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Town weighs options for firefighter staffing issues
Council Chairman John Farrell said the town currently spends about $17 million of the town's $28 million operating budget on public safety in general, which encompasses the fire, police and public works budgets.
Fire Chief Darren O'Brien said the fire department currently has four battalions and firefighters have been working a 42-hour workweek since 2008, when voters approved a contract that included a workweek reduction from 48 hours.
Farrell wondered whether hiring more firefighters would prove more cost-efficient in the long run.
Councilors said it would cost approximately $100,000 per firefighter to fund salary, benefits and training.
"My quick assessment is that looking at the parameters we're working in, the 42-hour work week schedule combined with each firefighter's accrued time and the 10-person per shift staffing requirement, that's what's been causing the overtime spike since 2009," Smith said, noting that over the past five years the town has spent about $2.5 million on fire overtime.
Farrell said he's been in touch with a state fire commissioner and was told that a 42-hour workweek wasn't advisable for the very reasons stated by the town manager.
Further discussions on fire staffing and budget options, followed by a final vote on the town warrant, will take place during the Jan. 20 Town Council firstname.lastname@example.org
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