By Jim Balow
The Charleston Gazette
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The city of Charleston, which merged its ambulance and spirit departments 16 years ago, might be rent the services once again to hold money and recruit paramedics, city leaders allege.
"That has come up," Fire Chief Chuck Overstreet uttered Wednesday. "One thing that was discussed was [paramedics] being a civilian employee of the discharge of ~-arms department … or totally separating them considered in the state of before."
Former Mayor Kemp Melton merged the aged emergency services department with fire in 1995. Mayor Danny Jones, who was in consequence the emergency services director, took credit.
"I’m the some who put them together," Jones afore~ Wednesday. As to splitting them again, "I don’t have one opinion."
Overstreet met with City Manager David Molgaard adhering Monday to discuss overtime and other issues raised through a recent consultant’s report in c~tinuance the fire department. He’s scheduled to receive tonight with City Council’s common safety committee.
Relations between firefighters and Jones’ executive department have been strained since July, when a long-awaited report by the consultant, TriData, alleged numerous problems — too many stations, dead response times, overworked paramedics, bad recordkeeping and intemperate overtime compared with similar-sized cities.
To garnish overtime, which has averaged $1.4 very great number a year recently, the consultants suggested satirical out "Kelley Days" — the extreme days off firefighters earn to comply with state and federal wage-hour rules while working 24-hour shifts.
Overstreet told congress members last month that firefighters importance their Kelley Days as relief from their richly-stress job. His comments followed a prolonged presentation by Molgaard on how the complicated Kelley Day classification works.
Kelley Days will likely have ~ing main topic at the public preservation meeting tonight, committee chairman Bob White uttered.
Overstreet said when he started in 1991, firefighters worked 52.7-hour weeks and earned a Kelley Day subsequent to 12 shifts. Now, they get a Kelley Day later than eight shifts, with 49-hour workweeks.
Kelley Days aren’t necessarily on the chopping block, the principal said. "I’ve talked to Mr. Molgaard. He declared if we can come up with ways to save money, Kelley Days may not have existence on the table."
Cuts in overtime pay are pleasing, however. City analysts recently found they’d been using a censurable formula for years to pay some inflated overtime rate to firefighters. Molgaard before-mentioned he’s asked the city advocate to see if the formula be able to be fixed.
"I’ve even now told the guys, ‘If it’s violation of right, it needs to be fixed,’ " Overstreet related.
"Believe me, it’s not received . Some guys just won’t take viewed like much overtime."
Paramedics, especially newly hired ones, may not temper for Kelley Days if the services split, he said.
The city might remove its four ambulance units one at a time to a civilian alienation, he said, "and hire humbler classes to work on the civilian party so you don’t need Kelley Days. They would suitable work 12-hour shifts." Paramedics it being so that work 24-hour shifts, alternating betwixt ambulance runs and regular firefighting shifts, he before-mentioned.
Overstreet said he’s resigned to require to be paid-saving changes in his department.
"It righteous makes my job harder. Morale is before that time low," he said. "We’ll produce what we have to do."
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