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May 15, 2009 - 4:27pm

Batavia without fire chief as qualified captains decline temporary appointment

posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, fire chief.

At the close of business today, the Batavia Fire Department will be without a fire chief, as none of the four captains who are qualified to fill an interim position wanted to take on the role at this time, CIty Manager Jason Molino told WBTA this afternoon.

Molino said he will handle routine administrative tasks for the department while the job search for a new chief continues.

Chief Tom Dillon resigned after learning last week that the New York Civil Service Commission denied the city's request for a waiver on his position. Dillon retired after 29-years with the Rochester Fire Department and the commission said he could not continue to draw retirement and earn more than $30,000 per year.

Dave Meyer
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I've posted on this topic lamenting the fact that Mr. Molino seems to want to go outside of the ranks of the fire dept to fill vacancies. Now the opportunity comes up for a promotion from within and nobody's interested? Why might that be? Is it because they might have to take a cut in pay to be the chief? IF (and I emphasize the IF) that's the case, then there's something wrong with this picture. There were 4 Fire captains listed in the top 15 wage earners in the city in a posting in the Batavian back in March. In fact of those 15 people, 10 of them were in the fire department. Don't get me wrong, we certainly need a fire department and I value their fine work, but it would seem to me that the salary structure is a bit out of whack when 10 of the top 15 wage earners in employ of the city are in the fire department. It's been my experience that if one is a member of management, one is not compensated with overtime. Seems to me that officers such as lieutenants and captains would be 'management' and therefore exempt from overtime pay. Clearly that is not the case with the contract that has been negotiated by the (former) city administrations. No wonder our city is in such fiscal trouble.
Karen Miconi
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Its no wonder knowone wants the position. With all the bull thats been put out there, I dont blame the Batavia Fire Department. Certain higherups would like to blame others because Batavia is broke, but I for one see right through it. Our firefighters are of utmost importance to our community, and should be put on a pedistal. They are runners up to our brave soldiers, that also put their lives on the line day in and day out for us. The way they have been treated is dispicable, all for the "almighty dollar". The Batavia Fire Dept has been disgraced enough. Oh and did we find a new ambulance service?? and how much is it going to cost us, compared to what we already had. Oh and what are we going to do with the fairly new ambulances the city already owns?
william tapp
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Karen, thy don't give a crap, there for them self not the tax payers.i feel bad for city tax payers.
Jacob Bell
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you have got to be kidding. These captians work for the city and if the city needs them to fill the role of chief, then they should do it. The council should step in and force this issue. If none of these captians want to do the job thatis needed then they can look for work elsewhere. That is the way it is in most jobs in america, do what you are told or out you go, union or no union.
John Roach
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Jacob, You better read Civil Service Law. You may not like, but what you want to do is not legal. Under the law, you can force them to take a promotion. Also, they get overtime, the Chief does not, so why should they take a pay cut?
Mark Potwora
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The city should then go over to the town of Batavia fire dept..I'll bet someone over there would take a $80,000 a year job..Since we no longer run a ambulance service,that must of made the job easier to handle..I would think they could lower the pay..Pay wise something is wrong in the fire dept when no one will take the Fire Chiefs job because they will lose money..Is city council listening ..Keep giving them raises every time its contract time...What is the roll of the Captain...Who spose to fill in when the Chief in off duty..or on vacation..These guys are making Malino look like a joke...We can all see who calls the shots and it isn't city hall..aren't these captains the ones who all said without city run ambulance service we will all suffer and how worried they were all for our safety.....Now we have no one to run the fire dept and sounds like they could care less..Are we safe with out a fire chief..Maybe we can do with out a few captains ....I hope im wrong and they have other reasons besides money...Maybe Howard can get some of them to tell there side on all this...Sounds like a good story to report on....
Howard B. Owens
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Mark, I'm going to do my best starting Monday to talk with the Captains. I'm sure Joanne Beck will do the same. As for replacement, I think there must be a few qualified people in the county, outside of the City's captains, and I think Molino should make it a priority to hire locally, but I'm guessing he won't listen to me.
Mark Potwora
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I agree Howard..This whole thing seems as they say sounds fishy.I'm sure you will be stonewalled..When no one in our own fire dept wants to be Chief something is seriously wrong...Maybe we need some TV coverage on this..We saw them on TV marching on city hall because of the ambulance job cuts...Its a good story that no one wants to be the Fire Chief...What does city council think of all this...Stafford ,town of Batavia,Elba,Oakfield,they all run good fire depts..Someone from one of those dept could do the job..The Daily had a good Editorial today on it..If they are the Paper of record,why wasn't the job advertised in there..We all learn about the opening because it was place in the Rochester Paper..
Lori Ann Santini
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They are here 24/7 so if you have questions then feel free to contact them if you are so compelled.
Howard B. Owens
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Mark, just to be snarky -- if they're the paper of record, why didn't they have the story first instead of third? (The Batavian, WBTA, then the Daily). What I find funny about the editorial is they say nobody knew about Dillon until the classified ad was spotted in the D&C. Um, no, I published the story about Dillon before I even knew about the ad. It's called "sources." Lori, I have my list of personnel in the office ... if you want to e-mail me names and numbers if you have them tomorrow, I'll see what I can do (if you have them). We are scheduled for an open house, so time is limited, but I'll do what I can. I'd love to talk to each captain, if they will talk.
Dave Meyer
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Seems to me that the problem stems from all the overtime that these fire officers are able to get. It also seems to me that this could be handled administratively. All that would have to be done is an order would need to come down from management (City administrator?) that there would no longer be overtime unless it was specifically authorized. Then, they would be working for pretty much their base salary (which I assume to be less than the $80K that the recent chief was paid) and there might be more incentive to 'rise through the ranks'. What I'd like to know is what are the reasons for all this overtime? Does it have to be approved or is it just there for the taking? All 4 of the fire captains earned more than $80000 last year. In fact, all of the fire lieutenants also made over $80K. One captain made almost $114000! Come on!!! Is anyone watching the store? Personally, I'd like to see the justification for all this overtime. It's not like we have that many fires in the city and when we do have a major fire, obviously if overtime is needed it's justified. For normal 'day to day' operations, why should all this overtime be needed? Apparently the firemens' union has not learned its lesson from what happened with the ambulance service. Bottom line, the union priced its members out of a job. The city of Geneva, NY provides fire protection with (according to their website) a paid staff of 18 and over 100 volunteers. I'm not advocating this type of arrangement...merely pointing out that it CAN BE DONE. I'd like to see the administrator(s) of the city start paying more attention to what goes on at the fire department and begin to rein in this (what appears to be) excessive overtime. This is not about the people at the fire department who are very professional and obviously provide great service. It's about doing things DIFFERENTLY and providing that service at a cost that their employer (the taxpayers of the city) can afford.
Jacob Bell
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I am not saying that the captians should be forced to take the chief position on a permenant job,but why can't they be forced to do it in an interim situation for a month on a rotatating basis until the city finds a new chief?
Bea McManis
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Better yet, why not promote another person. The overtime paid those already working, would easily pay the salary of another person who can pick up the hours currently paid, by the tax payers, in overtime.
Lori Ann Santini
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The Captains didn't take the position for their own personal reasons. Those reasons were discussed with the City Manager. End of story. Obviously the manager accepted the reasons. If you have total confidence in Jason Molino then you must trust this decision too. Because it is a personel issue, the Captains cannot talk about it to the public. They are respecting the request set forth by the City manager under the City and Department SOPs. Whether you like it or not, the priority that they must honor the most is the one they have made to their families. They take pride in serving the City of Batavia. They clearly do a very good job of it. However at the end of the day, their wives and children are the priority. I would doubt with the exception of a few that post on this site that your decision would be any different. The department will run the way it is set up if the Chief was on vacation. Clearly it has worked before and it will again. Mr. Molino has committed himself to working on the day to day administrative tasks until the new Chief is appointed. No insult intended but you muddy the water when you compare the Volunteer sector with the Paid sector. There are stringent requirements mandated for professional services that the volunteers don't ever need to address. At a minimum, the training mandates are significantly harder for professional firefighters. I know this because I used to be a volunteer firefighter for five years. Ask your local volunteer what they have to do every year to meet training requirements, then ask the City Firefighters. The numbers are very different. We will never agree on this topic because we have different levels of understanding. Just remember this though. At the end of the day, The City of Batavia is protected by one very professional group of individuals dedicated to your wellbeing and safety. Not only in terms of the Fire Department but every other Department in the City.
Bea McManis
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Lori, no one is questioning the dedication of the firefighters. It is disconcerting that people at that level are making more than their fire chief. While they do deserve a right to privacy as to their actual reasons for during down the position, it does raise the question regarding the number of overtime hours they put in. You right, at the end of a work day, there should be quality time to spend with family and friends. That down time is just as important to their job (and thus the public) as the time they put on the job. It would be best served for all involved if they promoted or hired one or two additional people at that level of supervision, so that no one would have to put in the long hours they are now logging.
Mark Potwora
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Thanks for Lori for answering some of these questions..I'm sure they have great reasons for not taking the job..And must like to put in alot of overtime ..And if no one in the dept seems to care that they aren't promoting from within then so be it..I would think that would be an honor to be the Chief...But not in thier case..Lori i just made the comment about asking the local volunteer fire Chiefs if they want the job because they seem to be able to run those Depts..Not a dig on who can put out a fire better..More of a Management issue..And i just would think hiring someone who lives and pays taxes in this area would be better to have.I hope that Molino makes sure that who ever wants this job is not allready collecting a state pension and will live in the city limits.There are so many unemployed people in this area why hire someone who allready gets paid...Those are the rules..No waivers...And also as long as he's going outside the area for the job,The pays should be less because he or she won't be over seeing the ambulance service...Maybe someone in the ambulance dept should apply ,since some of them are losing there job this fall...I'm sure they would have the skills to do it...
Dave Meyer
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Lori, I don't have to know how to put out a fire to question why these captains are getting so much overtime. I have never and would never impugn the integrity of the firefighters. Obviously the overtime is there for the taking and they're taking it. I'm saying that I expect a higher level of fiscal responsibility from ALL city departments given the fiscal state of the city. If I were managing the fire department, casual overtime would end tomorrow.

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