Consultant: Portland ME Should Hire More Firefighters

An outside report cites inadequate staffing in some areas of the Portland (ME) Fire Department, reports the Portland Press Herald.

The nearly 170 recommendations include 13 to rein in overtime spending, which topped $1.8 million last year.

Portland has significantly more firefighters than other cities of its size, but the report says the city could reduce overtime expenses by as much as 80 percent if it hired 40 to 50 more firefighters.

Other recommendations include providing training and doing administrative tasks during regular work hours, rather than on overtime.

Public Safety Solutions Inc. of Maryland was paid $39,000 for its top-down review of the department, which has a $16 million budget this year. It delivered a draft of its findings to the city on March 10. The Press Herald filed a Freedom of Access Act request for the draft report on Friday, and the city released it Wednesday.

City spokeswoman Nicole Clegg said the city withheld the draft report so technical errors could be corrected. The errors did not change the recommendations, she said.

The City Council is scheduled to meet with the consultant to discuss the findings of the review, which was done in January and February, at 5:30 p.m. Monday at City Hall. No public comment will be taken, but Clegg said the city plans a 30- to 60-day comment period.

The study was commissioned in part to address overtime costs and determine whether staffing has kept pace with the reality that three-quarters of the department’s calls are now for emergency medical services, not fires.

John Brooks, president of the firefighters union, said he has reviewed the report but does not want to speak about it publicly until it is presented to the council.

The 523-page report is highly technical. It is expected to help with strategic planning, but it doesn’t appear to give city officials any quick or easy answers for addressing issues in the department.

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