By Seth Daniel
City Councillors will be debating a spending request from City Manager Tom Ambrosino in the coming weeks that calls for an additional $600,000 in fire overtime funds to be expended from the City’s Free Cash account.
The Budget last year already included $900,000 for overtime, in what was controversial at the time, and together, fire overtime in this year’s budget would total out to be $1.5 million.
That comes on top of state overtime money for the Silver Line project that funded a fourth engine company at an expense of $1.372 million – all of which was state money approved within the Silver Line project.
Another controversial expenditure that will likely be brought up again is the ‘Out of Grade’ pay, which went over budge by $80,000. Out of grade pay results when an injury occurs to a superior officer and a subordinate officer has to step into the higher rank position, which results in a higher pay grade. Chelsea has routinely had several superior fire officers go out on injury and several step-ups to fill the higher position.
A third piece that is drawing attention from the Fire Department is the uncollectible fire details, which is at $105,116. Fire details sometimes are hired or required, and there are times when the property owner(s) do not pay the bill. The City routinely pays the firefighters and then absorbs the cost of the uncollected detail bills. This year, the fire portion came in at more than $100,000.
“My concerns within the Budget process and then now with deficit accounts are these three areas,” said Councillor Leo Robinson. “I am concerned about fire overtime, about out of grade pay and about the uncollected details. We need to spend wisely. This was supposed to be better tracked and fixed last year when we had the same problems.”