AP NEWS

Montgomery Fire/Rescue spends $2.2 million over budget

September 9, 2018

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama city’s fire and rescue has spent more than $2 million beyond its budget as the multi-year worker shortage continues.

Montgomery Fire/Rescue is paying a whopping amount of overtime to cover a personnel shortage, the Montgomery Advertiser reports . The department has spent $2.2 million on overtime as of mid-August.

Officials said overtime is a temporary solution for an ongoing problem that stems from continued recruitment and retainment issues.

Mayor Todd Strange downplayed the budget overages. He said it is a small part of a larger fiscal plan that remains intact.

“At the end of the day, you’ve got to have firefighters in place,” Strange said. “You can’t understaff.”

Several city officials cited regulations that require a certain amount of firefighters per truck and unit. When workers call in sick, take vacation or can’t come to work for any reason, they leave an empty slot that needs to be filled, said Director of Public Safety Ronald Sams.

Overtime has taken up about 7.5 percent of MFR’s budget. Every other overage in the budget combined barely cracked $445,000, according to a budget analysis done by the newspaper.

The overtime numbers come amid other recent stirs within the fire department, including the resignation of a top official after he was arrested for allegedly punching his girlfriend in a drunken encounter and a former firefighter suing the department and city. She is seeking damages in a suit claims that Jordan allegedly made disparaging remarks in January and February in violation of a previous settlement with the city.

Currently, there are about 395 firefighters. But officials hope the next couple recruiting classes will bring the staff to about 415.

Full staffing, or the complete elimination of overtime, would come at 480 workers for an additional $4.2 million.

Strange said he has promised Montgomery Fire Chief Miford Jordan that he would find money for those workers if they can get staffing levels raised.

Sams and finance director Barry Crabb said they don’t believe overtime presents any risk to firefighters, despite their 24-hour shifts, because they usually try to bring in someone who hasn’t worked the day before to cover a shift.

“That is a constant personnel issue day-to-day that they have to make sure everything is covered,” Sams said. “If they have to pull a double shift, say as an EMT, think about that. You are expecting the same amount of medical care that first hour to the last hour. It is difficult and we understand the tremendous job that they do and that’s why we want to reduce some overtime.”

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Information from: Montgomery Advertiser, http://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com

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