NY county to demote 8 fire captains

Officials say the demotions will save $70,000; the union says it will compromise response

WATERTOWN, N.Y. — The Watertown city council voted Monday to demote nearly half of the department’s captains in an effort to save money. Now the department is trying to figure out to work around the change.

“It’s a change in rank, it’s a change in structure. They’re still going to be the same personnel,” Mayor Joe Butler told WWNYTV

Although the demotions will save around $70,000, firefighters expressed concerns of short staffing and in turn, an inability to respond to as many emergency calls. The number of captains on a shift will be decreased from five to three; every emergency vehicle has to have its own captain. This means that fewer emergency vehicles will be able to respond to calls.

“I don’t think they realize what they really did, and this is going to have a major impact on fire safety,” President of the International Associations of Firefighters Local 191 Dan Daugherty said. 

Fire Chief Dale Herman said the move could impact the city’s ISO rating, and ultimately resident’s homeowners insurance rates. 

However, Butler said the change in structure will even out staff-to-supervisor ratio within the department. 

“We’ve contended from the start that we think we’re top heavy. This restructuring will help eliminate that top heaviness,” Butler said. 

According to Daugherty, the fire union has ceased negotiations over a new contract with the city, and wants to go to an arbitrator.

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