According to the Ashland Firefighters Association, Chief D’Orazi stepped down from the position to prevent 3 firefighters from being laid off as the city deals with a projected $2 million budget shortfall.
The association said D’Orazi was asked by the city administration to reduce the fire department budget by $300,000 with a further $100,000 reduction in their overtime budget. The union says D’Orazi hoped without his salary on the books layoffs could be prevented.
Following the departure of D’Orazi, city officials think it could give them enough leeway to allow them to keep the remaining firefighters employed.
“With the information that I have, one of the things I am recommending to say is to not cut three firefighters, to keep them,” Kelly Madding, City Administrator of Ashland said Wednesday afternoon. “What I am recommending is that the fire department cuts $200,000. $100,000 in overtime and $100,000 in materials and services, which I think they can accommodate in the short- run.”
President Brent Knutson of the Ashland Firefighters Association said the $100,000 reduction in their overtime budget would reduce staff from nine to eight.
“It reduces our staffing at station two by 50 percent which means our wildland fire engine would not be available, our third ambulance would not be available and because of the staffing window that we would have to run by, our main structure fire engine would not be available 50 percent of the time,” Knutson said.
“Nine staffing is a very critical number for us to be able to make the emergency demand and be safe as firefighters to do our job,” he added.
Madding said they’re still planning to cut six positions within the general fund. That includes not filling two vacant police officer positions, a staff member in community development and other cuts in administrative services and administration.
“Right now, I think it’s appropriate that we can use those resources that we wouldn’t be using to pay for the chief, we can use those resources in the budget. But really the city has to look long-term,” Madding said.
“I think this is a short-term fix, but I think we need to take the next two years, to look at these general fund departments and see if there are ways we can save resources.”
The Ashland Budget Committee hopes to have a plan to present before the city council on June 4.
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