Steamboat City Council approves firefighter schedule change

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— Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue firefighters will work a seasonal schedule based on demand starting in April.

The Steamboat Springs City Council voted, 5-2, to approve the schedule that will take the department’s three eight-person shifts to minimum staffing levels of seven at certain times in April, May, October and November. The reduced staffing is estimated to save about $37,000 in overtime this year.

City Council members Kenny Reisman and Sonja Macys opposed the motion.

Reisman argued that the City Council shouldn’t consider any action on firefighter salaries until it hears a report about a salary survey in May for all city employees. Macys said the department already has a budget for 2012 that it’s complying with and didn’t think the change was necessary.

City Council members voted on the seasonal schedule after the topic was brought up by City Manager Jon Roberts during staff reports. He explained that during a presentation at the Feb. 7 City Council meeting, acting Public Safety Director Joel Rae and acting Deputy Fire Chief Mel Stewart presented a report that identified the schedule change. Roberts said City Council President Bart Kounovsky asked him to look into it.

The city has been discussing fire-related issues since identifying “all things fire” as a priority earlier this year.

After the meeting Tuesday, Rae said that to reduce staffing during those lower-demand months, the department wouldn’t fill time that one firefighter per shift takes off for vacation, illness or training.

Rae told City Council members the seasonal schedule was supported Tuesday morning by all Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue personnel.

“If I was not comfortable with it, then I would not make that recommendation to the city manager,” he said. “I assure you, those that do have concerns about if there is an adverse impact that we will rectify that. We are aware of what our budget it is, but I think it’s still responsible that we save money across the city where we can. My responsibility with that is with the police and fire department.”

Roberts said that like Steamboat’s furlough program that began in 2009, there would be a process for fire employees to approach the city to demonstrate that a reduction in hours would cause a hardship on their families, and they would be given additional shifts. He called it an “impact mitigation plan.”

City Council member Kevin Kaminski supported the motion to go along with the policy that gives Roberts authority over city employee salaries but urged Roberts to reconsider further cuts to Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue.

“What you’re going after, I think, is what some would call low-hanging fruit, but this is the wrong fruit,” he said. “I would like to see more emphasis on increasing revenues rather than trying to cut and hit these individuals that are really important to our community and to the constituents out there.”

Staff told the City Council during budget hearings in October that it would work on “strategic initiatives” to cut costs and generate additional revenue.

Also Tuesday, the City Council:

■ Approved, without discussion, an amendment to the winter air service contribution agreement between the Local Marketing District and Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp.

The amendment establishes that Ski Corp. will contribute no less than $1,111,732 annually for the five-year term of the 0.25 percent sales tax Steamboat voters approved in November to supplement the winter air service program. The program provides revenue guarantees to airlines that fly into Yampa Valley Regional Airport during ski season.

In the city’s intergovernmental agreement with the Local Marketing District, it sought more oversight of the taxing district and its board of directors.

■ Approved Bill Stuart to serve on the Local Marketing District board.

■ Approved the city contributing $1,000, along with a $14,000 contribution from the Emerald Mountain Partnership, to leverage $35,000 in grant funding from Great Outdoors Colorado for the Emerald Mountain Park master plan.

The city won’t expend the funds until the contribution from the Emerald Mountain Partnership is placed in an escrow account.

■ Approved a preliminary plat to subdivide Whitewater Run, a lot at 841 Yampa St., into four lots.

To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or email jweinstein@SteamboatToday.com

Comments

Kevin Nerney 2 years, 6 months ago

Bad Move! Hope you don't have to go to a funeral someday and tell the family of the person who died that for a lousy 37 grand we might have been able to save your loved one. National Fire safety rules require "2 in 2 out". How do you do that with an uneven number 7. Cause and affect always finds the answer to any fire related injury or death. When all goes perfect nothing bad usually happens, but that is not how the real world works. In the real world fire takes place when you start with 7 because Joe is on vacation but really you start with 6 because Bill is out sick and then a rig gets into an accident while responding and back up is at another job, so there're delayed and the snowball goes downhill until eventually an investigation has to take place as to why so and so was killed or injured. What I'm saying in the nutshell is fire doesn't take a vacation go sick or go on training.

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Kevin Nerney 2 years, 6 months ago

Bad Move! Hope you don't have to go to a funeral someday and tell the family of the person who died that for a lousy 37 grand we might have been able to save your loved one. National Fire safety rules require "2 in 2 out". How do you do that with an uneven number 7. Cause and affect always finds the answer to any fire related injury or death. When all goes perfect nothing bad usually happens, but that is not how the real world works. In the real world fire takes place when you start with 7 because Joe is on vacation but really you start with 6 because Bill is out sick and then a rig gets into an accident while responding and back up is at another job, so there're delayed and the snowball goes downhill until eventually an investigation has to take place as to why so and so was killed or injured. What I'm saying in the nutshell is fire doesn't take a vacation go sick or go on training.

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 6 months ago

So why Joel Rae willing to suggest this change? You think he wants to kill people?

Since they are looking to do it seasonally based upon frequency of calls then the risk of being shortmanned in a situation would now be the same year round.

Also, there is a thing called interdepartmental aid where one fire district dealing with issues is pushed to their limits then calls neighboring fire districts for help.

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Phoebe Hackman 2 years, 6 months ago

Don't worry, Kevin. Mr. Roberts has an "impact mitigation plan". IF there is an impact, THEN they will rectify it. Mr. Rae's responsibility lies with the police and fire department, soooooo ,,, what changes (cuts) were made in the police department? And is this statement true: "the seasonal schedule was supported Tuesday morning by all Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue personnel"? Any SBS firepeople around to comment?

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Kevin Nerney 2 years, 6 months ago

Sorry for posting twice- Scott" So why Joel Rae willing to suggest this change?" No I don't think he wants to kill anyone, but as soon as he or you tell me (us the public) which fire academy he attended and how much knowledge he has of fire ground operations then he can call himself a "Public Safety Director". Does he or you know that a free burning fire doubles in size every 7 to 8 minutes? How long will it take interdepartmental aid to arrive? Coming from hayden in 24 minutes the fire would be 8 times the size of the original one bedroom small house fire. It is now a fully involved 8 room house. (just wet down the foundation). Not to pick on Joel Rae but as long as were on the subject what makes him a financial analyst? and why does he get to set the budget of the FD. While were are at it how do the numbers add up? If there are seasonal cuts of one man(sorry ladies) that means if there are 15,000 tourists in town during peak season they only get fire protection from one person,because the other 7 are protecting the locals that are always here. I know I'm preaching to the choir because nothing will change and no one is really looking for my input, and I don't have a dog in this fight.

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livinginthetwilightzone 2 years, 6 months ago

Did you ever think the firefighters agreed to this because the City was looking at getting rid of them and going private? The firefighters probably agreed to it because they were under attack by the City and this was a compromise to at least keep their jobs. It's a shame the City values the EMS employees so little. I feel sad for these firefighters as I think most of them try to pick up extra hours to be able to survive here. I don't believe any of the police officers start at $12.00/hour, but they're not under this constant scrutiny.

I don't know if I feel better that if our fire department is pushed to it's limits that we are going to have to wait 25 minutes for one of the other area departments to come as back up, that's even if they have the man power to spare.

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mavis 2 years, 6 months ago

I have 2 solutions for this issue. 1. Mainstreet Steamboat kicks the 37k to fund the firefighter's so we can maintain emergency support. (It's all about priorities) which clearily were not about the basics in the last election.

  1. The SSPD cuts back on patrol at 7:30 AM and 4:50 PM so there are NOT always 2 police cars having "chat" sessions across from the bowling alley and at the underpass for more then 30 minutes every morning/afternoon prior to shift change. Burning wages, gas, and everything else employees cost. It doesn't look very productive boys and I have to say it has became worse. .
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livinginthetwilightzone 2 years, 6 months ago

"Including benefits, Carrell receives an annual salary of $83,764 from the city, according to city Finance Director Deb Hinsvark. Under the previous cost-splitting agreements, the school district paid for half of the benefits that would be offered to a school district employee." October 29, 2011

We pay an officer to sit at the high school, but cut out firefighters to save $37,000?

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 6 months ago

Interdepartmental assistance is called when a dept no longer has spare resources for other calls. So it is to be ready in case there is another call so that then there not be an inordinate delay. So if SB fire called for interdept aid then West Routt might call in volunteer firefighters and move a couple of vehicles 5 or 10 miles closer to SB. Likewise for the other adjacent fire districts.

And if West Routt had to dispatch vehicles into SB then presumably Craig would be asked to help cover Hayden and so on.

But note that statistically this staff reduction during the slower times of year merely makes the chances of being maxed out to be THE SAME all year round. Right now during the winter and summer we are accepting a higher risk than late spring and fall. So if this change is unacceptable to people then they are also saying that additional staff is needed winter and summer.

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Kevin Nerney 2 years, 6 months ago

That's what I've been saying all along. Additional staff is needed winter and summer. You can't staff for a population of 12,000 residents and have 19,000 pillows. You have to staff for 31,000. Like it or not.

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