Sunday, March 28, 2010

Resolution to the Kingston Common Council - Converting one fire station from paid to volunteer & Elimination of non-emergency calls

Kingston needs Budget Reduction and Tax Reduction. 

Toward that Goal,

I submitted the following resolution / letter to the Common Council.  To the Common Council, we
the citizens of Kingston deserve and look forward to an up or down vote on this by the aldermen of the Common Council.

February 17, 2010

Mr. James Noble


Kingston, NY 12401

Subject: Resolution to the Kingston Common Council (Finance Committee)

Prepare Plans for

1) Converting one fire station from paid to volunteer and

2) Elimination of non-emergency calls from Kingston Fire Dept. duties


I have had several discussions with 3rd ward alderman, Charlie Landi about the need to seriously reduce city spending to prepare Kingston for the present hard times and for the future where lowest taxed areas will be the place new jobs will be located.

Kingston needs to substantially reduce the expense of its fire budget. The City of Kingston with a population of less than 25,000 has a fire budget (including building dept.) of in excess of $7 Million. It appears that there is the potential to reduce the Kingston fire budget by doing two things. 1) Convert one fire station from paid to volunteer. The savings would be in the paid manpower that is no longer needed at the converted fire station. The manpower could be reduced via buyouts and attrition. The city and firefighter’s union would have to open the contract where necessary to accommodate these changes. 2) Eliminate non-emergency calls from the Kingston Fire Dept. duties. The saving would be in manpower time and vehicle usage expenses.

The city should begin the process of creating a vibrant volunteer spirit to man the converted paid fire station. The goal would be to create the kind of excellent volunteer fire station in the city that now exists in the Town of Ulster. Several factors, which contribute to the success of the main Ulster Hose Station, are 1) special retirement incentives, 2) brotherhood, sisterhood environment 3) comfortable station with amenities (food, coffee, papers), 4) sports teams, 5) family days, 6) open to 16, 17, 18 year olds, 7) service awards, and other creative ideas. With leadership, this type of volunteer station could be created at one of the paid fire stations in Kingston.

Please support the subject resolution to give the council and mayor some added leverage when negotiating with the paid firefighters union and to help us avoid a disastrous budget in 2011.

Thank you,

Ralph C. Mitchell

cc: Charles Landi, Chairman of Financial & Economic Development Committee


Anonymous said...

Good letter Ralph. Politically speaking now that the union is not in bed with Sottile it might get a fair hearing. Practically speaking at least one house is not in the mix. Ah wicks owns its property outright and is a corporation. So whic of the remaining two stations will be on the chopping block? Excelsior already had to move to wicks station. I don't see Rapid Hose or Cordts closing up. If you make them you'll see every one of those men and women quit and move to Ulster Hose, Port Ewen, Esopus. The fire service is a brotherhood and when sh!t hits the fan everybody can work to gether in a general way. That said there is great pride in individual stations and companies and you will just not get them to give up those copanies infavor of one volunteer station. Bwesides that the vol stations don't cost practically anything to run. I mean, they get nothing as it is.

Maybe the answer is to slowly include some volunteer personnel at paid stations or make a rule that says when a paid station needs mutual aid or an "order back" for overtime, first dibs go to the volunteers of Kingston rather than to Ulster Hose, Spring Lake or in the case of ot to some paid firefighter who will be paid at an overtime rate. That would be a real money saver.

An other political consideration. It would be great to have KFD only respond to ALS medical calls, but it will never happen. As long as society and insurance companies and medicaid ect identify drunks and drug addicts and mentally disabled people in group homes as VICTIMS, nobody is going to risk the ACLU lawsuit that would come if that poor victim should fall and crack his skull while he's engaging in the behavior he chose to behave in... and KFD fails to respond. No politician republican or democrat will risk that. It just won't happen. These people are golden gooses who generate lots of income for the private and government agencies who care for them. They will maintain their victim status at all costs believe me! And while they're victims, they must be served. No judgment can be made between the person who is experiencing chest pains or simptoms of asthma on one hand and the girl in the group home who is screaming her head off and has her handlers retreating into a corner on the other hand. Both of these "victims" need the same treatment in the current political environment. Regardless of the fact that the cardiac patient or asthmatic could not help his condition and might die if not helped, and the chick in the group home could have just taken her evening meds like she was supposed to. Besides the people who run these groups homes are trained to restrain the really violent residents or students, and after that they usually do take their night time meds.

Ralph Mitchell said...

To 2:02pm,

Thanks for your posting. Maybe you misunderstood me. I am proposing the conversion of either
the Uptown Paid station, Central Station or the Downtown Paid station to a station covered by volunteers only (including retired KFD people also).

Also, Ulster Hose only responds to Tier 1 emergency calls. They do not respond to non-emergency EMS calls. Therefore, if the City of Kingston budget gets tight enough (which is it is now) then it will not be too long before KFD no longer goes to non-emergency calls.

Anonymous said...

How can we save money by the DPW doing less but not save by the Fire Dept doing less? The ambulance companies who follow the Fire truck get paid to bring people to the hospital.

Anonymous said...

Yes, 704 but as the FF Carpino stated online some time ago, we can't have it both ways. Years ago people complained that the firemen do nothing in between actual fire emergencies. So, they started answering these medical calls. I don't like that they do it, but Carpino was 100% correct.

Firefighters are there to serve us when "it" hits the fan.

If a municipality has a paid department at all, then the money is well-spent -even if there is "down time." It's really like an insurance policy. Now, if you have a volunteer department that is provided with a few community-level perks like a symbolic few dollars per call or a paid driver or a pension contribution or something else, that is different.

These men risk death for a living when it comes to actually fighting fires and confronting other hazards. If they aren't busy at ever moment of every shift, get over it.

Ralph Mitchell said...

Last night (April 21), I discussed my Resolution / Letter with the members of Charlie Landi's Finance Committee. Also present was Fire Chief Rick Salzmann. The points made by Rick were that in today's society it was difficult to recruit and maintain an adequate number of volunteers. My rebuttal was that in the Town of Ulster, their excellent volunteer Ulster Hose Company was very successful recruiting and maintaining volunteers by creating a sense of belonging and a family atmosphere for the volunteers. Also, Ulster Hose offers retirement incentives for the volunteer firemen. Charlie Landi said my letter had good points which they will discuss further.

Anonymous said...

Great work you are doing, Ralph! Thank you for your work on behalf of the tax payer and citizen in Kingston. I suggest that you not only focus on your alderman, but approach other alderman and women who might be just as sympathetic or even more sympathetic than Charlie on this issue. I know the finance people are the ones who would suggest the closing of a fire house so they're the logical first stop but don't let your efforts end with them.

That said, the idea of volunteers will never take off again in Kingston... For such a small city where people claim to know everybody and their families and friends for endless generations going back, unions and fed/state interests outside the city control everything in this town. Truth be told, you give the vols something as a retirement contribution/pension, the union will flip! They can't go for any kind of real training because the state courses are being cut so training money goes only for paid guys. Try altering that equation and the union will flip! Put a couple of vols on a shift with paid members when overtime shifts become avalable and the union will flip! Have vols who are trained emts go on medicals instead of paid members, the union will flip! Have a combined paid/vol shift during third shift andor weekends when most of the vols are available for service and the union will flip! Train and make vols do fire related tasks that the union has historically not wanted to do and the union will flip!

Not to mention that the volunteers are their own worst enemy and people see that. arsonists in the past, firemen with certified disabilities, vol companies that don't get along even when they really need to out in public. Coming out for parades in street clothes and mismatched uniforms-uniform compnents while the paid guys march in formation in their Class A's. Not having events and fundraisers and just being a positive presence in the neighborhoods where their stations are. It all adds up.

To say that "my great grand uncle was a member of Cordts" or "Chief So-and-So started as a vol in Wicks" means nothing anymore if you are not willing to show these companies the respect they deserve by giving them the opportunity to serve that their brothers of past generations had. Even if the tasks they are performing are different because times change.. In fact the more you refuse to attract them with good incentives and train them and use them..... the more you let let unions bully you into not using resources to bring them and keep them up to speed and make them look good doing their duty..... What you are really doing is dishonoring your relatives who were past volunteers and making a laughing stock of them and those paid members who got their start as vols!!!!!

Make sure the next mayor who negotiates the next KPFFA contract does so in a way that establishs a volunteer component as a stable regular part of one united Kingston Fire Department. That can and would cut into that $7mil fire budget and bring it closer to Ulster's 1 mil.

If you don't do that then you just prove my point and you deserve whjatever you get.

But to you Ralph, THANK YOU! You are at least putting up a strong fight.

Anonymous said...

Volunteers can't even get it together amngst themselves. They go racing around all over town for what? To get called back to the station. Big joke!!! That's what they are. Didn't use to be like that in the old days but these are not the old days. There just a bunch of wannabes now. We pay good money for a service provided by the city and that's what we get. Even if they go on a lot of uselss calls that amount to nothing more than cover-your-ass kind of calls. So what? Just make sure they come to put out the flames if my house's on fire.

Ralph Mitchell said...

To 12:46 am,
Good comments, but I keep coming back to the Ulster Hose Volunteer operation on Ulster Avenue. We all drive past this success story often. This is America. This Ulster Hose operation could be duplicated at one of our Kingston Paid stations, reducing paid manpower by 1/3 and saving our city residents about $2 Million every year. I say we go for it. Make it happen!