Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

May 10, 2014

Fire Board meeting delayed

BY JOE OLENICK joe.olenick@lockportjournal.com
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — A planned joint meeting between the Common Council and the city Fire Board has been postponed until after a court hearing is held concerning the restraining order that restores firefighter minimum manning levels to nine per shift and keeps both ambulances running.

Mayor Anne E. McCaffrey said after talking with city attorneys John Ottaviano and David Blackley, she recommended canceling the joint meeting, which was scheduled for Tuesday.

The reason for the change was that city officials believed it made more sense to wait until after a court hearing was held on the temporary restraining order before deciding whether to cut manning levels or the ambulance service, McCaffrey said. The joint meeting was scheduled before the court order was issued.

A new date for the meeting hasn’t been determined yet, McCaffrey said. The court hearing was moved as well, originally set for Wednesday, it will now be held May 28.

The Fire Board ordered LFD manning and equipment reductions last month after Fire Chief Thomas J. Passuite disclosed that the department had used up about $200,000 of its 2014-budgeted $500,000 overtime spending time already. Without the reductions, the city is on pace to see $1 million in LFD overtime spending by the end of the year.

State Supreme Court Justice Ralph A. Boniello III signed a temporary restraining order Friday, requiring the city to reverse a Fire Board directive reducing the minimum staffing level to seven firefighters per shift, reducing ambulance staffing to two paramedics and taking a city ambulance out of service. The reductions took effect May 1 and lasted four days, until the city was served with Boniello’s order.

The Lockport Professional Firefighters Association said the Fire Board’s decision violates a written agreement. In 2009, an arbitrator ruled LFD’s minimum manning level should be 10 firefighters per shift, but the union agreed to nine per shift in its latest contract with the city.

Contact reporter Joe Olenick at 439-9222, ext. 6241 or follow him on Twitter @joeolenick.