by Walter Smith-Randolph & Stephanie Kuzydym, WKRCTuesday, January 7th 2020
The city of Hamilton is increasing staffing for its fire department. The news comes two months after a Local 12 investigation looked into the department’s staffing issues and one month after the Hamilton firefighters union showed up to a city council meeting. (WKRC)
HAMILTON (WKRC) – The city of Hamilton is increasing staffing for its fire department.
The news comes two months after a Local 12 investigation looked into the department’s staffing issues and one month after the Hamilton firefighters union showed up to a city council meeting.
Tony Harris has said it since last March: The biggest danger facing the Hamilton Fire Department is a lack of resources.
“The biggest takeaway we have from this is the things we are still lacking in are making us more dangerous and less safe than we normally should be,” Harris said in an interview with Local 12 in March regarding the release of an internal report into the December 2015 death of Patrick Wolterman.
Harris, president of Hamilton firefighter union Local 20, says resources started dwindling in 2013. That’s when fire station staffing was cut from 28 to 22 firefighters to help reduce a $5.6-million budget deficit. The cuts were a result of an efficiency study done by Berkshire Advisors Inc., a public safety consulting firm.
An internal memo from Dec. 29 from Hamilton Fire Chief Mark Mercer shows at the start of 2020, the city will add staffing to have a medic unit staffed daily from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m.
Harris spoke about the medic unit in December to the Hamilton City Council.
“And you saw the Channel 12 report, it referenced that the union agreed with the city to put off safety officers in lieu of the fourth medic unit,” Harris said, “But there’s never been a true commitment to that fourth medic unit.”
Local 12 Investigates contacted both Mercer and Hamilton City Public Safety Director Scott Scrimizzi. Neither responded to two email requests for comment. Mercer’s note to his department did mention that the medic unit will not use overtime for staffing from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m.
In a statement, Harris said: “It is a first step, but until we have this unit 24/7/365 it will not be enough to give the citizens the safety they deserve. We continue to have no answer for lack of a safety officer, something NIOSH recommended in their report. We continue to meet with city administration to make sure we improve safety for every citizen.”