By GABRIEL GOODWIN
Sunday Times Newspapers
ALLEN PARK — The city’s emergency manager OK’d hiring part-time firefighters to compliment the fill-time personnel and decrease overtime costs.
“The part-time personnel was hired to compliment the staff already in place,” Emergency Manager Joyce Parker said. “We are committed to staffing the department with 22 full-time firefighters, then supplementing them with the part-timers.”
Residents and council members questioned Parker about the Fire Department’s overtime costs last month and she said she needed time to implement her plan to reduce those costs. That plan is now underway, she said, with the department training three part-time firefighters and a fourth beginning training in December.
“The actual overtime costs seem skewed,” she said, “It would have been difficult to project what amount should be allocated to overtime until their contracts were completed and the city could hire part-time firefighters.”
Fire Chief Douglas LaFond said part-time personnel is something the department will have to get used to because it has been staffed with full-time personnel since the 1950s. The training for the three new hires, he said, should be complete and they can begin to be scheduled within the next two weeks.
“Mrs. Parker came to me a couple of weeks ago and told me to start hiring part-timers,” LaFond said. “It’s an angle the state is taking on to reduce overtime responsibilities and she cited places where it works.”
Part-time firefighters have been a focus for Parker’s plan to create a stable fiscal plan for the city and was agreed upon in the July 1 collective bargaining agreement between the department and the city.
“There is a certain timeframe you move forward with the implementation of a plan,” she said. “With the part-time staff, we will be able to have a situation where the costs of providing services will decrease. This is primarily because we would not be paying the same level of expense as we would if we were paying for full-time firefighters or police officers.”
All Allen Park firefighters work 24-hour shifts. The part-time firefighters’ work hours are capped at 29 hours a week, so they are limited to one full shift a week. LaFond said the difference in hours could be used for additional training.
When the part-time firefighters are fully-trained, LaFond said they would fill-in for full-time employees during vacations or extended medical leave. He said an unscheduled part-time employee would be used when a full-time employee calls off sick.
“In that regard, it will help to drop the overtime budget significantly as long as they take the hours,” he said. “They are all very ambitious people and all already have full-time employment elsewhere.”
Parker said the part-time employees were hired
based on the same qualifications as the current full-time firefighters. The department had a list of potential full-time employees, LaFond said, and the part-time staff was chosen from that list.
“They are individuals we would consider for a full-time position if and when those positions become available,” LaFond said. “Those candidates have already passed a written and a physical agility test. They have already gone through the oral board process with the department and the only thing left to do was send them for a physical, a psychological evaluation, and background check.”
LaFond said that if a part-time employee is not on the schedule for the week, he will be called before a full-time employee if someone calls in sick.
Parker said there are still a number of other changes being implemented throughout the city to cut expenses. Monday marks the reopening of City Hall during the lunch hour, she said, to allow residents better access to the city. The decision was made over reopening on Fridays because Parker said the feedback, from surveys completed by high school students, to have City Hall open during lunch was a staggering.
She plans to replace the five full-time police officers and have them trained before she moves forward with hiring new, part-time officers, which she expects to be complete around the beginning of 2014.
(Gabriel Goodwin can be reached at [email protected])