Town of Greater Napanee addresses fire department staffing requests

Napanee Town Hall at night. Photo by Michelle Dorey Forestell/Kingstonist.

After multiple calls for more firefighters to join the ranks of the Greater Napanee Emergency Services from Fire Chief Bill Hammond, the Greater Napanee Professional Fire Fighters Association, and the International Association of Fire Fighters, the Town of Greater Napanee has issued a statement in response.

Chief Hammond has been advocating for four new full-time firefighters on his crews, officially requesting the budgetary requirements to allow for those hires in December 2023. Since then, both the Greater Napanee Professional Fire Fighters Association and the International Association of Fire Fighters have written letters to Greater Napanee Council urging its members to ensure the currently ongoing 2024 budget deliberations result in the allocation of funds to allow for the requested hires. The Greater Napanee Professional Fire Fighters Association sent a letter to Council in mid-January 2024, and the International Association of Fire Fighters followed suit last week.

In response, the Town of Greater Napanee issued a media release on the evening of Monday, Feb. 5, 2024, addressing the matter.

“The Town of Greater Napanee acknowledges the Greater Napanee Fire Department’s budgetary requests for four additional full-time staffing positions,” the Town’s statement began.

The statement goes on to explain that the Napanee Fire Department is made up of “a Fire Chief, Deputy Fire Chief, Administrative Coordinator/CEMC (Community Emergency Management Coordinator), Fire Prevention Officer, Training Officer, six Full-time Firefighters represented by the Greater Napanee Professional Firefighters Local 2822, and 46 non-union Greater Napanee Paid On-call Firefighters Association members.” Full-time firefighters work in platoons of three members, and provide coverage seven days a week from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., the Town explained, and paid on-call firefighters are on call from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. – the hours the full-time firefighters are off duty.

It is those 12 overnight hours that Hammond would like to see staffed with four full-time firefighters.

The statement from the Town notes that staff and Council are “currently engaged” in budget deliberations and contract negotiations with unionized employees and that they are anticipating contract negotiations with non-unionized employees of the fire department.

“Recently, the impact of adding four full-time Firefighters has been presented as a minimal cost per household per day. However, the measure used by Council to consider budget impacts is by percentage of taxes,” the statement continues.

“Over a five-year period, full-time Firefighters move from Probationary Firefighter with annual increases to take staff to First Class Firefighter.”

Adding four full-time firefighters would result in full-time costs, the statement said, which would “equate to” an estimated 3.22 per cent tax increase in one year, and an estimated 4.72 per cent tax increase in year five.

“In real dollars that is an additional estimated tax levy of $454,715 in year one to $665,371 in year five,” according to the statement.

The Town additionally noted that a Community Risk Assessment and Fire Master Plan are currently being completed.

“Unfortunately, these guiding documents are underway but not yet completed and have not been presented to Council. These detailed documents are necessary to determine how the Fire Department will operate in the future and aid Council in making informed and defendable decisions with respect to the Fire Department,” the statement details.

Further, the Town noted that it has a “Medical Tiered Response Agreement” with Lennox and Addington County, which, “has a direct influence on the operations of our Fire Department and if adjusted may provide efficiencies to our fire services providing a more effective level of service to our community.”

“Each of these factors will have an ongoing impact on the Greater Napanee Fire Department and staff levels. Given the deliberations, completion of the plans, and contract negotiations, Council will have the opportunity to make informed and defendable decisions with respect to the Greater Napanee Fire Department,” the statement concludes.

The next budget deliberation meeting for the Town of Greater Napanee is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024.

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