Balto. Co. fire agency needs funds by June 30

Chief asks council to OK $1.3 million transfer because of retirements

June 16, 1999|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

The Baltimore County Fire Department, short 75 firefighters because of retirements, needs $1.3 million to make ends meet through the fiscal year that ends June 30.

Fire Chief John F. O'Neill asked the County Council yesterday for approval to take $1.3 million from other county departments to pay overtime costs to cover shifts left open by retirements, injuries, illnesses, vacations and other obligations.

O'Neill said the added costs could not have been foreseen when the department drew up its budget last year because officials had no way to anticipate how many firefighters would be unavailable because of sickness or retirements.

"We had no way, and the county budget office had no way, to know how many people we'd have leaving," O'Neill told council members.

He said some of the costs should be avoided next year with the hiring of 75 firefighters to fill the vacancies. All 75 recruits are scheduled to complete the 17-week training course by Sept. 17, he said.

Pay increases of 6.7 percent next year also should reduce firefighter retirements in the years ahead, county officials said.

O'Neill said $915,000 is needed to cover vacant shifts, $151,000 to pay for new uniforms and equipment for the 75 new firefighters, $151,000 to pay overtime to paramedics and $100,000 to cover unexpected costs for medical supplies.

Funds to cover the expenses will be transferred from a county surplus account and accounts used to pay off bonds, said Fred Homan, budget director.

Council members also held a closed session yesterday to interview two of the six county officials scheduled to be confirmed to new four-year terms at Monday's council meeting. The two are Zoning Commissioner Lawrence Schmidt and Deputy Commissioner Timothy Kotroko.

The council had been scheduled to confirm Schmidt and Kotroko, with the police chief, fire chief, county attorney and county administrator, at its June 7 meeting.

But Council Chairman Kevin B. Kamenetz, a Pikesville-Randallstown Democrat, pulled all six appointments off the agenda the night of the meeting, saying he wanted additional time to conduct interviews.

Kamenetz said after yesterday's closed session that he wanted to discuss the appointments with the other council members before deciding whether he would place them on the agenda for Monday's meeting.

Schmidt, Kotroko and the other officials said they knew of no problems with their reappointments, and administration spokesmen said yesterday that they expect all six officials to be reappointed.

"We're very optimistic they'll be reappointed," said Robert Barrett, an aide to County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger.

Schmidt was a member of the county Board of Appeals and was a lawyer in private practice when he was appointed by then-County Executive Roger B. Hayden to the $86,300 post in 1991.

Kotroko was an assistant county attorney when he was appointed the same year to the $79,500 deputy commissioner's position.

Schmidt and Kotroko have private law practices. But both said this week that they work at least 40 hours a week as zoning commissioners, that their private work never interferes with their positions and that they refuse cases that have to do with county business.

On Monday, the council also is expected to confirm County Administrator John M. Wasilisin, County Attorney Virginia W. Barnhart, Police Chief Terrence B. Sheridan and Fire Chief O'Neill.

Barnhart, Sheridan and O'Neill each earn $106,000 and Wasilisin $89,300.

Pub Date: 6/16/99

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