TROY — An independent consultant’s study of the city’s fire department has been completed, finding adequate staff levels currently exist. The study also supports adding part-time firefighters in phases to be the most cost-effective approach to increase staffing.
The Novak Consultant Group was hired by the city of Troy on Feb. 3 for a cost of $21,500. The 29-page report was released to the city on May 13.
City council approved an ordinance to establish a part-time wage for part-time firefighters and paramedics on July 7, 2014. The city’s firefighter union filed for referendum to repeal the ordinance stating they were not consulted about the proposal, questioned the hiring of part time employees for the job and argued any part time uniformed employees would have to be represented by the union. The referendum will appear on the November 2015 ballot.
“I think we are here with this (study), it’s not like we have an ideal situation,” said Chief Matt Simmons when asked what his ideal staffing structure would be. “This is what the city chose to do, and as a fire chief, I will manage what the city recommends and ultimately, what council approves.”
The study states, “The Department’s existing staffing level is appropriate given its service standards and historical leave usage” and “adding part-time firefighters is the most cost-effective approach to increased staffing.”
“However, a phased approach consisting of the addition of six part-time firefighters each in two hiring phases will allow the Department to attain service gains while still allowing for the real-time evaluation of the part-time firefighter program,” the study states.
Former Chief Boehringer’s recommendation of 24 part-time firefighters cost $561,00 per year without restructuring of command staff. Novak factored 15 additional full-time firefighters would cost the city of Troy $1.4 million per year.
The Novak recommendation with command staff restructuring, along with 12 part-time staff in two phases, would cost approximately $520,200 per year.
During an interview with the Troy Daily News on June 18, newly appointed Troy Fire Department Chief Matt Simmons said the study states the department is currently within the threshold of personnel in consideration to call volume and statistics analyzed in the study.
“With that, they are saying we are currently in the threshold of the norms. But, moving forward with why this was all predicated, as the city grows, do we need to grow the fire department?” Simmons said. “This is a good opportunity with current financial status of the city, to look at the current options. So through the study, this is the option that is being presented at this time.”
Study recommends to overhaul command staff to accomodate part-time staff
The study recommends, if more personnel is added in the future, to restructure its command staff.
According to the study, Novak’s recommendation includes eliminating Assistant Chief positions and a 40-hr Fire Inspector position, and adding a Deputy Chief position and five Lieutenant positions at a cost of $380,000 per year over current administrative spending.
“With losing the assistant chief, promoting five lieutenants, it’s actually a cost savings for the administrative costs,” Simmons said. “It definitely would help, especially if the labor would work all this out and move forward with this, it would give us the comfort and ability of having another rank that can assist on the fire ground and daily operation if the part-time component is there.”
City of Troy’s director of public service and safety Patrick Titterington said the new command structure is a “promotion opportunity” for the department.
The study states that the internal study of the fire department, conducted in-house by former Chief Chris Boehringer, did not account for “span of control considerations associated with increasing the Fire Department’s shift staffing, as well as the additional administrative and training requirements associated with adding a part-time employee pool.”
“The part-timers issue is to help them, not to replace them,” Titterington said.
Titterington said the fire department’s union will be included in discussions if the department’s command structure would be changed to move forward with the consultant’s recommendations.
Titterington stressed that part-time personnel will have the same level of training and certifications to be considered to be added to the department.
The Novak study conducted interviews with city leaders, including the mayor, Director of Public Service & Safety, and Assistant Director of Public Service & Safety Tom Funderberg. The group also interviewed the Fire Chief, the Assistant Chiefs, and representatives from the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) Troy Firefighters Local #1638. The group also toured the city’s fire stations and the Fire Department’s service area.
Troy Fire Department’s union president Josh Havenar did not provide a comment in regards to the study as of press time.