COVINGTON, Ky. -- The police are running ragged, the fire department’s equipment is aging rapidly, and both Covington departments are angry about it.
A joint statement by the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 38 and the Covington Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 1 recently stated: “Covington’s leadership is not doing its job. Simply put, they are not providing firefighters and police officers with the resources and staffing to get the job done.”
Help is on the way, said City Manager Larry Klein, although he admitted it is not coming as quickly as either he or the departments would like.
“I can understand if they’re impatient -- we’re impatient, too,” Klein said.
Money is tight for the city right now -- so tight, in fact, that Klein elected to forego asking for a proposed salary increase for himself of over $10,000. Still, he said the city has budgeted money to replace older equipment in the fire department’s fleet, including financing a new ladder truck, pumper and ambulance. This is in addition to 32 new cruisers being added this year for the police department.
Still, the local IAFF is pushing for more.
“The average age of our fleet is 16.6 years old,” said Mike Lee, the president of the fire union. “Fire equipment should be refurbished every 15 years. The shop is doing a great job, but every time something goes down, it’s a hassle. These roads tear up the (ambulances) bad.”
“We are on pace for 12,500 runs this year, and when you do that many runs with fire equipment, it wears down even quicker, and makes it not safe,” said Tyler Cherry, IAFF No. 38 secretary/treasurer.
Firefighters are concerned because in south Covington, there is not an ambulance. A paramedic is always on duty but rides in a fire truck instead.
“It’s not safe,” Lee said. “When we respond, we have a two-in, two-out system at a structure fire. We can’t follow that with only three guys on duty out there. We should have been increasing manpower and adding an ambulance.”
Klein said the city is still covered, both by the paramedic on hand and by the mutual aid system in place with nearby Northern Kentucky agencies.
“Everyone helps everyone, and it worked that way before that ambulance was removed,” Klein said. “A paramedic may come on a fire truck, but they can still stabilize someone in crisis. We have the same level and quickness of paramedic attention you were getting before.”
For police, who as of the end of August had responded to over 41,000 calls, manpower is a huge issue.
Bryan Bogard, Covington FOP president, said that while certain issues were being addressed, Covington is not like any other local city.
“We are a very different city. We deal with a lot of people from Cincinnati and Ohio,” Bogard said. “We have officers who come up from Bowling Green and Owensboro (similar sized cities in Kentucky) for conferences, and they say, you guys are off the hook."
Bogard doesn't believe the requests are unreasonable.
“We’re not asking for the world. We’re asking to be able to do our jobs safely and effectively,” he said.
He also questions Klein's role in the situation.
“I think Covington is a safe city,” Bogard said. “But I don’t tell the fire chief or the police chief how to run their departments -- I hope we never go back to those days when the city administrator did that.”