Chief Robert Strahan reminded the City Council the need the city’s fire department has for a new fire station, the upcoming costs for replacement fire trucks and the challenges of a tight overtime budget. 

At a presentation of the city’s budget plan to the Ways and Means Committee of the council Tuesday, Strahan said he supports the current proposed location for a new fire station at Beacon and Riddell streets and that an agreement with the Leyden Fire Department is on hold, which should not significantly alter his budget for the upcoming year. 

The City Council will consider a $2.3 million budget for the Greenfield Fire Department, which is what the mayor has requested. Strahan and his department requested a $2.5 million budget for this upcoming year, but the mayor cut the request primarily between the permanent salary wages and overtime.

This year the fire department is running on a $2.2 million budget. A majority of the requests are a product of contractual annual increases.  

Between the police and fire departments, the mayor’s budget requests for $6.82 million, a 4 percent or $276,000 increase from this year’s operating budget. 

An agreement with the Town of Leyden was going to have Greenfield act as the town’s fire department for a decade. The deal is paused because Leyden officials learned if it no longer has an active fire station, it could hurt its insurance accreditation ratings. 

“Everything’s on hold until we get a better sense of what will happen with the Leyden scenario,” Strahan said. 

Both sides remain hopeful the plan will work out down the road. It may save Leyden money and would provide the Greenfield Fire Department with an additional truck. 

The only additional expense in the fire department’s budget for coverage of Leyden was $13,000 of overtime money. Strahan said they would likely need that money regardless. 

“Overtime has always been a problem for the department,” Strahan said. 

This year the department budgeted $115,000 for overtime and he said they will likely run out of it by the end of this week, with the fiscal year ending in June. The overtime budget Strahan asked for this coming year is $175,000, but the mayor is proposing to the council $120,000. 

Strahan said neighboring fire departments spend significant amounts more on overtime, like $400,000 to $600,000. 

“When I say how much we spend on overtime, they say, ‘I don’t know how you do it,’” Strahan said. “If we cut back on overtime at some point, there will be a truck that will not be staffed.” 

Regarding a new fire station, which this year’s capital budget by the mayor begins to account for, Strahan endorsed the plans to date. 

The Beacon and Riddell streets site is the “best location” for responding to calls based on studies of potential spaces in town. 

The fire chief said he has heard from some neighbors about their concerns of having a fire station next door. He said the fire trucks will likely not travel on Riddell Street and that they can develop good neighbor policies for Beacon Street residents about time of day when siren will be used. 

The current fire station also has several safety and practical issues, Strahan reminded, like limiting the types of fire trucks the city can buy and house. 

“At the end of the day, if you’ve had the opportunity to come to the firehouse you’d quickly realize we need to do something,” Strahan said. “I am sensitive to the fact that taxes are what they are ... but our firehouse is a 1936 firehouse and we have to watch what we buy.”

You can reach Joshua Solomon at:

jsolomon@recorder.com

413-772-0261, ext. 264




Greenfield Recorder

14 Hope Street
Greenfield, MA 01302-1367
Phone: (413) 772-0261
Fax: (413) 772-2906

 

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