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Firefighters' overtime is due to low staffing levels

In response to the March 12 News editorial regarding overtime on the Lackawanna Fire Department, overtime is generated when department staffing falls below a certain level. This staffing level is set through the collective bargaining agreement and was originally put into the contract in the late 1980s to assure a minimum number of firefighters on the trucks for safety reasons.

Over the years, overall department staffing levels have dropped, as they have on many fire departments, causing overtime to be used to make up for the lack of personnel. Firefighters work more hours and have a heavier workload at emergencies, which results in more injuries and compounds the problem. Lowering the minimum staffing levels further is not a solution.

The Lackawanna Fire Department already responds with a minimum of eight firefighters to a fire, well below the standard of 14 firefighters required by the National Fire Protection Association. While worth another look, a consolidation with the Buffalo Fire Department was studied several years ago, but it was not cost-effective. A merger of the police and fire dispatch centers also was looked into a few years ago, but the initial cost and logistical issues made it unattractive.

As for the claim of firefighters padding their pension, the department uses a "wheel" system in which all firefighters are given an equal chance at overtime. Firefighters who are retiring will usually not decline an offered overtime shift, as is their prerogative, but they still must wait their turn for overtime to come around.

Ralph Galanti III

Fire Chief

Lackawanna Fire Departments

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Time for Republicans to unite behind Romney

We are in the midst of primary/caucus season, and the Republicans are vying to determine who should be their candidate to run for the presidency. Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul all have good ideas. However, they have been in Washington for a bit too long.

Mitt Romney, however, has real-world experience. He owned a business, employed people and provided benefits, and was a governor of a quite-large-population state.

Let it be also known that he saved the 2002 Winter Olympics when the previous administrative team was mired in scandal and ineffectiveness.

Romney is a go-getter, an achiever and is unsullied by the inside-the-Beltway culture; he's the best GOP candidate. Let's all rally behind Romney not just as the GOP candidate, but also for U.S. president come Election Day.

Lloyd Marshall Jr.

Lockport

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Governor wrong to cut funding for education

At what cost are politicians willing to slash funding to public education while they gamble with the future of the state's children? If the trend in Albany continues as it has in recent years, the hopes of New York families to receive the best quality public education for their children will diminish, as will the ability for the United States to compete in global markets.

Onlookers might blame this reality on poor teaching, but those of us in the business of educating children would argue much of the culpability lays upon the poor teaching conditions, due largely to budget cuts, in which we are forced to make progress regardless of the obstacles that are beyond the control of school representatives.

Recent education cuts eliminate the possibility of educating students as we have done in the past. Class sizes must increase while availability of programming and staff decreases. Early intervention programs like reading recovery, prekindergarten and kindergarten are being viewed as potential areas of restructuring to reduce costs. Library media specialists could no longer be available in elementary schools on a full-time basis. These services, in conjunction with full-time teacher contact at the elementary level, provide the foundation for the future success and literacy of our students. How can cutting these programs even be a consideration when teachers are simultaneously being told to improve the quality of education and student test scores?

I do not understand the governor's justification for cutting funding to education and public service. Not only will these cuts hurt families and children, they will also affect the current employees of schools and public works offices who are facing loss of jobs as a result. Without a viable work force or competitive schools, what will New York State have to entice anyone to raise a family or to do business here? Is the cost of finding out a price Albany is willing to pay?

Amy Pygon

Hamburg

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Don't blame teachers if students are absent

Yeah, it's their fault. Those darn teachers who don't want to be evaluated, in part, on the performance of students who are not in class. Consider this. A factory worker is being evaluated and paid based on the amount of product he or she produces each day. The worker's machine or assembly line is down, shall we say "absent," one day out of every week. Who shares the blame or the responsibility for the decrease in results?

Yes, a teacher has the responsibility and the challenge to make class interesting, educational, inviting and rewarding to the students. Perhaps beyond that it becomes the school's administration and the district's charge to promote good attendance. Perhaps the State Education Department should realize that you can't teach anything to an empty desk and not refuse funding based on such criteria.

Yes, in the interest of truthful disclosure, I am a retired high school teacher.

James Vasi

Williamsville

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Bring soldiers home from Afghanistan now

Let's bring our men and women soldiers home now! What can we accomplish in two more years that we haven't done in 10 years in Afghanistan? The waste of one more soldier's life should not be tolerated.

What have we accomplished in Afghanistan and Iraq? Granted, Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein have been eliminated, but we could have done that without going to war. Afghanistan's illegal drug export to our country has increased dramatically since 2002. We know this, and yet do very little to stop it.

Our soldiers are suffering in so many ways, as are their families. Our borders here in the United States need to be protected, so let's have the men and women who return from overseas patrol our own borders. I'm also tired of hearing that our returning soldiers are suffering physically, mentally and financially without much help from the government. It is a disgrace to see this in the news. These men and women risk their lives, and this is how we treat them? I ask Congress to act on the wishes of the majority of the citizens and take action now!

Joseph A. Teresi

Buffalo