Is 60 The Fire Department's Magic Number?

Is 60 The Fire Department's Magic Number?

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City Manager Sharon Addison says 60 firefighters is enough for the Watertown Fire Department to safely, efficiently and effectively get the job done.

She says last August, she, Fire Chief Dale Herman, and Deputy Chief Russell Randall all agreed that 60 firefighters was enough to run the department.

"They basically admitted that it could be done with 60," she said.

But both Herman and Randall say that's a misrepresentation and they don't recall that number being agreed to.

Right now the fire department has 64 firefighters, but 4 are on long-term leave, meaning they're at 60, which fire officials say is leading to mounting overtime costs.

"We are working at 60 right now and you can see where the overtime numbers are right now, they're through the roof," said fire union president Dan Daugherty.

"I don't know if we're getting by. The overtime forecast moving forward with a 60 man staffing line with our current contract I estimate at $900,000," said Herman.

Addison says that overtime can be cut if the fire department were to give in on its minimum manning clause, which currently says 15 firefighters must be on duty at all times.

"We can easily reduce it to 13 and save hundreds of thousands of dollars. I think my report looked at nearly $900,000 and that included benefits," she said.

This all comes as Addison urges city council not to pursue a grant that would increase the size of the department.

Council will vote on Monday whether or not to apply for the SAFER grant.

Addison says pursuing that would be counter productive and that the city has been trying to reduce the size of the department, not grow it.

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