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Fire Department request could mean better eye on budget

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SHIRLEY — A discussion between Finance Committee Chairman Cheryl Hayden and town administrator Kyle Keady took place regarding the Fire Department’s $12,000 budget line item for on-call firefighters.

The result was reported by Hayden at the committee’s regularly scheduled meeting on Monday.

At a previous meeting, fire Chief Dennis Levesque was questioned about a transfer request to fund on-call firefighters pay for the remainder of this year. Levesque said the budget has been level-funded at $12,000 for several years as determined by Keady.

The Fire Department has exceeded the budgeted amount for at least three years. The only way to fund the on-call employees’ pay after the $12,000 was expended, Levesque said, was to request a transfer at that time.

The conversation sparked concern with committee members who agreed that increasing the line item may be a better way to handle the situation.

”(Keady) feels that (Levesque) is not managing (the on-call budget) adequately,” Hayden said.

If the Finance Committee recommends increasing the line item, Hayden said Keady feels Levesque should be told that he will have to manage with $15,000, eliminating an allowance for future funding requests.

”I tend to agree with him that there needs to be better management of (on-call hours),” Hayden said.

All on-call officers are alerted when there is an alarm, and there are no restrictions in place to limit the number of firefighters that arrive at the scene of an emergency.

”(Levesque’s) response has always been, ‘You have to plan for the worst,’” said Hayden. “We have no idea whether we’re spending too much or not.”

However, if there were an emergency situation, Hayden said, “You don’t want to have to wait for more people to show up.”

”(Levesque) should put up some guidelines, and keep track of spending so they know better,” said member Michael Smith.

”Currently,” Hayden said, “there’s evidently no guidelines at all.”

It would be helpful to find out how other town’s fire departments manage their on-call resources, she said.

”I don’t know the answer,” she said, “but it’s not the current way.”

Regardless, $12,000 is still proposed for on-call wages, according to the latest copy of Shirley’s fiscal year 2007 budget.

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