Friday, February 27, 2009


“These Firefighters are the backbone of the Fire Department; they’re the future of this Department. We will continue to work at reversing today’s decision – both for the Department and for the City of Elyria.” Assistant Chief Ron Brlas

Elyria – Eleven Firefighters were called into the Chief’s office Friday morning and were handed their two week notices. Elyria Fire Union President Dean Marks said it would have been nice if he had been notified. “I found out from the Firefighters, I would like to have been in there with them when they found out.”

Marks is hopeful that the suit he filed through the Law Directors Office as a tax payer will move forward come Monday morning. “Mr. Shilling has agreed to work with us so he, along with some of our own representation will file the suit on Monday morning. Hopefully that will go through the court system and that will hold this up.”

Marks released numbers today of the City’s top 10 overtime earners, citing that only one Firefighter is on that list. “People have been lead to believe that Firefighters make so much overtime, that we drain the city with overtime but when you look at the numbers that is not the case. We pulled these numbers directly from the Auditors report and it shows one Firefighter on the list at number 7. The top of the list is an employee from Waste Water, he made $30,914.39 in overtime last year and number 9 is a Parks & Rec employee who made $21,698.30 in OT last year.”

The Firefighter who came in at number 7 earned $22,781.23 in overtime in 2008. The remaining employee’s on the top 10 list included 5 Police Officers, one more employee from Waste Water and one more from Parks and Recreation.

Marks said that when the public sees the top 10 wage earners in the local newspaper each year they get upset because they see Firefighters listed each year. He said he wishes that along with the amount they earned that the newspaper would print how they earned it, including base pay, longevity and any bonuses. Marks maintains that overtime within the Department could have been cut along time ago had the Grace Administration hired more Firefighters. “We’d just like to educate the public on the actual numbers; we’d like them to know what the figures actually are.”

The layoffs are effective March 14; Marks said that once that happens citizens will see the four stations reduced to one. “Everybody will be down to one station; everybody will run out of here (Cedar Street). It’s up to the Chief as how he will run those guys but essentially with those numbers you are looking at one Engine Company and one Ladder Company running the city. When it comes to running EMS – that is something that might be affected as well. We’ll of course do the best we can but as of right now all of the protocols are being rewritten to accommodate these new numbers.”

Another issue that Firefighters are dealing with is mutual aid agreements; Marks said that Departments that have responded to help cover Elyria in the past might not be there in the future because of their own staffing and financial issues. Elyria might have a problem sending help to other cities in the future as well. “These are not my decisions but I believe that if we have only 11 guys on duty it will be almost impossible to empty our city of all its protection to cover another city.”

Of the 11 being laid off from the Fire Department, 7 were hired 4 months ago and the remaining 4 have been with the Department for just under 4 years.

Assistant Chief Ron Brlas said that throughout all of this Firefighters had no input throughout the process. “I know Chief Saddler ran a lot of numbers, but he didn’t know what the final tally would be, the number of lay offs until he went to the Mayor’s Office this morning with the other department heads.”

Brlas said that he is not optimistic about the future of the Department. “As long as this Administration is in power, I don’t see anything good – I don’t think Fire or safety in general is a high priority in this Administrations mind.”

Brlas, like Marks, talked personally to each of the Firefighters who received their notices today. “I told them that we will work diligently and very hard to get their jobs back for them. We will leave no stone unturned and we will do whatever we can to help them out. The number one priority is to get them back on the Department. These Firefighters are the backbone of the Fire Department; they’re the future of this Department. They’re the young ones, they’re the ones getting in there and doing the work at the fire scenes. Now, people in their late 40’s are going to be the ones having to do a bulk of the work and it’s going to be difficult. But like I said, we will continue to work at reversing today’s decision – both for the Department and for the City of Elyria.”


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