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Hire more firefighters to help reduce overtime

The intent of this letter is not to take issue with the recent resignation (firing) of Deputy Fire Commissioner Vincent Gugliuzza but to inform the public of the cause for the needed overtime within the Buffalo Fire Department.

Why is there so much overtime? The suppression division, which is responsible for 99 percent of the overtime, consists of four platoons, with two of these platoons splitting a 24-hour day. Due to safety and legal concerns, as well as contractual considerations, the working platoon must have a certain number of members on duty. This is called minimum manning. When minimum manning on a platoon cannot be met within that platoon, members from other platoons must be called in to duty at a pay rate of time and one-half.

The causes for the lack of minimum manning on a platoon: vacation and compensation time, which is scheduled throughout the year and is a known factor, and sickness and injuries, unknown factors. However, the biggest cause of overtime is this administration’s refusal to fill the 74 positions that are funded in the current budget.

It is ludicrous to blame Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield, former Fire Commissioner Michael Lombardo or any of their deputies for the overtime problem when the administration knows that by filling the already funded positions, it could greatly reduce this expense.

It is interesting to note that while today’s department of 743 members is run by the commissioner and four deputies, in the 16 years that Jimmy Griffin was mayor, the department was run by a commissioner and two deputies. During this time the department had approximately 45 percent more members and responded to a greater number of fire and EMS incidents.

If the current administration eliminated two deputy commissioner positions, the city could take the $129,273 salary per deputy and hire more firefighters in addition to filling the 74 budgeted vacancies to reduce the overtime even more. However, this administration believes it is easier to blame the other guy.

Paul S. Shanks

Buffalo Fire Commissioner, Retired

North Boston