Lawmakers consider Watertown fire chief’s advice to add firefighters

City looks at adding firefighters
Published: Feb. 7, 2023 at 5:39 AM EST
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - The city of Watertown is looking into adding more firefighters.

It comes after a discussion at Monday night’s city council meeting. A majority of council members asked the city manager to look into it.

Currently there are 64 line members of the fire department. The city is considering hiring another four, plus two more in anticipation of a pair of retirements this year.

Fire Chef Matt Timerman says the hires would cut down on overtime costs.

A majority of the council also expressed interest in applying for a SAFER grant again down the road to potentially hire additional firefighters.

Timerman estimates a staff of 68 could save the city $58,000 a year and a staff of 72 could save $105,000.

He says those savings would not be seen until three years after the hires.

Timerman adds that adding more members will help make sure that when backup is needed, there are firefighters who can be there.

“When I first came on, when we would recall a platoon, which would have 18 people assigned to it, we would probably get around 13 to 14 people,” he said. “Nowadays, when we recall a platoon of 15 or 16, we get 3, 4, 2, sometimes. I think some of that is morale, some of that is generational but everyone is just really busy in their personal lives, and it is hard for people to come back and work extra.”

City manager Ken Mix says a resolution with a budget amendment to add the firefighters will be brought forward for council to vote on at its next meeting.

The council also set a public hearing on the overhaul of the city’s zoning ordinance.

That will be Tuesday, February 21, at 7:15 p.m.

The city has been working to streamline its zoning rules.