Fire Dept. changes weighed in Arundel

Overtime problem gets extra attention from panel

December 12, 2003|By Ryan Davis | Ryan Davis,SUN STAFF

The Anne Arundel County Fire Department should hire more firefighters, better use its volunteers, restructure its paramedic system and limit the number of firefighters who can take vacation on a single day, members of a task force said yesterday.

The group, assembled this summer by County Executive Janet S. Owens, will soon make formal recommendations about how to overhaul Fire Chief Roger C. Simonds' embattled department and reduce its overtime spending.

"I'm not here to bury Roger Simonds," task force member Joseph Novotny said, "but I'm here to praise him and ask him to keep an open mind."

The task force will ask Simonds, top volunteers and firefighter union officials to respond to its informal list of ideas before presenting a report to Owens as early as next month.

During yesterday's meeting, it also recommended that the department switch to shorter workdays, more closely monitor sick-day use and reconfigure the way firefighters accrue and use vacation time. Task force members said their recommendations are intended to cut overtime costs, provide better service and heighten safety.

Owens formed the task force after The Sun reported that Simonds, after being denied capital funding, spent about $130,000 in overtime to complete an unauthorized renovation of a county warehouse. The department ran a $7.2 million overtime tab for the fiscal year that ended June 30, exceeding its overtime and overall budgets by nearly $1 million.

Some firefighter supervisors doubled their pay with overtime and 23 earned more than Owens.

The department should also hire more firefighters so that it has the flexibility to deny vacation time that would create overtime, said County Councilman Ronald C. Dillon Jr., a task force member.

Sun staff writer Julie Bykowicz contributed to this article.

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