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July 4, 2013

Council presses mayor for fire funds

After hearing the suspenseful story of one resident’s 12 minute wait for a city ambulance, Gloucester’s city councilors are formally urging the mayor to provide extra funds to the Fire Department that would open the outlier stations full-time.

A unanimous vote at a special meeting Tuesday night asked the mayor to fund Bay View station enough to immediately open it full-time through the fiscal year. A second vote, with only one councilor dissenting, asked the mayor to request the funds to open the long-closed Magnolia Station full-time starting in January.

Councilor Paul McGeary said he voted in opposition to show his disapproval of the emergency handling, believing the vote should have followed the normal process, waiting for another meeting.

The emergency declaration, McGeary said, could send off the impression that the council was “the boys who cry wolf.”

“I was concerned that by using that essentially parliamentary fiction that it could be misinterpreted to say there is a public safety emergency,” McGeary said. “My objection was not to funding full staffing at the fire stations. It was that we were doing it on an emergency basis.”

Mayor Carolyn Kirk signed a contract with the Fire Department last month that would reorganize the staffing, allowing stations to open full time by the start of a new fiscal year on July 1, 2014. Fire Chief Eric Smith said the delayed swap over allows time to figure out some kinks and additional overtime funding would serve the city better than a rush to the new set up.

Smith estimated that in order for the fire department to open Bay View full time, the city would need to wrangle up to $800,000 for overtime pay. Come January, adding Magnolia Station to the full time open list, would require another $400,000 chunk of cash.

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