ANOTHER SESSION THURSDAY

Police, Fire Budget Examination by Huntington Council

Updated 37 weeks ago by Tony E. Rutherford, News Editor
Police, Fire Budget Examination by Huntington Council

Huntington City Council held a marathon budget hearing on Thursday, March 9, as the municipal governing body revisited the Huntington Police budget and studied the Huntington Fire Department projections. The result: A session in one week -- Thursday, March 16 @ 5 pm to consider challenges created by council's addition of police officers and a proposal to add at least two firefighters (or pay the match for a proposed grant that would rehire seven firefighters).

No reductions were proposed; these requests come from intra departmental line item shifts.

Near the conclusion of the meeting, chairman Mark Bates posed an observation to interim fire chief Jan Rader --- Should the pension amount not have been increased by the state for a longer life span, no firefighters would have been laid off.

"Yes," Rader said.

Police, Fire Budget Examination by Huntington Council

Currently, HFD has 88 firefighters, which often leaves two apparatus not in use for lack of personnel during each shift.

To bring back the laid off firefighters, the Department has applied for a SAFER grant which would fund their salaries and costs for a tiered period. An increase of two firefighters would enable the department to not have any truck down. A proposal later in the meeting would reconfigure unscheduled overtime to rehire at least two firefighters, which would cut to one the apparatus' not staffed.

However, the Mayor warned that the budget is already bare, which set up Rader having until next week to determine if the moving of money within the department would be workable.

Despite the staffing cuts, the city recently received a "class one" rating on fire response, which is comparable to cities such as New York and Cincinnati. Charleston is the only other WV city with the rating.

The 88 staffing level leaves the department vulnerable to safety issues, especially when two fires occur at nearly the same time.

Under a one dispatch scenario, firefighters arrive in four minutes to 56.6% of city roads. For entry to a structure, a safety standard requires "two in and two out" which under a 22 and 28 strength department qualifies 28.7% of the city.

However, the circumstance alter should a second call occur concurrently. The type of dispatch determines response, so Rader could not hypothetically estimate a two dispatch scenario.

She did explain that for overdose calls an ambulance, police and fire apparatus are sent. The HFD has the best trained responders to administer life saving efforts in a fast manner, she said.

Meanwhile, council received additional input from the administration and the Huntington Police Department concerning a council proposal to rehire five officers.

Councilman Charles McComas told Mayor Williams and Chief Joe Ciccarelli he "would like to see a captain on every shift," instead of five assigned to day and one called out for overtime when an incident dictates. Williams said the captains would have to maintain their day responsibilities.

Williams advised that the legislative body does not normally make line item decisions, suggesting that council raise the number of authorized police officers by five and leave the day-to-day to the chief and Mayor He repeatedly suggested that a referral to the Public Safety Committee be made, but everyone agreed to bring specifics to the newly scheduled hearing next Thursday.

During discussion of police cruisers and vehicles, a question came up on the number of vehicles taken home by officers.

Councilman McComas asked Ciccarelli to repeat his response which was "sixty."

Clark requested a list of cars driven home and why for the Thursday meeting.

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