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Montpelier firefighters fight staff cut

Montpelier Fire Station
Montpelier Fire Station
City of Montpelier

Firefighters are urging Montpelier residents to oppose City Manager William Fraser's proposed budget that results in eliminating one firefighter.

Fraser said that the person on the chopping block is retiring and that the city will simply not fill that position.

But according to a flyer circulated by Firefighter Jacob Larrabee, "The loss of this position will not only result in a reduction of current services the department provides, but will limit the ability to respond to simultaneous calls resulting in delayed responses or relying on mutual aid in addition to putting our residents and firefighters at risk."

The flyer, paid for by the Montpelier Career Firefighters IAFF Local 2287, says that the cost of keeping this firefighter position filled will increase the tax rate by just two-thirds of one cent.

That's for an entry-level firefighter presumably making about $35,000 a year plus benefits, for a total taxpayer cost of about $55,000 a year. One-cent on the property tax rate generates $83,150 in revenue.

That's assuming the firefighter doesn't work any overtime.

The retiring firefighter is Mark Tillinghast. According to the 2012 Montpelier annual report, Tillinghast was paid a salary of $62,120.

Setting the cost aside, firefighters are arguing that call volume has continued to increase at a rate of 3 percent a year, yet staffing is now at the lowest in the history of the department.

"By not filling this spot," Larrabee said, "it will be one more night shift that we are staffed below (National Fire Protection Association) national minimum standards."

Doing so means potentially longer response times.

Larrabee said that the current response time is three minutes in Montpelier. With one less firefighter, responding to multiple calls could force Montpelier to rely on mutual aid, which means a 12 minute response time.

Firefighters are asking Montpelier residents write or call city councilors and Mayor John Hollar, and to tell them to keep the firefighters.

The City Council will be holding its first public hearing on the fiscal year 2014 budget on Wednesday January 9.

Source: "Montpelier Firefighters Fight Staff Cut." Voice of Montpelier. Jan. 7, 2013.

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