DUNKIRK – Overtime pay for Dunkirk’s firefighters is raising a red flag as far as members of the Common Council’s Public Safety Committee are concerned.
At a meeting Tuesday at City Hall, Fire Chief Keith Ahlstrom agreed that the overtime costs for his department are high this year. He said he has had several firefighters off on extended sick leave.
He said as of Monday the department has used 302 sick days. In all of 2012, only 242 sick days were used.
The chief said he had three employees out on extended leave of 12 weeks and other members of the department have been asked to work extended shifts to cover.
Ahlstrom said the night shifts are 15 hours and day shifts are nine hours. He said there have been times when a staff member worked 24 hours straight. The city keeps five paid firefighters on duty at all times, he said.
City Councilwoman Stacy Szukala called the overtime “very shocking.”
Ahlstrom said the staffing requirements have been kept to the minimum but he did not expect a big improvement for September unless two of the employees are released by their doctors to return to work.
On the revenue side of the fire department budget, the chief report that they have received $78,478 in ambulance calls so far this year. He said the number is below the revenue for the same time frame in 2012 when $94,000 was collected. The number of calls was reduced from 410 in 2012 to 375 in the same period last year.
Ahlstrom said the amount is still slightly more than he budgeted for revenue this year. He said if the numbers stay on target, the billing will be profitable for his department this year.
Ahlstrom said he will request that any excess revenue be returned to his department as he wants to proceed with repairs to the fire stations.
The city received quotes from 14 contractors who looked at the three fire stations this spring. Ahlstrom said five of the 14 were selected as finalists to submit proposals for either repair of all three stations or consolidating to just two fire stations. Proposals from the five are due back by Sept. 10.
Ahlstrom said he will prepare a report after reviewing the information submitted by the finalists.
The chief said he is still considering the idea of providing advanced life support technicians instead of basic life support on the ambulance crews. He believes advanced life support ambulances, staffed by more highly trained personnel, is the way all paid fire and emergency departments will operate in the future.
In other matters, Police Chief David Ortolano said he will be asking his officers to ticket adult bicycle riders who are violating vehicle and traffic laws. The chief agreed with Council members that there are complaints about bike riders not following road rules.
The chief said he will look for additional signs to post at the skateboard park reminding bike riders that the park is not open to them.
“We have ticketed bicycle riders in the past. Unfortunately, it is an educational issue,” Ortolano said. He said parents should teach children the proper ways to ride a bike.
He said his officers also have written tickets to residents who have placed portable basketball hoops in the streets. He said that the hoops and stands cannot be blocking traffic or motorists’ views.