News and Tribune

Clark County

April 17, 2012

Jeffersonville City Council approves more firefighters

JEFFERSONVILLE — Aiming to ebb demand on a dwindling overtime budget, the Jeffersonville City Council has authorized the hiring of four new firefighters this year.

Fire Chief Eric Hedrick said he’d start making the hires immediately, using a list of candidates that’s already been approved by the Jeffersonville Fire Merit Commission.

The move, a reversal of course for the council, effectively brings to an end months of debate about how to address overtime usage by the department. Hedrick initially brought the issue to the council in early February, informing the body the department was spending about $60,000 per month in overtime in order to maintain a minimum staffing level of 19 firefighters on duty at all times.

“As a council, we haven’t done anything” to address the issue, councilman Bryan Glover proclaimed during a Monday night meeting.

He said the city spent about $800,000 on fire department overtime in 2011 and was on pace to do the same thing again this year.

“I can’t sit here and say I’m being fiscally responsible when we’re spending $800,000 on overtime,” he said.

He made the motion to authorize the hiring and councilwoman Lisa Gill seconded it. Before casting final votes some council members expressed reluctance.

“I hope if we move forward with this we don’t have to do it again,” said Council President Ed Zastawny.

He said he was frustrated because he had been assured the department could make their budget work without new hires during past union contract negotiations.

Councilman Dennis Julius said he was worried about leave time abuses by department members.

“The thing that bothers me is accountability,” he said. “We have some guys there that you know, they are habitually off, they miss some days, they figure a way to beat the system. We know there’s abuse, we ought to be able to catch it.”

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