Staff shortages blamed for Scotia police, fire overtime
SCOTIA Staffing shortages caused the 10 highest-paid Scotia firefighters and police officers to pile up overtime in 2012, police and fire officials say.
The top earner was police Sgt. Thomas Rush, whose base salary was $69,062, but he made a total of $112,527 with overtime, holiday pay, stipends and other compensation.
Rush’s nearly $45,000 in additional compensation led the village, but both the police and fire departments awarded significant overtime. Except for the chief, no firefighter received less than $10,00 in additional compensation.
The second-highest earner, fire Capt. Ken Almy, collected more than $30,000 in overtime and other compensation. His base salary was $65,651, but his total pay was $95,953.
Two other police officers had overtime of roughly $19,000 and $22,000.
The third-highest earner was Police Chief Pete Frisoni, with a base salary of $90,000 and $3,000 in additional compensation.
Coming in fourth was police Sgt. Daniel Thouin, who had a base salary of $68,062 and $87,297 in total compensation, followed by Fire Chief Charles Keller, with a $81,949 base salary and $85,150 in total earnings; fire Lt. Anthony Caliguire, with a $62,236 base salary and $84,551 in total compensation; fire Capt. Daniel Wanmer, with $83,744; police Officer Daniel Harrigan, with a $65,651 base salary and $83,327 in total compensation; fire Capt. David Squires, with a $65,651 base salary and $83,276 in total compensation; and fire Lt. Tim Kannally, with a $62,236 base salary and $82,319 in total compensation.
Frisoni said the police department was not at full strength for about six months. Officer Tim Macfarlane retired in July, and that position was not filled until a new officer started Monday.
In addition, the department had two officers out on medical leave for 24 days and more than 90 days because of a hand injury and back injury that occurred on the job. It was difficult to maintain the minimum staffing of two officers per shift with so many officers out, according to Frisoni.
“That’s a third of my patrol force,” he said.
Frisoni gave credit to the officers who were on mandatory overtime during the holidays as the more senior officers used vacation days.
“There was no one left to work. You can only work 16 hours in a 24-hour period,” he said.
The timing of Macfarlane’s retirement was too late to recruit someone for the police academy, where the class started in late July and graduated earlier this month, so Frisoni filled the spot with a lateral transfer from another department. He will also seek out a transfer to fill the spot of Officer Michael Hay, who retired last week.
The good news, Frisoni said, is the officer who was out on the longer medical leave is scheduled to come back during the first week of February.
“We anticipate that we’ll be back to full staffing,” he said.
Frisoni has used up a lot of his overtime budget, but he did save about $20,000 in salary with Macfarlane’s mid-year retirement. Also, the new officers will start at a lower salary than the people who retired and have fewer vacation days. They will not start at the bottom of the pay scale, however, because of their experience in other departments.
Fire Chief Charles Keller attributed his overtime to the rise in calls — 1,443 last year — though he couldn’t provide figures for 2011.
“We’re a paramedic agency now. We’re called to do a lot of back-to-back calls. There’s incidents where we’re on one call and we’re toned out to another,” he said.
Since 2010, the village has had a fully staffed paramedic department. There has to be at least one paramedic on each minimum two-person shift.
Like police, Keller has been short-staffed with people out. One officer is out on disability and is unable to return. He is in the process of completing his disability retirement paperwork. When that is completed and he is off the payroll, Keller said he will be able to fill those slots.
“At times, we have to call people in for working fires,” he said. “We’re working within the budget. We’re just always trying to cut down on expenses.”