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Staffing study a tool for budgeting

Date: 12/15/2008

By Courtney Llewellyn

Reminder Assistant Editor

WILBRAHAM The Public Safety Staffing Study conducted by Matrix Consulting Group found that overall, the dispatch, police and fire departments in Wilbraham are performing at expected levels, but that one department is understaffed and another could be regionalized to save time and money.

The police department is staffed to what the consulting group thought is an appropriate level, but the fire department is lacking.

The entire study is now available for download on the town Web site,

The study stated that the Wilbraham Fire Department needs at least four more persons on its staff to function at a fuller level. It called for three new fire fighters -- adding a sixth person on duty for three different shifts -- and the appointment of a deputy chief and a training captain.

"The deputy chief is something we've brought up over the years," Fire Chief Francis Nothe told Reminder Publications. "It's something both I and former chiefs have asked for."

Nothe said he currently runs "three businesses" as fire chief: the fire department, emergency medical services and emergency management. A deputy chief would relieve him of some of the myriad duties tied into these positions, including everything from scheduling to budgeting.

"We all wear a lot of hats here," Nothe said. "It can be difficult to manage somedays."

When asked what he thought was more important for the fire department to have, Nothe said he was torn between the deputy chief and filling the three proposed fire fighter/emergency medical technician slots.

The Fiscal Year 2010 budget will decide what new positions, if any, the fire department can hire, however.

"This [the study's results] is good information for going forward," Town Administrator Robert Weitz said, "but all will be determined as we go forward with the budgeting process."

A deputy chief's salary is budgeted with benefits at about $99,000 a year by the study.

"The report is good news," Nothe stated, "but the timing is bad. There are no lights at the end of the tunnel right now. Revenues are off all around."

To save money, the study suggested that the Communications Center merge with others in the area to provide regional call services.

"We've had the regionalization discussion in the past," Nothe said. "The biggest issue is finding the start up money needed to move the radios and the radio licenses ... and finding consolidation partners. This is up to the towns and the citizens to decide."

He noted that Wilbraham does have a mutual aid agreement with neighboring towns.

"The study will serve as a tool for the Board of Selectmen and the Finance Committee," Weitz said, "but everything is subject to financial reality."