CLARKSBURG -- Fire chief Rick Scott said Friday he is unhappy with a directive to reduce the fire department's minimum shift staffing requirement, while city manager Tom Vidovich said the action is needed to keep the department within its budget.
Scott said he received a letter from Vidovich dated Oct. 25, which directed him to cut the minimum staff level for a shift from 11 to 10. Scott added he was planning to implement the change at the beginning of next week, after consulting with department officers.
"We can't safely cover a city this size with 10 people," Scott said. "The National Fire Protection Association standard recommends 14 people on first alarm response. For years, we have covered the city with 11. At times, it's been difficult."
Clarksburg firefighters cover the city, seven schools, including Lincoln High School in Shinnston and the FBI Center as well. Normal response for a car wreck is one engine and a rescue truck, and an engine, rescue truck and a pumper for a wreck with entrapment, Scott said. He added six firefighters are required for a first alarm response to the FBI Center.
"One person may not seem like a big issue, but it's a team effort," he said. "We are stretched thin and spread out over a wide area. It will be a major operational change."
Scott added he wanted to take the matter before city council. In a conference session preceding the Oct. 19. meeting, members agreed to leave it to the discretion of the city manager. Mayor David Kates and councilman Jim Hunt were not present.
Vidovich said Friday he had previously asked Scott to offer an alternative to reduce the department's overtime spending.
"We spent approximately $128,000 last year in overtime and the city cannot afford that," Vidovich said. "At the first of October, which was 25 percent of the fiscal year, he had spent just short of 40 percent of the overtime for the year.
"He did not come up with an alternative proposal so we could live within the budget."
Vidovich added the department could call in firefighters in the event of a fire, adding the city of Beckley operates with a minimum of nine firefighters per shift. Scott contends the department would still be undermanned on first alarm response.
"I would think there would be other areas to cut," Scott said. "You're cutting public safety."
Staff writer Shawn Gainer can be reached at 626-1442 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.