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November 20, 2012

Mayor, chief eye plan to open stations

Mayor Carolyn Kirk and first-year Fire Chief Eric Smith have hashed out a plan that they hope will allow the city to open its outskirts fire stations more frequently through both a reorganization and allocating of city money to the Fire Department.

Kirk, in a letter to city councilors dated Monday, laid out a funding proposal for their review and approval, suggesting the city use some of the $4.8 million in “free cash” funds, Gloucester’s surplus fiscal 2012 revenue, to fill one new position within the department, to allocate $46,000 in overtime pay for firefighters, increasing the fiscal year overtime line item to $200,000, and by creating a “rainy day” fund for the department with another $200,000 to be used in increments as the year advances.

The entire proposal comes at a time when City Councilors are pushing Kirk to create a comprehensive plan for allocating the millions of dollars in “free cash” before requesting funds. Kirk wrote, however, that this funding request was expedited to satisfy another request by city councilors: to open the stations in West Gloucester, Bay View and Magnolia more frequently and more consistently.

“It is important to note that we are trending in the right direction in terms of stations being open with greater frequency, and our goal is to ensure this happens in a sustainable manner,” Kirk wrote.

Fire Chief Smith said that while the extra funding would help keep the stations staffed, the money will not be enough to fund full-time coverage at all stations for the full fiscal year, which runs through June 30. While Central Station and West Gloucester were staffed, the nightly city emergency reported indicated that Bay View and Magnolia stations were once again closed Tuesday night. The Magnolia station has rarely been open since the fall of 2011.

“The hope’s that we’ll open stations in the outskirts more frequently, but this certainly won’t open them consistently every day. Unfortunately, it’s not nearly enough funding to do that,” Smith said. “We’re going to try to be a little more strategic and tactical with staffing up ... but to try to keep Bay View open as much as possible with the budget.”

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