April Press Release from Amherst Firefighters Local 1764: Staffing Study Incomplete & Overdue

Joseph Lagasse
President
Amherst Firefighters
Local 1764
IAFF
PO Box 1234
Amherst, Ma. 01002

Press Release

Fire Department staffing remains a concern

Staffing study results yet to be produced

Amherst, Ma. April 25, 2017: The Amherst Firefighters Union has understood the Department’s staffing shortages for over two decades, and has seen little improvement in that time. In June of 2016, the Town of Amherst contracted with the Carlson Group to complete an independent study. This was to determine what options Amherst and its Fire Department would have to address this public safety problem. The Carlson Group claimed it would have results within three months. Ten months have passed, the Carlson Group has failed to perform several interviews as outlined in their proposal, and Amherst still has no results.

On April 4th Town Manager, Paul Bockelman spoke with the Hampshire Gazette’s Scott Merzbach about hiring three firefighters to fill vacant positions, stating that this will help “significantly”. The article references the proposed staffing study and leads many readers to mistakenly believe that he is hiring additional firefighters above what the department is currently allotted and budgeted for. The article inaccurately states that the highest cost option would be to hire 10 additional permanent firefighters and that the Fire Department’s budget of $4.63 million would be sufficient without affecting the bottom line.

Amherst Firefighters Local 1764 believes that the overdue and incomplete study from the Carlson Group is suspect; furthermore the Town Manager’s statements to the press are concerning and inappropriate. No preliminary information from Carlson has been released for Mr. Bockelman to have claimed that adding 10 firefighters is the most expensive option. Adding 10 additional firefighter positions has been a Fire Department suggestion for many years as a starting point to achieve a safer staffing level for Amherst’s total emergency call volume, NFPA standards, and daily shift requirements.

As always, Local 1764 will continue to work to provide appropriate response to daily emergency call volume. Whether that response is to render paramedic level care to someone in need, safely extricate a person trapped in a car after a traffic accident, stop a fire from spreading within a home or business, rescue an injured hiker over difficult terrain, investigate a suspicious odor, or mitigate a hazardous materials release. Every visitor and resident of Amherst relies on the Fire Department to help them when in need.

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2 thoughts on “April Press Release from Amherst Firefighters Local 1764: Staffing Study Incomplete & Overdue

  1. This is an important issue that shouldn’t have been dropped at Town Meeting, and will come up again near the end of the spring session with an Article submitted by Vince O’Connor. Any theories on why the fire chief demurred on getting temporary help while waiting for the long-overdue study?

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    1. Kitty I agree this issue is important, and it is perplexing that the Fire Department understaffing issue has apparently been well-known for many years (perhaps decades?), and yet, addition of new firefighters has not occurred. (I say this speaking purely as a lay person, whose only knowledge of the department needs comes from what I’ve heard anecdotally, and at Town Meeting.) My sense on Monday was that Chief Nelson did not want to scuttle the town’s effort to get very specific data from the study that is theoretically underway, although it seems there were serious questions about why the town has yet to receive study findings. (I suppose one could also question whether such a study by an outside consultant was, at its heart, truly necessary.)

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