Concern grown among Covington firefighters
(Photo by Kareem Elgazzar | WCPO).
COVINGTON, Ky. -- If it weren't for irresponsible financial reporting from Covington's former finance director, some firefighters feel they may still have the resources needed to keep people safe.
Covington firefighters want help.
“How can we continue to rely on anything Bob Due reported on over the past 10 years," Jimmy Adams, Covington Professional Firefighters Local 38 President said.
Adams is concerned about the safety of citizens and firefighters, because of staffing cuts. According to a release from Local 38, City Manager Larry Klein turned the fire chief away from a contract that ensured jobs for firefighters for more than four years, from Nov. 10, 2010 to Dec. 31, 2014.
The order left Covington's busiest water-carrying pumper, Pumper One, idle since Sept. 26, 2011 because there is no staff to operate it. Without proper water supply and firefighters at work, more people are at risk of fire damage.
According to Adams, it's all Due's fault, after a state audit showed he embezzled nearly $800,000. Adams wants Klein to stop counting on Due's financial reports.
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“Bob Due dismissed out of hand several cost-saving proposals Local 38 put forth that, if heeded, may have stopped the city from terminating our staffing contract," Adams said.
He wants city leaders to reinstate the staffing agreement, now that Due's faulty reports have become known. The budget allows for a certain number of firefighters on staff, and as it stands, there are spots that could be filled. By having firefighters at full staff, 30 rather than 27 per shift, Adams said safety would no longer be compromised.
That includes getting Pumper One back in service.
"We continue to seek ways to help the fire chief run the fire department more efficiently with fewer dollars," Adams said. "But a major piece of the safety puzzle has been missing for two and half years."
It's a sacrifice that as a result, sacrifices safety.
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Klein told WCPO reporter Bryce Anslinger Monday evening that the fire department's shortage has nothing to do with Due's figures and alleged embezzlement.
"We'd have to repair less streets, do less sewer projects, repair less sidewalks, buy less police cars or ambulances, the money has to come from somewhere," Klein said.
But firefighters and and union officials no longer want to let safety be a gamble.
"Every day we come to work it's russian routlette, with 27 guys, and what companies are in service and what ambulances are out," Adams said. "Pumper One was a constant. It was always on track, and it needs to be in service for the tax payers and the firemen."