City says no to firefighters overtime money

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Two Carson City fire department officials argued Thursday their staff is too overburdened to take on extra hours.

City supervisors on Thursday tabled a decision on giving the fire department $142,000 of overtime to put a fourth firefighter at Station 3.

It was a move supported by the city's firefighter's association, but one shunned by fire department administration.

Fire Chief Lou Buckley and Vince Pirozzi, emergency medical services battalion chief, argued their staff works too much mandatory overtime -- around 14, 24-hour shifts per year -- as it is without adding a potential seven, 24-hour shifts to the schedule.

The department already uses $578,000 in overtime a year. Longer hours translate into, at its worse, a firefighter working 96 continuous hours often with little sleep. More often than not, firefighters are working 48 hours with little rest. Buckley and Pirozzi also noted extra hours translates into fatigued-related mistakes, more sick time and workman's compensation for workers.

Bob Schreihans, president of the Carson City Firefighters Association, said members of the association brought the idea up as a way to "help the city out" in a tough budget year by providing a fourth firefighter at Station 3 -- staffing they deem necessary to providing the best service possible to the community.

"Obviously, this is an uphill battle," Schreihans said. "There is a serious need for more manpower at the fire department." Buckley said his firefighter's hearts are "in the right place," but he would prefer $180,000 to fund three, full-time firefighters instead of taxing his existing 50 firefighters.

"I would encourage you to think of the safety of the firefighters and the community when you consider this argument," Buckley said.

Supervisors expressed surprise over the amount of overtime firefighter's work.

"I don't think there's a member of this board that thinks the paramedics and firemen are not dedicated people who are not willing to go above and beyond," Mayor Ray Masayko said.

Masayko encouraged firefighter's association officials to work with city leaders in contract negotiations on how to add extra firefighters to the staff.


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