Hammond fire chief responds to independent study of department

2012-09-12T19:45:00Z Hammond fire chief responds to independent study of departmentChelsea Schneider Kirk chelsea.schneider@nwi.com, (219) 933-3241 nwitimes.com

HAMMOND | Some recommendations made in an independent report regarding operation of the city's Fire Department will have to wait until union negotiations are complete, Hammond's fire chief said Wednesday.

The report compared the department to five others across the state and found Hammond firefighters led in salaries and paid vacation time. It also recommended ways to save money in running the department, including not manning a fire engine and moving to a new pay cycle for overtime compensation.

“I think we fare well ... compared to other cities as far as rigs, manpower, vacation time and wages,” Fire Chief Jeff Smith said in his first comments on the report.

For example, Hammond firefighters receive 12 vacation days after a year, double what firefighters in three other departments receive, according to the report.

The report — conducted by Muncie-based consulting firm Waggoner, Irwin, Scheele & Associates — compared the city with departments in Anderson, East Chicago, Elkhart, Gary and Lafayette.

The report recommends removing the truck operating out of Station No. 5 from service and either closing the station or moving an ambulance there from a busier site to keep it open. Smith said the station receives a fair number of calls.

However, Smith said any decision on the station's future is dependent on daily manpower requirements negotiated in the firefighters union contract with the city. The contract is up at the end of the year, but talks between the union and the city are stalled.

Smith said he stays out of negotiations, but he hopes talks resume soon.

The city commissioned the report to study the department, which cost an estimated $16.1 million to operate this year.

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