To The Daily Sun,
I would like to shed some light on the discussion about the overtime budget for the Laconia Fire Department. In all towns and cities, fire administration studies the levels of danger, number and type of calls they may face and come up with a plan for the equipment and manpower they feel they will need to handle the emergency calls they can expect to face. From there fire administration presents the plan to the governing agency and they hash it out to come up with a "minimum shift manning number".
In the case of Laconia I understand that "minimum shift manning number is nine." Further Laconia has hired 36 firefighters, nine per shift. Okay, each staff member has vacation days, sick or injury days that have to be covered. Beyond that there are call backs for multiple call most any day, large fires, and special event details to cover, all of which fall on the overtime budget.
The short story is that you are not giving the fire department any slack in the system. The choices the city has are: 1, pay overtime, or 2. hire more people for each shift so that when one or two people out the minimum manning of 9 is still there without going into overtime payment. It is not discretionary, the fire service needs X number of people on shift to handle the calls that come in and the governing body has to decide if paying overtime or hiring staff gives the people the best return for their money.
The issues about manpower and equipment for the fire service and EMS are discussed in every community, they are ever-changing, The community gets bigger, the population gets older, drugs and other social issues arise, volunteers are no longer available. All of these things have to be looked at and adjustments to reality addressed. The present and future requirements of fire and EMS have to be looked at with fresh eyes and attitudes. The citizens need to be involved in the decisions. You can not sit home and just dial 911 and expect someone to come, As a citizen learn more about the service they provide and what they feel they need to best protect you.
As to the claim that firefighter see overtime as an "entitlement" I can assure you that most people like a little overtime now and then but when it becomes forced on you it can get old real fast. Work a 24 hour shift and be asked or told you someone is out and they need you for another 24 hours to meet minimum manning and continue to get hammered that way week in and week out and you would get sick of overtime. What one person describes as an "entitlement" is actually a burden that effects firefighters and their family because he or she is always on duty. Burning firefighters and medics out is not in the best interest of the citizens of any community.
To be fair to the readers, I am a retired firefighter/paramedic. I can speak to these issues because I have lived through them and I understand them from both the person on the truck and as a private citizen. In the town I live in now we had an all volunteer fire department and an all volunteer rescue squad with budget totals of $50,000 to $60,000 per year. As times have changed we now have a part paid, part volunteer system with a budget of $1.6 million. I have had to stand and tell the citizens the times are changing and we have to evolve with it and it is going to cost me money and I am not pleased to do it but it is necessary. If these guys and girls are going to protect us we have to provide what they need.