AFD expresses public safety concern over budget shortfall
The Anchorage Fire Department says to deal with overtime pay issues it's now taking fire equipment out of service when someone calls in sick, is out for an injury or other circumstance.
For instance, if a firefighter who works on a fire truck called in sick, AFD says that truck would be taken out of service rather than pay someone overtime to come in and fill that person's spot. If needed, firefighters would have to use a truck from the next closest station to fill the void and say that could mean a possible response delay.
"It puts a lot of pressure on us for that as well, as for either providing EMS or for car accidents or for structure fires," said AFD Local 1264 Union President Mike Stumbaugh. "We don't have the manpower we need and we should. But the bigger pressure is we feel like we let the city down, the citizens, the taxpayers that we're not able to provide the service they want."
Stumbaugh says the public that taxpayers are paying for equipment that sits unused.
"A lot of these apparatus and these stations are bonded. So when they go in April and they vote on a bond; if you and I vote for it we're saying I want that; right? We're going to raise our taxes. We're going to get this new truck company or this new engine and we want it in service. And then for the policy makers to close it down, you're going against the will of the voters," he said.
Anchorage Municipal Manager William Falsey says as of Sept. 24, the last pay period posted, fire has paid over $4.4 million in overtime.
He sent the following statement via email:
"Whenever there aren’t enough on-duty firefighters to fully staff our apparatus, we have to make a choice: (1) call in off-duty personnel and pay overtime; or (2) get the job done with a thinner coverage model. This year, we’ve gone as far as we can with overtime. The thinner coverage model isn’t the level of service we like to provide, but it still covers the entire fire service area, and it’s what the budget accommodates---and we’re proposing changes in the 2020 budget to keep us at full strength next year."
Falsey says the proposed 2020 budget includes $1.2 million for a large fire academy early in the year. He says keeping the department fully staffed should reduce overtime needs.
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