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Ogdensburg’s fire department staffing, hazard pay could be restored

Published: May. 23, 2022 at 5:39 PM EDT
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OGDENSBURG, New York (WWNY) - The Ogdensburg Fire Department’s staffing and hazard pay could return to normal - potentially ending a long dispute. But that’s only if two resolutions on Monday night’s city council agenda don’t pass.

If they fail to pass, the city would have to staff five firefighters per shift and pay them an extra $6 an hour for hazard pay. Right now, the fire department has four firefighters staffed per shift and they’re paid an extra $3 an hour for hazard pay. But the president of the local firefighter’s union says the damage is already done.

“The relationship is so fractured and so soured. The toxicity can’t even be put into words,” said Jason Bouchard, Ogdensburg Professional Firefighters Local 1799 president.

Bouchard says the city already violated the collective bargaining agreement.

City Manager Stephen Jellie says those moves were done to save the city money, but admits leaving the department shorthanded is not sustainable.

“So it’s really decision time for council. Provide the resources and stay with the old model or adjust to a new model that matches the resources that you have appropriated for the departments,” said Jellie.

Meanwhile, at the police department, Jellie recently reassigned one of the department’s narcotics detectives to a patrol position. Jellie says this is not a permanent move and is being done because the department is shorthanded.

“The truth is, we’re trying to run the city 24/7 ops with let’s call it 9 or 10 people. That’s not enough people to do the job,” he said.

In a statement, the police supervisory unit president said the move “puts officers and citizens in more danger” because patrols are now more likely to respond to incidents without prior knowledge if a substantial threat is potentially waiting, information the narcotics officer would pass along.

The topic is expected to come up at Monday’s council meeting as well.

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