Firefighters frustrated with Middletown administration over deal to save jobs

MIDDLETOWN, Ohio -- A tentative agreement to save firefighter jobs in Middletown faces more scrutiny.

The firefighters’ union said it will not accept the proposal unless the “first emergency, first” policy is removed, according to the Journal-News.

Firefighters said they worry it could jeopardize safety because emergency vehicles could be used for non-emergency calls.

The tentative agreement would last for two years if the union signs off.

RELATED: Middletown gives layoff notice to 11 firefighters

Middletown stands to lose 11 firefighters if the agreement is not approved. Officials said the city does not employ part-time or volunteer firefighters.

Greg Justice, president of International Association of Firefighters Local 336, spoke with the Journal-News about the issue and said fire crews are confused by information coming from the city.

Justice told the Journal-News that he met with City Manager Doug Adkins on Monday and was assured the policy that reduces the number of emergency personnel on duty from four to three no longer was being used.

“He showed us he heard us loud and clear,” Justice said.

However, he said Fire Chief Steve Botts told him the opposite a few hours later.

If approved, the policy would save 11 firefighters and four other positions from being eliminated in the fire division.

The Journal-News reported that the agreement would last for two years.

Through the agreement, the city will be allowed to hire full- and part-time firefighters without “blowing up” the budget, maintain current service levels and to begin building additional flexibility and capacity for the future, Adkins said. If the city doesn’t receive a grant, the Memorandum of Understanding would be terminated, and firefighters could be furloughed at the discretion of the city.

Adkins said there are more than two -dozen full-time firefighters who are eligible for retirement in the next five years. Once those firefighters retire, “cheaper” firefighters could be hire.

The terms of the tentative agreement depend upon the city applying for and receiving funding in the next round of SAFER grants. The application period for the grant is expected to begin in November 2014 and awards are expected in the first half of 2015, according to the Journal-News.

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