Southington FD overtime costs could exceed last year’s

Southington FD overtime costs could exceed last year’s

Record-Journal
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Eric Heath, interim fire chief, at the Southington Fire Department Headquarters on North Main Street, Friday, February 17, 2017. | Dave Zajac, Record-Journal

SOUTHINGTON — Overtime costs for the Fire Department could exceed last year’s totals.

The Board of Finance discussed overtime spending with fire officials Tuesday night and approved $260,000 for overtime. The fire department had requested $336,893. The finance board said it would discuss the remainder at a future meeting.

At the start of the fiscal year in July, the finance board took $500,000 from the fire department’s budget and placed it in a contingency fund for the 2017-18 fiscal year. Fire officials must request and explain why the money is needed.

Eric Heath, fire department interim chief, said he expected overtime to reach at least $877,000 for the year. That’s about $180,000 more than budgeted for this year’s overtime. Last year’s overtime costs were $820,000.

Finance officials said they want to encourage costs savings.

“All members had said we had a strong commitment to public safety but we wanted to be able to have discussion, be able to have some influence over looking for ways to think outside the box and reduce the amount of overtime we consume,” said John Leary, chairman of the finance board.

Heath said there are two firefighters training at the academy. They’ll be on the line after graduation in December. In the meantime, their shifts are covered by other firefighters on overtime. Heath’s promotion to interim chief also leaves a vacancy, which must be covered.

“One of the significant drivers for overtime currently is what I’d consider three vacancies,” he said.

Even with the hiring a few more firefighters, Heath said the overtime situation likely wouldn’t improve greatly. He talked about challenges, including increasing calls, declining volunteer response during daytime hours and the growth of residential and commercial properties in town.

Finance board member John Moise said approving only part of the overtime request would prompt another discussion between the Board of Fire Commissioners and the finance board. Moise has been critical of the fire board, saying they haven’t properly prioritized bringing down overtime costs.

Fire board member Wayne Stanforth attended Tuesday’s meeting.

jbuchanan@recordjournal.com 203-317-2230 Twitter: @JBuchananRJ


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