The Wauwatosa Fire Department needs to manage its sick leave and vacation time better. If it did so, eliminating three firefighter positions would not have to shut down any of the vehicles, City Administrator James Archambo told the Budget Committee on Thursday.
The Fire Department was looking for three positions that had been placed into rolling vacancies to be reinstated as part of the 2011 budget. If that didn't happen, a backup ambulance would be shut down in the northwest portion of the city, Fire Chief Dean Redman said.
That would require a longer response time from other areas of city or aid from a neighboring municipality if an emergency call came in and the first ambulance was already on a call, he said.
Archambo denied those claims saying "there are enough resources to staff our operations." Each shift is staffed with 32 firefighters to ensure that after sick and vacation time off is accounted for, the daily staffing comes out to be 26 firefighters. Therefore, the department should be considering the cuts to take daily staffing from 32 to 31 people not 26 to 25, the city administrator explained in an interview after the meeting.
Better managing sick leave, which has been almost five people, or 15 percent of the daily work force, for the past three months would go a long way to filling those vacancies. In addition, vacation could be more spread out so fewer firefighters are off at the same time.
"Make sure using sick leave as its intended," Archambo said.
The majority of the Budget Committee agreed with the city administrator and denied adding back positions on a vote of 6-1. The Fire Department funding makes up a portion of the proposed 2011 budget that must still go before the Common Council. A public hearing has been set for 7 p.m. Nov. 9.
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