Newburgh mayor says bringing volunteers into FD will solve staffing issues

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Staffing changes have taken a fire engine out of service.

NEWBURGH – Reducing manpower on the shifts of the paid Newburgh City Fire Department is the way to reduce more than $1 million a year overtime, City Manager Todd Venning believes. A career comptroller, he has bought into the philosophy of an accounting firm hired to analyze the overtime issue.

The paid firefighters’ union doesn’t see it that way. They say more career members are needed to keep the city safe.

Mayor Torrance Harvey, on the other hand, has floated the idea of bringing volunteers into the firefighting force.

“So, if you really have a staffing issue, tell your chief and your president to negotiate for some volunteers so that we can get some of these African American men and women, and Hispanic men and women, who live in the city, to volunteer,” he said.

But, Nick Bedetti, the president of the local firefighters’ union, IAFF Local 589, said it is not that simple.

“People don’t have the time to do what it takes to become trained, to not only get trained, but to answer the calls at 2 o’clock in the morning because the volunteers have jobs at the end of the day or they have their own lives,” Bedetti said.

The union president also pointed to the cost to the city for workers’ compensation and equipment needed to bring in volunteers.

He also noted that all-volunteer departments have had difficulty recruiting new members for the last several years.