By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
RIVERVIEW – Residents continue to express concern about timely equipment replacement and inadequate staffing for high-level EMS responders while collective bargaining agreement talks continue with AFSCME Council 25 Local 3667.
The fire department, which budgets for and hires part time workers, has reportedly found it challenging to provide consistent staffing for all shifts.
Mayor Andrew Swift said at the Oct. 17 City Council meeting that on the whole the mayor and council members do support the firefighters and EMTs.
“We know they do a great job, and always have, and will continue to do so, and we appreciate the work they do,” Swift said. “We also acknowledge that we are having staffing issues at the department. We are working on correcting those issues, and trying to resolve them in an expedient way.”
He said there was an issue with a private ambulance company earlier in the week where there was miss-communication between dispatchers and the private ambulance company.
“We do not do business with that ambulance company,” Swift said, “but I appreciate somebody pointing it out, because we can put a process in place for us to use to make sure that doesn’t happen. There was some indication that there was an ambulance on site when there wasn’t one.”
Swift said he met with Chief Clifford Rosebohm and City Manager Doug Drysdale this week.
“They have assured us that there are no major issues with the equipment we have,” Swift said. “There were two out of 20 air packs that were out for repair, so as far as I know there is no defective equipment or unsafe equipment at the fire department that are causing safety issues that I am aware of.”
Resident Linda Wilson said her husband has been a Riverview firefighter for 38 years and he takes his job very seriously. She said her son is also a firefighter, and it upsets her when comments at the meeting the week before made it sound like all the firefighters were leaving work earlier during the collective bargaining process.
“You have a lot of very good firefighters there,” Wilson said. “And for everyone in the city to think that because of negotiations that they are not doing their job, not taking it seriously, I don’t think that is right.”
Wilson suggested that Swift continue to look closely at issues affecting the fire department.
“I want to thank you for the safety of my husband and the citizens of Riverview,” Wilson said.
Swift said that the city will get through the negotiating process, and the fire department will be better because of it.
Councilman Elmer Trombley noted that the council does not negotiate the agreement, but merely ratifies what the chief and city manager negotiate with the collective bargaining unit.
Resident Tammy Malo said the fire department staffing level is down 25 percent from 2014.
“We are 25 percent lacking in firefighters and EMTs,” Malo said. “We need to do something to build that fire department back up.”
Malo said employees are not calling in sick because of negotiations, but there are not enough employees in the department.
Rosebohm said they are ten people short through attrition, but it is difficult to maintain people during the interview process. He said they have been actively recruiting since Jan. 2016.
Swift said hiring will be a lot easier once a contract has been negotiated. He also urged any firefighter who needs personal protective equipment to report the need to the deputy chief.
(Sue Suchyta can be reached at [email protected])