Steamboat City Council approves firefighter schedule change
February 14, 2012
Steamboat Springs — 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.
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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