Flattes’ Request to Cut Fire Overtime Meets Opposition

At its May 19 budget meeting the Derry Town Council once again fielded the question of overtime for its Fire Department.

The 2017 budget, approved at the meeting, includes $838,000 projected for overtime. In the public hearing on the budget, resident Marc Flattes asked the Council to consider reducing the overtime line by $100,000.

Flattes based his reasoning on increased staffing at the Fire Department, including two new positions authorized by the Council in the budget.

Resident Helen Evans took the microphone to say, “My heart is beating so fast right now. I did not expect to hear more negative statements about the police and fire this year.” Evans was referencing the previous budget year, when residents fought cuts to the two departments.

“I thought the people of the community spoke loud and clear in the special election,” Evans said. “This community values its public servants. They are the people who run in when everyone else is running out. I don’t understand people who want to save money in that direction.

“We want 24-hour protection,” Evans said. “If a firefighter is ill, hurt or on vacation, their shift still has to be covered.”

Flattes had a spreadsheet on fire employees who, with salaries and benefits, made over $100,000.

Resident Mark Connors said, “We keep coming up with who’s paid what. To me it’s a non-issue. From a business standpoint, we need to determine how many full-time employees we need and how much overtime to get the department to run smoothly.”

Connors compared the issue to a carburetor, which needs the right balance to run smoothly. “We need the right mix,” he said.

“If we cut overtime and hire a bunch of full-timers, the benefits will go through the roof,” Connors predicted.

Flattes countered, “I understand the importance of the Derry Fire Department. But the OT reduction I’m asking for is $100,000. It will still leave more than $600,000.” Flattes said he was only asking for the reduction in the light of new people being hired, thus increasing staffing.

“It is a fair reduction,” he said, pointing out that the $100,000 could be returned to taxpayers or used to fund the Economic Development position, thus leaving the Cable fund unchanged (see related story page 2).

Resident Jenna Paradise, one of three townspeople who brought the town to court over last year’s budget cuts, said, “Didn’t we do this dance last year? I have a feeling of deja vu.”

She referred to the Special Election in October and said people were voting to support the Fire Department.

The Council took no action on Flattes’ request.