2/24/2011

Chapman on the LFD

Posted by MJ

Below is letter to you: the blog readers of Lockport regarding the Fire Task Force that he created. The hope is for constructive discussion on systems etc that will be financially and performance stable in the years to come. Please comment below (or e-mail Chapman directly) on systems you may have knowlege of from other places you have lived, ones you have read about or even ones you have thought up on your own. Or maybe you are comfortable with the furture cost projections and tax burdens, if so, let that be known too. Please do not troll. Keep comments respectful and on topic.

I can use some help from your bloggers...

Ask yourself the following questions:
Will the State continue to allocate Lockport the same amount of funds it has currently allocated or might they reduce their allocation to Lockport?
Based upon the current trends; are the CItizens willing to allow for a 50% increase in taxes to sustain the Fire Department over the next 10 years?

I have been accused of picking on the Fire Department, we have multiple issues within multiple departments.  As time allows, I  would prefer to research all the departments; however, from a percentage of the budget basis, the Fire Department represents the greatest expense to the City.  I am hopeful that the analysis template that is being created will be a cost effective / efficient mechanism for the discovery process and will be applied to other departments in the future.  We cannot afford consultants, the city is blessed with a large group of dedicated, knowledgeable, and passionate people that are willing to give up their time for a worthy cause.  A task force of citizens that represents a good cross section has been assembled.   

Our process is simple:  

Establish a baseline that represents a "Good Fire Department" .  Every aspect of this baseline must be quantifiable and documented accordingly.  We are just now establishing the categories that will be included within the baseline. Examples may be ISO rating, response time, cost per incident, % $ lost per incident, average training, # incidences for workers' compensation, $ for workers' compensation, etc. etc... 

Apply "Good Fire Department" baseline criteria to a select group of focus cities.  The focus cities were chosen not randomly but by analysis of similar demographics, economic decline, square milage footprint etc.etc...  Additionally, we will focus on ten other paid Fire Departments that closely reflect similar characteristics as those of LFD.

A weighed matrix depicting our results should clearly indicate what represents a "Good Fire Department".  We will then create a strategy to see (if necessary) how we may emulate and apply our findings to LFD. 

We will research how others have transitioned their departments, consolidated services, found cost savings. 

Our goal is to make (if necessary) a well informed, factual determination, on the future of how Our City will be protected for both Fire and Emergency Medical Services. 

Previously, I stated publicly and <here> the following: 

Create a long-term strategy to transition our Fire Department into a “Hybrid Department” with the intent of employing paid Administration, Drivers and Ambulance  / EMT Professionals, while augmenting additional personnel needs by establishing a volunteer force.

I was wrong in my approach and quite possibly wrong in this plausible solution.  Where were my facts? What research supported my opinion?  Again, I was wrong.  Which allows me to conclude that we must research this thoroughly, without bias, and personal gain/motivations, in an all inclusive environment that promotes a creative approach to a very difficult challenge.   

Some may say, "It may be best to allow the financial trends to fulfill their destiny through 2021".  I don't believe that to be the proper course of action. 

Please, Bloggers be creative, research and be knowledgeable, we all want what is best for the City.  We all may have a different opinion on what is best.  Again, please help this task force reach some conclusions in what is best for us all. 

Thank you,

Andrew Chapman

42 comments:

Anonymous said...

http://americancityandcounty.com/mag/government_replacing_volunteer_fire/#

Anonymous said...

Figures don't lie but liars can figure, when the last contract was signed by the firefighters and police didn't they go 3-5 years with out a raise? So the figures aren't accurate. You need to add in the 0 years also.

Anonymous said...

I would really look at the carrot and stick technique, radical negotiations are needed.
Proposal would be to guarantee everyone their jobs with no layoffs, but the only overtime allowed would be when firefighters are called in for major fires. I believe there is already a restriction that they must live close to Lockport. Minimum planned staffing absences must be maintained, but if more call in you go with it.
And if they don't agree, then it's time to disband it and start with volunteers.

Has the city ever estimated how much someone like Rural Metro would give them if the franchised out the ambulance service?

Rocketboy said...

Let's start with what Wisconsin is doing, and go from there.

Let's reduce the number of firefighters and amount of equipment on scene in a non-injury accident.

Let's keep overtime down by reducing the amount of sick days they receive, and by making sure that there are enough full and part time employees to cover all of the shifts without overtime.

Let's make sure that when a firefighter is out on injury that A: the injury actually happened on the job, and B: that they are not taking advantage of the system. Just like most jobs, even if you are not at 100%, there are things in the building that you should be able to do.

Let's try to set funding to match the population of Lockport.

Let's not reduce one of the benefits of living in the City of Lockport.

Let's not cut off our nose to spite our face.

Let's keep in mind that there are still many old dense neighborhoods.

Anonymous said...

So, all this discontent with how many sick days they get, just how many sick days do they get?? Is there a link to the LFD contract??

Anonymous said...

a good fire department is that what your after? from this it looks like you want the town to pay for your fire department.one way or another.

Rocketboy said...

I'm not sure how someone can honestly read what I posted, and think that "all" of the "discontent" is due to sick time. My "discontent" has to do with reducing costs, so we can afford a full time fire department.

But to answer your question...

I don't know off hand, but quite a few years ago, I knew a handful of firemen, and I can't tell you the number of times that they said that they were just going to call in sick because there was something else they wanted to do.

The Lockport Fire Department's union at one time had a website where there were some numbers, but it seems to have disappeared. I'll quote myself from an earlier comment quoting the numbers that I found on the website when it was active:

"..."sick days used in 2004 dropped to 345" Congrats! Spread out over the whole year, that means that there was ALMOST a whole month when no-one called in sick. And they are PROUD of that, because it was done from 508 a few years earlier!"

If I was their employer, which, well, I am as someone who lives within the City Of Lockport, that's unacceptable to me.

If you honestly want to reduce costs, there is no way you cannot see that the cost of overtime is a major issue.

Anonymous said...

anon 2:51 Rural Metro and Twin City pay to have a contracts and if they do it is usually $1 for the year. Buffalo tried to charge a franchise fee in 2004 I believe it was $250,000 and TCA pulled out and went to Amherst leaving R/M and they didn't pay. I moved from the area a few years ago but still check local papers and these blogs. WNY is so backwards, everything down here is how to go from Volunteer to a paid/partial paid fire depts. because people don't have time to train and volunteer, and here is Lockport talking about going backwards. It is a simple soulution if you have a good system work with it to reduce the impact it has on the taxbase

Anonymous said...

When the firefighers have so many days off, they think nothing of calling in sick so they can have some me time, so the taxpayers end up overpaying for the labor, that's a problem.

The above quote courtesy of RB as posted in a different thread. Add to it the commment above regarding their sick time, and I'm starting to see a pattern, so yes, it does seem like you have a discontent with their sick time and time off.
Sorry, but just making an observation based on your own quotes. That may not be the only reason for your "discontent" but it seems to play a major role, far as I can read...

MJ said...

1) Where in the letter does it say the he wants to make the town pay for anything?

2) In the letter he says he was WRONG on saying we should go to volunteer, or any system for that matter, with out sound data to make th edecision off of.

3) One hand people complain about taxes etc. An alderman takes the extra time (along with volunteer citizens) to institute a review panel on the largest part of the budget and others (or the same?) complain that he has it "out for the fireman". If anyone lays off anyone they have it "out for them"? Companies grow and shrink. Cities grow and shrink. They must be able to right size or they go bankrupt (company) or a subsidized mess (municipalities).

MJ said...

http://lockportforum.blogspot.com/2010/10/budget-2011.html

In the above link were some of my ideas.

1) If not reducing sick/vacation time at least buy it out yearly. It's very rare to be able to build up $200k of sick/vaca time in the private sector. The city can not be able to budget for lump sums like this 20 years down the road. You also buy out at th ecurrent pay scale instead of at their final pay scale.

2)As far as I understand it currently the (4) 12 man platoons (A,B,C,D) cover 12 hour shifts on a 6 day cycle. One week half have a 36 hour week and the next they have a 44 hour week. 48 man total requirement for up to 12 men available at a time.

Idea:
Group the platoons into two (AB and CD) half of platoon would man the station in 12 hour shifts and half would be on call the whole day for events that required additional man power. The following 6-day shift the roles would reverse. Ths would enable up to 12 men being paid to be able to respond to a necessary event at any time while only requiring 32 members total (33% reduction). This is dependent on the number of calls. I would enjoy being on call every other day if I could sleep at home, relax at home, work on the house, interact with the kids etc if the number of call ins were reasonable. Do statistics show that it is possible to stay home a whole day without being called in (for fires or emergencies that require a full platoon response?)

Rocketboy said...

Anon... Sorry, I'm rather tired of explaining myself to someone who refuses to listen. Again, it's been stated time and time again (and not just by me) that overtime pay is a large amount of the overall labor costs. Overtime is paid out when someone isn't there to work the shift that they are assigned to. Are you totally cool with the fact that in 2004, there were 345 sick days (their words, not mine)?

MJ.. Good ideas..

Now I don't know if this is happening in Lockport, but we also need to make sure we don't include overtime when calculating someone's retirement pay. It happens all over the country when the retirement pay is tied to the last few years of someone's employment, and overtime is calculated as part of it. If someone still does want to calculate overtime, it should be based on the average number of OT hours throughout the entire time of employment.

Again, I don't know if it's happening in Lockport. If we already protect the taxpayers against it, great. If not, we need to put a stop to it, pronto.

MJ said...

I agree, no padding the pension over the last two years with overtime. It should be base pay not overall.

Anonymous said...

Yes, but the pension terms are out of our hands, I believe that is a state retirement plan policy.
And forget even thinking about the town, the taxpayers would go crazy. They currently have too many volunteer companies serving (Rapids, Wrights Corners, Terry's Corners, South Lock, plus another I think) imho.
I wonder how many South Lock volunteers live in the city?
MJ your ideas are right along with the post about carrot and stick. Makes sense. Get them to agree to zero OT except for large fires and a lot of complaining would go away.
Except for the mayor complaining about people off on disability!

Anonymous said...

If you all watch the budgets every year the police and fire chief ask for more personal to stop the overtime and the council/mayor always reject it. You can't have it both ways creating the problem then complaining about the problem you created. OT isn't huring the city it is the healthcare plans that ALL city personal have.

Anonymous said...

The average US worker calls in sick 8.5 days a year.

LFD average? 7.5 days a year, according to your figures. Not bad considering the illnesses and disease they are exposed to every day.

Anonymous said...

345 sick days and 54-55 employees at that time equals aprox. 6 sick days a year average. How does that compare to similar sized departments in Lockport( streets/police) or even other paid departments in the area? Noboby knows do they.
This does not take in account surgery/illness etc that an employee may have taken and not wanted to screw the system by claiming work injury. Overtime skyrockets when employees leave and are not replaced. This is the course our elected officials took because its less costly.

MJ said...

If there is less than one sick day per day there should be no overtime problems. If a platoon has 12 men and 9 is considered the minimum to safely figher a fire, then there should be no more than 2 allowed to take planned time off during that shift, allowing for 1 person to call in sick. Just need to be careful for those summer time and hunting season illnesses that hit every work place.

The Phantom said...

RB, sorry if people ask you to back up your comments with facts, but to make a statement that the firemen have too many sick days, then to admit you don't actually know how many sick days they get, makes that statement hold no credibility. I don't know how much sick time they get either, but I'm not going to say it's too much without having the facts. Quoting figures from 6 years ago seems like your reaching to make your point. Who hasn't felt like calling in sick and staying in bed?

I don't mean to sound attacking, and I'm not, but have some solid figures or facts to back up your claims. I would love to see the LFD contract and draw my own conclusions. But until I do, I can't agree with a blanket statement like the above. Sorry.

Rocketboy said...

That's odd, because where I work, if we had that many "illnesses", we'd have to shut down.

And of course, I've heard it directly from firefighters that they were just going to call in sick because there was something else they wanted to do... from more than one, multiple times.

Keep in mind, that the count on the old website was sick time ONLY, and not scheduled vacation time.

Also, where did you get your number, and did that include Public & Private or just Private? According to a recent New York Post article: "The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics found private-sector workers took off an average of just over 3 days per year in 2008" a far cry from what you posted.

http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/city_workers_load_of_ill_gotten_Bqq47Mp84xbB8th0RJYO5J

Anonymous said...

Alderman Chapman, are the meeting that you are holding open to the public or is it a closed door policy? I don't see the sense of putting this letter on here and letting people who may not even live in the city, speculate and throw figures out. Hold a meeting, open it up, at let us show up in person instead of anonymously (I know i don't have an acct either)putting our two cents in. Your fire task force is at the point of becoming a circus.

Anonymous said...

mj
four platoon working twelves is an eight day cycle not a six 12 on 12 off is one.i have worked this at the mill at least ten years and it works well on your body.but i work days

Anonymous said...

Mr. Chapman, is there any plausable way for you to post on this blog, the formula(s) used to arrive at the figures listed on your chart above?
For the assistance you have requested of the bloggers ie, being creative and knowledgeable and also to assist in locating the 10 other fire departments for comparison, we must first know how the graph you are presenting was created. Without a thorough knowledge and examination of these figures, the assistance you are requesting would be difficult to provide and could in fact be disingenuous for this comparison.
Could you also provide to the bloggers here,the breakdown and/or formula and the figures attatched, in regards to your statement as to the fire department being the greatest expense to the city on a percentage breakdown of the budget.
Without these figures the only thing we bloggers have to rely on, is your statement that this department is indeed the largest percentage of the budget with no facts or figures to support this statement.
Thank you in advance for your time and effort in providing this crucial information to those of us who want to assist you on this blog.

Anonymous said...

MJ
I see either my question posted approx 11:25 today in response to this topic has been removed. I realize as the person managing this site you have control over the subject matter posted to this site. My post was both respectful and as requested by Mr. Chapman it was trying to answer questions in a knowledgeable manner. could you please provide clarification as to the problem with my last posting, so that going forward I can ask these questions without having the post removed. thank you

Anonymous said...

Buffalo News Feb 27,2011 Business section has a local story on sicktime use. States that average US worker uses 14 sickdays a year, average Erie County employee uses 11 sickdays a year. Read the article than ask yourself if there is really a sicktime abuse problem or is this a problem a couple of local past and present elected officials planted in your head.

MJ said...

I tried to clean up this mess the best I can. It's always enlightening when people complain that aldermen, etc are not listening and then when given the opportunity just end up bickering.

There is no black and white. There is a better solution somehwere in between. Keep it to statistics/ideas. The comments started out that way until it went wayward leaving me to waste time deleting them.

People in all setors use sick days as "vacation" that's why they should be one in the same (PTO). Most people are curteous enough to make sure they are not screwing anybody (customers/co-workers/employer/etc) when they take unscheduled time off.

Usually hiring more people increas eover all long term cost such as pensions, healthcare, etc. Even where I work continual overtime is more cost effective than new bodies, especially if the company has to shrink etc due to the economy. But it does not mean that you do not try to minimize it. Allowing 75% of a platoon to be off at anytime seems more than reasonable.

Keep it simple and debate ideas, not people. Leave kindergarden to the children.

Anonymous said...

It is a daily event somewhere in America. Once a day on average in this country, someone dies when firefighters arrive too late, an investigation of fire response times by the Globe has found. America's fire departments are giving fires a longer headstart, arriving later each year, especially in the suburbs around Boston, Atlanta and other cities, where growth is brisk but fire staffing has been cut.

http://www.boston.com/news/specials/fires/

Anonymous said...

The newspaper found that most firefighters who die fighting a fire were working in substandard conditions, arriving too late with too few people. ie; Hybrid department.

http://www.boston.com/news/special/fires/fatal.html

Anonymous said...

Even though emergency calls are up, the number of volunteer firefighters has dropped nationally more than 10% over the past two decades. The decline is particularly steep in the Northeast. New York state, which had 140,000 15 years ago, now has 96,000.

The kinds of volunteers who used to be able to cover weekday calls — farmers, shop owners, factory shift workers — are becoming as rare as a firehouse Dalmatian.

http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2005-11-06-volunteer-firefighters_x.htm

Anonymous said...

More proof that volunteers are not the answer:

http://centralny.ynn.com/content/all_news/530399/volunteer-firefighters-on-the-decline/

Anonymous said...

Wow, I thought fireman had way too much free time - look at how much they are putting in to this thread.....

Anonymous said...

In attempting to answer Mr. Chapmans first question above concerning will the state allocate the same amount of funds to the City or could the City lose some funding in the future, we must first know what the State gives the City now in Aid and how much this Aid has been reduced in the recent past.
The State Aid to Municipalities document can be found at www.budget.state.ny.us, listed under the 2011-2012 Executive Budget Documents.
This year Lockport lost 2% of its State Aid funding from $2,704,617 to $2,650,525 for a loss of $54,092 in this years budget.
So in estimating the loss of $54,092 in a 21,000,000 2011-2012 City budget, this works out to be a loss of approx.0.275% this year.
Hope this assists in answering this question for everyone.

Anonymous said...

Looking at the volunteer data I would suggest Mr. Chapman get with the leaders of the neighboring volunteer departments and see if locally there really are problems recruiting help.
I have heard the local dept's don't have any problems attracting help.

Anonymous said...

I am a public employee. I am not the problem. Wall Street made billions, crashed the economy, ruined lives and got bailed out. Average Americans followed the rules and got thrown to the wolves. Teachers, librarians, police officers, paramedics, firefighters, and others are NOT the enemy. We live here, pay taxes, work hard, and contribute to the health of the community.

Anonymous said...

The problem is how many fireman (and especially teachers) actually do live here and pay taxes?

Anonymous said...

anonymous 10:46 am

Did you find the same numbers? A 2% reduction from 2011 - 2010, a 7.15% reduction from 2010 -2009, and a 1.75% reduction from 2009 - 2008? Is it safe to assume that the City should assume a 3% reduction annually from the State?

Xavier said...

@ anon 4:31 - I don't care what they do in Boston. I DO care about what they do in Lockport and the City of Buffalo.

Anonymous said...

Need more clean up, MJ. Plenty more off-kilter attacks, personal ribbing, and logical fallacies here

Anonymous said...

i was wondering how is this helping the city. how many jobs is this creating. it seems to me that we elected the wrong guy . pat schraeder is bringing business to the city (trek and the corresponding construction work) and he was ousted in november.even after that still looks out for the city as a whole. maybe chapman should chase new business instead of deflecting his lack of new ideas by beating the same old drum.

Anonymous said...

sure pat, whatever you say....

Anonymous said...

this comitte is just so much mental mastubation. chapman has his mind made up already,just by reading the text above he has a direction he wants to go in. why bother even going to these meetings .he thinks the little people are stupid.and these firemen that work there are ignorant louts that couldnt find a job anywhere else.

Xavier said...

Jeez - if you're going to go so far as to accuse Chapman &/or everyone involved in this process (including Schrader) of doing this volunteer work so they can mastubate - at LEAST spell it right.

I'm sick of hearing how wonderful Pat Schrader is. Chapman beat him so there obviously were a lot of people in his Ward who wanted a change.

I'm not bashing Schrader - he's helped the City A LOT. But if you want to peer into his mind and methods, look at what he did after he lost. It was disgusting. It certainly wasn't the behavior of someone I want representing my City.

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