Our Rebuttal To The Watertown Daily Times Article:

This is our rebuttal to the Watertown Daily Times article written on 09/23/18 below. This is also the reason why the Watertown Fire Department has to have a minimum of 15 men on staff. WDT parts are in parenthesis. We decided to put it on our website due to the way Facebook and others render the text. We wanted to reiterate that we are not anti-Watertown Police Department, and this is not a W.F.D. vs W.P.D., but pointing out the FACTS that WDT, the former council, former city manager, and the current mayor seem to forget and leave out of conversations. Everything in italics is from their article.

I’m going to start this out by pointing out, there is NO writer listed for the article by the Watertown Daily Times. This is very unusual for Watertown Daily Times. So, you should ask yourself this question, why are they hiding who they are. Is it the WDT CEO John B. Johnson? Is it one of his reporters? Or is it someone else, maybe the mayor is ghostwriting or maybe it’s the former city manager or one of the former city council members. Look at all of their stories, they don’t hide who they are, but this one does. I question if it’s a true WDT reporter since this article makes it sound as if they are writing as an outsider by referring to the WDT as a 3rd person.(“The grant would pay 75 percent of the salaries and benefits for the additional four firefighters for the first two years of the three-year grant and 35 percent during the third year,” according to a story published Monday by the Watertown Daily Times. “The four firefighters would each be hired at a base salary of $44,799. Out of the overall $44.3 million city budget, $8.8 million is appropriated to the Fire Department.”)

Let’s open this line by stating the obvious; no one ever mentions that the Watertown Police Departments' budget is just as high. Yet no one will mention the obvious elephant in the room. WDT points out how high the Watertown Fire Departments' amount of the budget here, (For perspective, the $8.8 million allocation to the Fire Department represents nearly 20 percent of the city’s total budget.) Yet fails to mention that W.P.D.’s amount is [these numbers are 100% from the Watertown City Budget] Police 19.29% $8,666,269 Fire 19.72% $8,775,258 a Difference of .43% or $108,989. Yet the WDT makes you believe that no other department’s budget is as high as the W.F.D., yet W.P.D. is as high with fewer members, the department is staffed with 65 sworn officers and W.F.D. has 68 members. This is the actual 2018-2019 budgets own numbers, W.P.D. 110 Salaries 194,085, 130 Wages 4,360,795, 150 Overtime 325,000, W.F.D. 110 Salaries 181,836, 130 Wages 3,994,124, 150 Overtime 760,000. So, the Watertown taxpayers are paying more, for less manpower for W.P.D., and overtime is quite high for W.P.D., and no one says a word and W.F.D. is so high because of a shortage of manpower.

Why is it that the WDT, the mayor, and former council members and city manager always talks about control of personnel as a way to cut cost with W.F.D., yet doesn’t mention W.P.D.? (If members of the Watertown City Council vote next month to accept a Staffing for an Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant from the federal government, would that be an indication that they’re giving up on the effort to control personnel costs when it comes to the Fire Department?)

WDT thinks your life is worthless based upon their writings. Maybe they don’t value your life, or frankly their own, but I value my life, my family’s lives, and everyone else’s lives. How can you put a price on a life and say that the W.F.D. costs more than any other department? (The department has 68 members; hiring new firefighters with the grant will raise this number to 72. Compared to fire departments in similarly sized municipalities, Watertown ranks among the highest in per-capita costs. Many of these communities maintain public safety with fewer firefighters. This is not a recent phenomenon. According to a story published May 7, 1993, by the Watertown Daily Times, the city’s Fire Department “costs every man, woman, and child living in the city more than any comparable city in New York state, a study commissioned by the City Council shows.”) I also find it funny how these studies are conducted by people who have no formal fire training and are clueless to many, many factors of EACH city and the departments can make any assumption that the WDT thinks is the gospel?

The reason why W.F.D. manpower is less is because the former city manager had been on a mission to deplete their numbers every year and did a good job at it for ABSOLUTELY no reason at all. It had nothing to do with the minimum manning clause, but her way of reducing the size of the department year after year till it was gone. (According to the minimum-manning formula, Watertown should have at least 15 firefighters on duty at all times. The number of firefighters employed by the department has declined over the past few years due, in part, to attrition.)

So, I guess the mayor is calling fire Chief Herman a liar, that’s a wee bit nervy of someone who has a constant record of being a liar to everyone in the city as the mayor. Let Mr. Butler say directly to chief Herman’s face that he’s a liar, maybe chief Herman will be a gentleman and walk away, me I’d punch Butler in his face. (And Mayor Joseph M. Butler Jr. doubts some of the figures that Mr. Herman offered. The city’s costs for health benefits for all firefighters increase about 4 percent annually, he said — and the same would apply to new hires.)

They talk about the history of the contract negotiations, but not with the two new council members or a new city manager. I guess they forgot about the last election and the firing of the former city manager, and they thought it would be status quo. (It’s tempting to believe that accepting this federal money would obligate the city to employ these four new firefighters for just a brief time. But when you review the history of contract negotiations, it’s not that simple. The city would need to maintain the same number of firefighters for the three years that the grant is applied. And during that time frame, it’s very likely that a settlement will be reached on a new contract.)

Bravo, the writer actually had a moment of brain use on this one. Of course, the W.F.D. union won’t consider dropping any more members or the minimum manning clause. Minimum manning isn’t just a number of people; it’s what gets the damn job done with the absolute fewest members without someone getting hurt. W.F.D. is below even the NFPA’s recommended amount of staffing. (There is no reason to believe that union negotiators would accept in the pending agreement a drop in the number of firefighters once the grant expires. So, to accept this money now would be to ensure this level of Fire Department personnel remains intact for the duration of the next contract. It’s a clear message that the minimum-manning clause is no longer an issue.)

Actually, only the former council, the former city manager, and the mayor were so adamant about scaling back the W.F.D. cost. (This would continue to raise department costs in the near future, a problem the city has been trying to reverse. If this number of firefighters is mandated in the next contract, how difficult will it be for officials to scale it back in future agreements to control costs?)

What about the personnel expenses of the W.P.D.? Or is it they can use the old boogeyman in the closest scare tactic of without the W.P.D. the city would turn into Detroit. Yet Detroit has a ton of police and yet it’s not helping them out, is it? (Accepting the grant may save the city on overtime costs in the short term. But it won’t address the primary issue of reducing personnel expenses in the long run.)

Now I am really thinking this was ghost-written because they quote the former managers lie here. (Watertown will face a severe loss of revenue once the hydroelectric contract with National Grid expires in 2029. This money has been used for years to help balance the budget. With increasing capital expenses on the horizon, sustaining a Fire Department with this number of personnel will not be possible.) Do they seriously think that the city won’t be able to sell any electricity to National Grid in 2029? I call BS on that one, National Grid will be still buying the electricity, and honestly, why are we talking about something 10 years down the road as if it’s going to happen tomorrow? Because. It’s another boldface lying scare tactic. If it’s that scary and bad, why is the city government putting all that money into the hydroelectric plant if it’s not going to make a dime on it?

The writer tries to make out that the city government had the idea of going to a 24-hour shift when in fact it was the fire department’s idea. And where do they think that ending the minimum manning will end over time? What, by not having members on duty at all? Are you trying to stupidly suggest a volunteer department for the city? (This is why it’s essential for city officials to regain control of employee costs in the next fire contract. One way to accomplish this goal would be to renew conversations about having firefighters work 24-hour shifts. Eliminating the minimum-manning clause could reduce the department’s overtime without having to add new firefighters.)

It’s not waving a white flag of surrender; it’s called using your brains and realizing the value of the W.F.D.. (Most members of the council, however, have demonstrated that they want to wave a white flag and end the fight with the fire union. This will wind up costing the city much more down the road than they realize, and future councils will be left to deal with out-of-control expenses.)

What will the city be like with no fire department in 10 or 20 years? It won’t exist because one fire will wipe out everything in the city. But why should they care anyway, their newspaper will be dead by then, gone the way of the dinosaurs. (What will Watertown’s finances look like in 10 to 20 years? Accepting the SAFER grant will be a disastrous sign that council members simply don’t care. At nearly 20 percent of the city’s budget and growing, the Fire Department will consume an even greater portion of the budget.) And the W.P.D.’s budget is just as high and was in fact higher last year than the W.F.D.’s budget and no one ever says a word against the sacred cow.

Why has no one brought up the fact that the SAFER grant is awarded every year? There are several fire departments in New York State that have applied for the grant every year and awarded the grant each time, and one of those departments is seeking the grant again this year. The SAFER grant could be awarded every year here, as well, and that would help, but let me reiterate that no fire department - volunteer or paid - should ever have to BEG for money to afford to operate at the staffing capacity and proper equipment it needs in order to do their job safely, effectively, and expediently. This is something the city has failed to see, again and again, or they have seen it, and just continue to ignore it. Either way, nothing gets done the way it needs to regarding the fire department. In the meantime, each call the fire department goes on without adequate manpower and adequate equipment is another call that has increased risk of injury or fatality. This is something the city doesn’t seem to care about at all. After all, their motto regarding the fire department is that people are expendable, and their lives mean nothing to them. In the City's mind, as long as they themselves can afford their own pay raises, their own fancy houses, their own fancy cars, and their own fancy vacations, another person's life doesn't matter at all, nor does another person's property.

Is this writer braindead or what? We had an election to remove the council who were against the W.F.D.. The current council also removed the city manager because she was against the W.F.D.. IF we voted for the W.F.D. and were against cutting it, why would they suggest otherwise? Are you that seriously out of touch with reality? Because if it is Johnson doing the writing, he has his own and his buddies’ republican political agenda at heart, not the taxpayers. We actually need to tell the city government we need the SAFER grant, the W.F.D. needs a better contract that isn’t against them. The W.F.D. needs more manpower not less and stops this vendetta against the W.F.D. once and for all. And yes, the residents of the city of Watertown, the people who work in the city, shop in the city, and have family in the city should all come out to the council meetings and tell the city government every meeting that WE all want the W.F.D. to have the safer grant, to have a decent budget and everyone stop trying to screw the W.F.D.. (Residents who care about curtailing escalating costs within the city budget — and the need to raise taxes to pay for them — must make their voices heard. They need to tell council members to turn down the SAFER grant, move the Fire Department to 24-hour shifts and abandon the minimum-manning clause in the new contract)

This article is infantile at its best. The writer has it out for the W.F.D. yet has no backbone to say who they are or why they have it out for the W.F.D.. They missed the boat on this writing and should have kept it hidden under the file of, “I like throwing temper tantrums for no reason”. If Johnson wrote the article, then go back to running a dying newspaper and let the taxpayers decide what’s best for Watertown. If it’s someone else, well, have a spine and admit who you are so we can see the coward that you are and call you out on it. Oh, by the way, writer of the article, you never gave the better option the city should use, did you?

I’ve enclosed a couple of articles from the IAFF, NIST & others to prove that the minimum manning is 100% needed and justified.

From the IAFF’s article on staffing.

[“Historically, the standard for fire suppression in North America has mandated an offensive attack in situations involving structural fire. Study after study has demonstrated that if the force available to initiate an interior fire attack is less than fifteen personnel, the goals of victim rescue, fire control, and property conservation are seriously compromised. These studies state that when fire ground staffing is reduced below the level necessary for aggressive tactics, the inevitable result is that firefighters must resort to defensive rather than offensive operations or risk their own safety.

NFPA 1710 outlines the following minimum requirements for staffing fire suppression the activities involved in controlling and extinguishing fires. Services (based upon operations for a 2000 square-foot, two-story, single-family occupancy with no basement, exposures or unusual hazards):

A minimum of four fire fighters per Engine Company Fire companies whose primary functions are to pump and deliver water and perform basic firefighting at fires, including search and rescue. Or Truck Company Fire companies whose primary functions are to perform the variety of services associated with truck work, such as forcible entry, ventilation, search and rescue, aerial operations for water delivery and rescue, utility control, illumination, overhaul, and salvage work. (§”]

Based on this alone, the city fire department is UNDER staffed. 3 per engine x 3 engines = 9, + 4 per ladder truck = 16, 2 per rescue = 15 + battalion chief = 16 total. The recommendations are 4 per engine company x 3 engines = 12, 4 on ladder truck = 16, 4 on rescue truck = 20 total firefighters, not counting the battalion chief. Plus, this standard is for something that rarely exists in the city, a home of only 2,000 sq ft., single-family, with no basement, no exposures (other homes, garages, or businesses), and 0 unusual hazards. If you know Watertown, you know many homes are multi-family, almost every home has a basement, and almost every home has multiple exposures on both sides and behind. So, the standard would still make Watertown FD understaffed because it has multi-family homes, homes with basements and exposures, all of which add to needing more manpower. Look back at a majority of the residential structure fires in the city, they are multi-family and do have basements and exposures. When you have a multi-family home, you have more apartments to search, you have more potential victims, you have more places for you to become disoriented and lost inside, especially when many homeowners convert single-family homes to multi-family and the fire department does not know about it, due to the homeowner not obtaining proper permits. Basements contribute to the hazards. If the fire starts down there, it has access to every wall void in the home and with older style “balloon frame” construction, that means the fire can race, unstopped from the basement up to the attic and roof and every floor in-between. You also have the collapse danger of the ceiling collapsing in and you end up inside that basement. For exposures, you have the potential for multiple houses burning at once, like the 216 South Indiana Ave structure fire on March 16th of 2017 that also damaged 214 South Indiana Ave. That fire completely destroyed the main duplex home, severely damaged the 2nd home, and damaged a garage. The structure fire on Columbia Street in November 2007, this fire destroyed the main building and damaged 10 others. 512 Jefferson Street structure Fire April 28th, 2017, that damaged 2 homes. These are only a very small fraction of the structure fires that damage multiple homes. The W.F.D. is operating on a very basic if not a skeleton crew. This is not safe for them or for us at all. http://www.iaff.org/library/pdfs/LICB_StaffingManual.pdf

This is Scientific proof having enough people is critical.

"For years, firefighters across the nation have touted the importance of having enough crew members when they start to attack a fire.

"Now, they have scientific research to back up their claim that size does matter when it comes to saving people from fires as well as making sure they go home after their shift."

NIST Report Shows Crew Size Matters

Landmark Residential Fire Study Shows How Crew Sizes and Arrival Times Influence Saving Lives and Property

National Institute of Standards and Technology/NIST Technical Note 1661 Report on Residential Fireground Field Experiments

NFPA 1710 Tip Sheet 2016 Edition.

NFPA 1710

Changes to Fireground Staffing Levels for Career Fire Departments

NFPA 1710 provides the minimum requirements relating to the organization and deployment of fire suppression operations, emergency medical operations, and special operations to the public by career fire departments.

For the 2016 edition of the standard, subsection 5.2.4 on fire department service deployment was revised to include three new occupancies, along with the appropriate response staffing levels for each. The minimum staffing level for each occupancy is listed below. (For the full breakdown of staffing requirements by position, refer to the subsections specific to each occupancy in 5.2.4.)

Single-Family Dwelling — minimum of 14 members (15 if aerial device is used)

The initial full alarm assignment to a structure fire in a typical 2000 ft2 (186 m2), two-story, single-family dwelling without a basement and with no exposures must provide for a minimum of 14 members (15 if an aerial device is used).

Open-Air Strip Mall — minimum of 27 members (28 if aerial device is used)

The initial full alarm assignment to a structure fire in a typical open-air strip shopping center ranging from 13,000 ft2 to 196,000 ft2 (1203 m2 to 18,209 m2) in size must provide for a minimum of 27 members (28 if an aerial device is used).

Garden-Style Apartment — minimum of 27 members (28 if aerial device is used)

The initial full alarm assignment to a structure fire in a typical 1200 ft2 (111 m²) apartment within a three-story, garden-style apartment building must provide for a minimum of 27 members (28 if an aerial device is used).

High-Rise — minimum of 42 members (43 if building equipped with fire pump)

The initial full alarm assignment to a fire in a building with the highest floor greater than 75 ft (23 m) above the lowest level of fire department vehicle access must provide for a minimum of 42 members (43 if the building is equipped with a fire pump).

Fire departments that respond to fires in occupancies that present hazards greater than those found in 5.2.4 shall deploy additional resources as described in on the initial alarm.

NOTE: Even though fireground staffing levels have changed, NFPA 1710 continues to require that engine companies be staffed with a minimum of 4 on-duty members, as stated in subsection 5.2.3. In addition, paragraph requires that the fire department identify minimum company staffing levels as necessary to meet the deployment criteria required in 5.2.4 to ensure that a sufficient number of members are assigned, on duty, and available to safely and effectively respond with each company.

Material used in this summary is taken from the 2016 edition of NFPA 1710, Standard for the Organization and Deployment of Fire Suppression Operations, Emergency Medical Operations, and Special Operations to the Public by Career Fire Departments. This reprinted material is not the complete and official position of the NFPA or its Technical Committees on the referenced subject, which is represented solely by the standard in its entirety. That standard can be accessed online at www.nfpa.org.

© 2016 National Fire Protection Association Revised 11/15/2016 https://www.nfpa.org/assets/files/AboutTheCodes/1710/1710_Tip_Sheet_2016_edition.pdf.pdf

And yet the mayor and the Watertown Daily Times are pushing for a higher chance of you or a firefighter dying in a fire in the city by cutting the W.F.D.. Isn’t this story a bit ironic?

Watertown Daily Times | Website ranks New York as second in the nation for deadly fires  

Report ranks New York 2nd for most deadly house fires | WHEC.com

This is directly from the Watertown City Budget 2018-2019

Expenditures FY 2015-16 FY 2016-17 FY 2017-18 FY 2018-19 Actual Actual Adopted Budget Proposed Budget Police 7,903,556 8,193,387 8,642,186 8,673,254 Fire 9,211,535 9,546,188 8,617,830 8,864,772

Difference of $108,989

City of Watertown Fiscal Year: 2018-19 Department: Police Account Code: A3120 Function: Public Safety

Description: The City of Watertown Police Department provides 24-hour service to the city through the deterrence of crime, the prosecution of criminals, the safeguarding of citizens, the protection of property and the maintenance of order. The department is staffed with 65 sworn officers and three civilian personnel. It is divided into three divisions: Patrol, Investigations and Administration. In 2017, the Watertown Police Department received 24,233 calls for service, of which 1,266 were domestic incident investigations, 1,268 were motor vehicle accidents, 194 were drug offenses, 160 were burglary investigations, 72 were assault investigations, 66 were weapons investigations, 92 were sex offenses and 80 were drug overdoses. W.P.D. officers made 1,885 adult arrests, 60 juvenile arrests, 3,785 vehicle stops, issued 2,665 uniform traffic tickets, and 1023 parking tickets.

City of Watertown Fiscal Year: 2018-19 Department: Fire Account Code: A3410 Function: Public Safety

Description: The City of Watertown Fire Department provides emergency and limited educational services for the citizens of Watertown and the larger regional area. These services include: fire safety education, fire suppression and investigation, non-transport first response emergency medical care, and hazardous materials and technical rescue. The average demand for services is 4242 incidents for the past four years. For calendar year 2017, the department handled 4,406 incidents. Fire incidents including: 27 residential structures, 16 multi-family dwellings, and 68 other fire type situations of various nature; 2,698 rescue and emergency medical responses; 14 occasions where the department provided mutual aid to our neighboring departments for assistance at 7 structure fires, and other specialized support. The total incident responses for 2017 included 44 water calls on October 9 and 111 water calls on October 30 due to excessive rain events. {We added in the number of W.F.D. members here of 68} {Also in 2014 there were 78 members}

Safety and savings: Watertown has better options than accepting federal fire grant.

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