City to discuss future of Fire Department on Mon.Published 6:21am Sunday, August 19, 2012
The Albert Lea City Council will have a special meeting Monday to discuss the future of the city’s Fire Department.
Albert Lea City Manager Chad Adams is slated to present his recommendation for the department’s staffing after researching and reviewing a report released in June by Florida-based consultant firm Almont Associates.
The city paid the firm $30,000 to study the department, including examining the responsibilities of the firefighters, the staffing in the department and who should lead the force. The evaluation came as the city is dealing with tight budget times with the loss of state funding and other revenue.
What’s at stake?
The Albert Lea Fire Department currently has 16 budgeted positions, including one public safety director position shared with the Police Department, four captains and 11 firefighters. Two of the firefighter positions are filled with temporary employees.
The department is also assisted by the Albert Lea Township Fire Department, which includes a paid, on-call staff of 16 budgeted volunteers. The two departments share an administrative assistant.
Typically, there are five firefighters on duty at any given time, though the city has a policy that requires a mandatory minimum of four firefighters be on duty. This allows for sick time or vacations without having to pay overtime for a firefighter to fill in.
Regulations also require four people be at the scene of a fire — two outside and two inside — before firefighters can battle a blaze from inside. If only three firefighters arrived at the scene of a fire they would not be able to fight that fire from the inside until another firefighter arrived.
Adams has previously stated he has been considering whether to keep staffing the same or to reduce staffing by one person on each shift.
If there is one less person on each shift — and there are already only four people on duty — then comes the question of whether the council will keep the city’s mandatory four-person staffing minimum. If it does, then the city will have to pay overtime to find someone to fill in empty spots in the event of sick or vacation time.
According to Almont’s report, the full-time firefighters worked 40,320 hours during 2011. On an average year, firefighters are on-duty for an average of 56 hours per week, and their goal is to be productive for 40 hours per week, or the same number of hours as an eight-hour per day employee.
A majority of the firefighters’ time is spent doing things such as responding to critical car crashes, maintaining vehicles and equipment, cleaning City Hall, checking carbon monoxide and smoke detectors, inspecting rental houses and industries, giving presentations in the community and maintaining hydrants, among other tasks. The report indicated the firefighters could increase their productivity.
The meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. in the Albert Lea City Council Chambers. The public is welcome to attend.