Retirements in Fire Department could cost Balto. Co. $3 million

May 14, 1999|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

By this time next year, the Baltimore County Fire Department could face $3 million in retirement costs, the county fire chief said yesterday, with 217 firefighters, administrators and office personnel eligible to leave by June 30, 2000.

Fire Chief John F. O'Neill told County Council members at a budget hearing that of the 217 employees, 23 are due to retire by July 1 of this year. He argued that the 6 percent pay raise proposed for firefighters in the budget negotiations this year should cut back on the number of firefighters who will retire in the coming year.

O'Neill said that the department has been hit hard by retirements twice in the 1990s. A total of 98 firefighters retired in 1992 when state and county budget cuts forced numerous government cutbacks, he said. Another 100 took advantage of an enhanced retirement package when they quit in 1995, he said.

He said he has no way of knowing how many firefighters will retire next year.

"There will be retirements in the coming year. I just can't tell you how many," O'Neill told the council.

O'Neill made the remarks during the council's review of the police and fire department budgets.

Police Chief Terrence B. Sheridan said that he also is concerned about the number of county officers who may retire.

Most years, the Police Department loses about 70 to 75 officers to retirements, he said. Sheridan said that the 9 percent pay increase awarded to county police officers in a contract approved this year are intended to stem the number of retirements.

The county Police Department has 69 vacancies. A class of 60 cadets that will begin six months of training next month is expected to fill most of those vacancies by December, he said.

Sheridan said his is a very young department, with 714 of the county's 1,644 officers hired in the past five years.

"The more seasoned officers we have, the better off we are," Sheridan told council members.

Sheridan said that competition has intensified in recent years among police departments recruiting seasoned officers and rookies. About six months ago, recruiters from the Prince George's County Police Department sought recruits at the Towson precinct by placing fliers on the windshields of the officers' marked police cars, Sheridan said.

He said that Baltimore County's two recruiters are prohibited from resorting to such tactics, and that after he called Prince George's County police, officers found no more fliers.

He said the incident showed how competitive recruiting has become.

"It's ruthless, isn't it?" Sheridan asked the council.

Pub Date: 5/14/99

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