Posted at: 01/06/2013 8:30 AM
By: Cadence Acquaviva
Tropical Storm Irene and retirement sent the Troy fire department over its overtime budget. Troy Mayor Lou Rosamilia knew that was going to be a problem last year, but the city is taking steps to prevent more massive overtime.
Troy firefighters spent a lot of time in Lansingburgh last year battling fire after fire. At one point in the summer, fire chief Tom Garrett says there was a fire every weekend in the Collar City, keeping fire officials busy and fire investigators on the hunt for arsonists.
“In addition to that, we had the Campbell Avenue issue. In order to increase our response time, we had an extra person down at station six,” Mayor Rosamilia.
Part of Campbell Avenue was closed in late February because of erosion caused by Tropical Storm Irene. It finally reopened in the middle of June. As the city officials dealt with that and record fires, 12 firefighters decided to retire.
“A lot of times we don't know when the retirements are going to occur until one month prior to their retiring,” Mayor Rosamilia.
Mayor Lou Rosamilia says someone had to pick up the slack, and that pushed the overtime budget in the fire department more than 40% higher. The Times Union first reported the issue after a freedom of information request.
“What's first and foremost is safety. That's what we care about. The fact that it's going to cost a little bit of money here, we'll find that money within our budget to move from one line to another,” Mayor Rosamilia.
Some of the firefighters were paid six figure salaries after overtime, more than the mayor's $95,000 pay. But he says the major concern is having adequate coverage for fire and other emergency calls.
The city is hiring 12 more firefighters this year, but it'll take some time before they'll be ready to come on the job. It's normally a full year of training before a firefighter can go out on calls.
“We're taking a look at what's happened. We've learned from what happened. We'll take necessary steps to prevent it from happening in the future,” Mayor Rosamilia.