Fire dept. finds temporary fix for overtime costs

The Fire Department, along with the town administration and the firefighters’ union, has enacted a temporary solution to stem overtime costs. Retirements, transfers, injuries, and illnesses among employees have created understaffing and an “unsustainable amount” of overtime expenses, said Fire Chief William Spillane. The department now is working with limited overtime funds for the rest of the fiscal year, which ends in June. There are usually three active fire engines and a ladder truck available each day, and there are normally 14 firefighters and one deputy chief on duty. Now, if fewer than 11 report to work, the chief decides whether to call in more firefighters for overtime or to take one of the fire engines out of service. Spillane said he makes this decision on a day-by-day, sometimes hour-by-hour basis. This new strategy started on Dec. 2, and as of last Wednesday, Spillane said he had taken an engine out of service on four days. Despite these actions, the town will probably have to dip into its reserve fund to pay for overtime. The town also is working to hire five new firefighters.