Friday, December 30, 2005

Firefighters Needed

Twice in this week's Capital pieces appeared on the problems with overtime overruns by the County Fire Department, first, in a story on Sunday, and then in an editorial on Thursday. The Fire Department has spent $3.54 million on overtime in 5 months, when the overtime budget for the entire year consists of only $2.77 million. The Department is on a pace, by my count, to spend about $8.5 million on overtime by the end of the fiscal year.

The Fire Chief, Ronald Blackwell, blamed the overruns on "the high cost of training dozens of firefighters to become paramedics and specially trained medics." Again, by my calculations, that would work out to something like $41,824 per trainee, for each of the 137 extra shift members the Department is bringing on the force [$5,730,000/137]. Could that possibly be correct? Even spending this princely sum, the Department apparently hasn't been able to attract additional expert paramedics, according to the Chief.

Any chance we might get someone to call for an audit of how all these funds are being spent? It seems like it would just be cheaper to pay these folks better in the first place, so we could attract more of them, and stop having to pay the rest overtime, which can't be particularly good for their readiness or public safety. If you have any ideas about what's going on, or how to improve the situation, please drop me a line.



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