City, Union Spar Over Fire Lieutenants

Thomas MacMillan PhotoFire union President Jimmy Kottage (pictured) arrived Friday morning at the steps of City Hall with reinforcements in his fight against a change in lieutenant staffing—black and Latino firefighters who back him.

Chief Administrative Officer Rob Smuts showed up with reinforcements of his own—eye-popping statistics on a list of the top overtime earners in the department.

Smuts’s list shows how much money the city is spending in firefighter overtime because the fire department doesn’t have enough supervisors. Firefighters at the top of the list are earning nearly twice as much as their regular salaries.

Click here to see the list, which includes the towns where all sworn firefighters live. Top earners—who in many cases didn’t necessarily ask for the overtime, but were obligated to be pulled into service because of understaffing—took in over $200,000 a year. Most of them live outside of New Haven. (Caveat: The list includes not just overtime pay, but settlement payments stemming from the Ricci v. DeStefano reverse discrimination lawsuit.)

Smuts produced the list in response to Kottage’s complaints about a change to the number of lieutenants in the department. In the budget that went into effect on July 1, the city defunded 12 captain positions and created 12 new lieutenant positions in the fire department.

Kottage said this is a way to avoid the regular promotions practice. Read more about his complaint here.

Kottage held a Friday morning press conference to call on the Board of Aldermen to change the budget to eliminate the new lieutenant positions. Beaver Hills Alderman Brian Wingate, head of the Public Safety Committee, promised to hold a hearing on the matter.

At the press conference, Kottage was backed by representatives of black and Latino firefighter associations. Gary Tinney of the New Haven Firebirds, said firefighters are united in their opposition to the staffing changes.

Firebird Darrel Brooks said the budget change will mean that lieutenants with 20 years of experience will be seeking captain promotions alongside brand new lieutenants with only a year of experience: “That’s insane.”

Smuts (pictured) said the city followed the proper procedure to address a supervisor shortage. He said the move is a common practice in the New Haven police department.

At the top of Smuts’ list of top firefighter earners are two battalion chiefs from Guilford, each of whom earned nearly a quarter-million dollars in the last fiscal year. Smuts said that’s because of a shortage of both battalion chiefs and deputy chiefs in the department. He said the city tried to have a battalion chiefs promotions exam, but the union blocked it because of a disagreement about the weighting of the exam.

Lt. Kottage is number 46 on the list. He earned $117,000 in the last fiscal year, more than 50 percent more than his base pay.

Smuts said the change to lieutenant staffing will take care of most of the overtime expenses associated with the captain and lieutenant ranks.

“We will have another hearing,” said Wingate.

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posted by: Wooster Squared on August 23, 2013  3:55pm

After four credit downgrades in a year and countless lawsuits involving the NHFD it may be time to rethink how the city provides this service.

Has the City done a cost benefit analysis looking at using a private fire service or a hybrid professional-volunteer model? This may or may not be the way to go, but it should be studied and carefully considered.

A number of cities around the country have started using private fire services successfully. 

Stamford, a city almost exactly the same size as New Haven uses a combination of professional firefighters, supplemented with volunteers. Like New Haven, Stamford has many old buildings, many tall buildings, an industrial area, and a train station. If they can successfully use a hybrid model, New Haven should at least be looking into it.

I have the utmost respect for firefighters, but the current system in New Haven is a mess, with huge expenses and constant infighting. The only thing we shouldn’t be doing is more of the same.

posted by: NHFDCP on August 23, 2013  3:59pm

Mr Smuts et al, need to remember that the rank-and-file members of the Department did not create this mess. For years, the number of vacant spots has grown, and nothing was done. The numbers for the top two may be seem extreme, but the public needs to know that those two members have been working 24 hour shifts to cover four positions. This is due to not promoting the upper ranks. Lt Kottage is correct, the Department needs to promote from the top down, and as they do, lower spots will open up immediately. As it stands now, if they attempt to promote from the bottom up, the City would have to wait a minimum of one year to further promote those members, and as there are already vacancies at every level above Lieutenant, you don’t solve the overtime/acting issue. If you want to curb overtime costs, it is simple: Promote and hire at all levels.

I also find it suspect that Mr Smuts would feel the need to include the town of residence for those listed. I see this as purely to fan the flames. Yes, I live in the next town, but I spend a large amount of my earnings at New Haven businesses and activities. I still have family in New Haven too, and they probably spend less money in the city than I do.

Finally, I find Mr Smuts’ list suspect, or at least his reporting flawed, as I haven’t made half of what he is reporting I did..

Lt. C. Parker

posted by: ILivehere on August 23, 2013  4:00pm

This is exactly why we cant vote the unions in to power the election.

posted by: cedarhillresident! on August 23, 2013  4:04pm

Ok I will post here…Not going to say much because my jaw is on the floor. Besides the amount of OT that this list shows it also shows were these people that are backing Harp live..and know we know why they are.

posted by: UBHolden on August 23, 2013  4:23pm

unbeleivable!  I wouldn’t want more lieutenants either if it meant my overtime is going to go down dramaticall.  In addition, doesn’t all this jack up their pensions??  Brooks calls it “insane” that Lieutenants with 20 years experience would be taking the captain’s exam with guys who have been a lietenant for one year.  That may be so, but why hasn’t someone who has been a Lieutenant for 20 years been unable to pass the Captain’s exam?  I assume they have taken it several times along the way???

posted by: Webblog1 on August 23, 2013  4:46pm

“We will have another hearing,” said Wingate.

For What Wingate, you voted for the budget amendment authorizing the shift from Capt. to Lt. You and the entire board voted 28 to 0 to accept the budget.

You had a public hearing and the firemen were silent.

What do you hope to achieve by providing another public hearing, where for the most part the public is shut out or ignored.

This is a union/ city contract issue, let the union grieve and go to arbitration if they believe they are correct.

Stop playing stupid politics games wingate.

posted by: just my view on August 23, 2013  5:19pm

... and here is when they begin to eat their own.

posted by: Wooster Squared on August 23, 2013  5:33pm

By the way, thanks NHI for providing the data.

I did some quick math and it turns out we’re paying over 15 MILLION dollars a year to non-residents for fire service.

Put another way, that’s about $100,000 a year on average to over 150 individuals who don’t live here.

Meanwhile, half of New Haven households are living on $29,000 or less per year.

So a bunch of guys living out of town who are making three times as much as the average New Haven family have the stones to complain about promotions.

posted by: HewNaven on August 23, 2013  5:47pm

What’s sickening to me is that most of these stations are surrounded by poor people who struggle to make a living. You’d have to be completely blind to drive in every day from Guilford and take that kind of money away from New Haven residents. This is absolutely disgusting.

posted by: Noteworthy on August 23, 2013  8:34pm

This is a great article and congratulations to Rob Smuts for firing with both barrels. It is past time for these whiny firefighters to quit milking the system. You blocked the exams, and helped create the mess. It is not a very far leap to see why given that so many union bigs were on the hit parade of top earners - Kottage and of course, ever dipping Ricci; Gary Tinney who is for the union when it means he has monster paychecks and against the union when he’s trying to get a double scoop payment like Ricci.

If ever my point that our fire service needs to be scrapped and re-orged, it is now. Streamline those rules, limit the union’s ability to screw taxpayers and for god’s sake, only higher enough to equal the national average. And do what the consultant told us to do four years ago - close at least one fire station.

This has been going on for years and it’s part of the reason our pension fund is so upside down.

Note to Brian Wingate: We don’t need any stinking hearing on this. The city is broke. You helped break it. Tough love as it is, just do it and quit carrying water for the union.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on August 23, 2013  9:43pm

posted by: Wooster Squared on August 23, 2013 5:33pm

By the way, thanks NHI for providing the data.

I did some quick math and it turns out we’re paying over 15 MILLION dollars a year to non-residents for fire service.

Put another way, that’s about $100,000 a year on average to over 150 individuals who don’t live here.

Meanwhile, half of New Haven households are living on $29,000 or less per year.

So a bunch of guys living out of town who are making three times as much as the average New Haven family have the stones to complain about promotions.

The question you need to ask is why are you and other in town residents not taking the test to become a New haven firefigther.

posted by: Proud NHFD on August 23, 2013  9:53pm

I am an NHFD firefighter who has dedicated my life to serving the citizens of New Haven.  I grew up in this city, went to school here, and still have family who live here.  I no longer reside here because I need be closer to my in-laws.  Does that make me less of a dedicated employee?  Like many of my coworkers I take every class I can to improve my skills, often having to use vacation time and/or pay for the training.  I do that with no complaints or expectations of being rewarded, but because that is the right way to serve the citizens of New Haven.  When I read Mr Smut’s comments it feels like a slap in the face.  Mr. Smuts has been the point person at city hall for the FD for many years.  The fact that the department is in the state that it is regarding lack of supervisors and vacancies is a result of his poor management and an inability to plan for the future.  Does anyone really think that this snuck up on him?  Is he surprised that we want promotional test weights to be done according to which the city agreed in our contract? All NHFD members are asking for is the chance to have promotions actually take place the correct way for the first time in over a decade without the games being played by the CAO’s office.  This way we can continue the proud tradition of providing the citizens with a top rate FD.  The divisive game being played by publicizing earnings (an issue that was created by the incompetency of the person releasing it) is a sad attempt to deflect attention from the real issue.  The changes in Captain and Lieutenant numbers will actually delay promotions to those vacant, overtime “sucking” battalion and deputy chief positions.  All that is happening here is the creation of a mess that will be left when Mr. Smuts leaves in a few months!

posted by: Amazed on August 24, 2013  1:53am

It is great to see all the firefighters united.  Stand strong.  As for Mr. Smuts, why are you intentionally misleading people.  You can increase the number of lieutenants but you would still have to utilize lieutenants as acting Captains.  So you would still be using overtime and inflate salaries. So you have solved nothing.  When a CFO does not understand basic math no wonder this once great city is in such a condition.

posted by: Rivertostate on August 24, 2013  6:53am

Mr. Smuts, let me get this straight. It is the Unions fault that overtime is out of control? It is the Unions fault that the city has failed to give promotional exams.

Both of these problems have been staring at city hall and the chiefs office for a DECADE!!! And it has essentially been ignored due to incompetence.

Mr. Smuts says that the union “blocked” the Battalion Chiefs exam. What he doesn’t tell you is that the HE wanted to change the weighting of the exam from what has been already agreed upon with the union.

Ask yourself why? Why does the city want to re weight the BC test?
Why do they continue to try to alter agreed upon testing procedures? Why don’t they just follow the rules and do it properly without litigation? Wouldn’t that lead to a streamlined process ensuring they get ALL levels of the command staff filled in a timely fashion??

To all the union haters out there, what is the union doing wrong? The city and the union have a signed contract. They have letters of agreement and memo’s of understanding clearly spelling out how tests are to be weighted. The union has 30+ years of litigation in its favor against the city. All the union is doing is protecting its workers from the meddling hands of the city.

Also remember that those big overtime earnings / budget numbers aren’t the whole story… Remember the 102 vacancies? Subtract that 6.5 + mil in salaries from the OT budget to get a true number of what the city is paying in OT. Never mind the savings in healthcare and benefits. Most of the firefighters OT is paid at straight time. More FACTS Smuts decides to leave out of his inflammatory report.

posted by: GBoivin on August 24, 2013  8:19am

Just a message to you Rob Smuts:
I don’t mind that you skew the facts and fail to advise that myself and 17 others only made that amount because we won a lawsuit at the Supreme Court level against you, Mayor Destefano, and the corrupt actions of your administration attempting to deny promotions to the NH20 in 2004.  What bothers me is the fact that you released personal information with it (i.e., the town I live in)—when advising that we live outside of New Haven would have sufficed.  And God help you if anyone comes after me or my family for your irresponsibility in the craziness of these days—you have little to no class for this action.  I also find it funny how you are vilifying the worker for the actions of the management—or should I say inaction of the management (YOU).  Aren’t you supposed to be a Democrat? Democrats are for the workers—I guess not—not that that surprises me, because I’ve been saying that for many years now.  Democrats are for themselves in the long and short run. 

These salaries could have been kept within a responsible number had you kept with the practice of filling the vacancies in a timely manner. However, you chose not to, and now your actions, your faults, are causing this problem—which by the way, is more systemic than money.  I hope when you look at your actions of trying to make us look like the “bad guy,” you can be proud that your failure gives you solace in making the NHFD members out to be simply greedy.

I would guess by your summation of events, you would agree that the military should also abolish Lt, Capt, Major, and Colonel positions as well, so that they can make more Sergeants—common sense to-the-core right there.  Since 2004 , you have failed to give any other line officer promotions, and failed to adequately hire, knowing that the ranks would be depleted due to the mass exodus of aging firefighters. Shame on you!  So I ask, how is this the workers fault?

posted by: Rivertostate on August 24, 2013  2:15pm

While I understand that the thought of a firefighter making $250k a year can be a tough pill to swallow- if you break it down and look at the true cost to the city to fill the Deputy Chief positions you may be surprised.

A budgeted DC base salary is $95676 add holiday pay, longevity,  and stipends a DC without overtime makes about $105K a a year.

There are 4 budgeted DC’s of which none are currently filled. That brings the cost of the position to $420K per year.

Now factor in that the city is not paying health insurance, life insurance, uniforms, comp, pension, sick time, etc for those 4 DC positions. That is , conservatively, about $20K per position for a total of $80K.

So, for the city to fund the 4 Deputy Chief positions it IS BUDGETED around $500K a year- NOT factoring in the overtime needed to cover the DC’s vacation and sick time.

Now, the 2 Battalion Chiefs who are currently working the 4 Deputy Chief positions are working every other day for 24 hrs…. 24hrs on, 24 hrs off, 24 hrs on, 24 hrs off….and have been for 2 + YEARS!!!

1 made 245107, the other 244985 for a total of $490092

So the city budgets $500K for the DC job- The city paid $490K for the DC position last fiscal year. (you don’t factor the BC’s benefits because they would have been paid out in the BC position regardless)

How is this possible? Well over 80% of a firefighters OT hrs are paid at straight time. Factor in the savings on “fringe benefits” listed above from the vacancies and…wa-la!! You have the truth.

What it boils down to is instead of paying 4 people $125K yr they are paying 2 people $245k yr… and you can apply the same math all the way down from DC to firefighter.

This is just one example, it trickles down through all the ranks. Smuts et al takes a snap shot and do not inform you of the TRUTH. They count on you believing them and blaming the dedicated & hard working members of the NHFD. They use smoke and mirrors to distract you and to take the heat off themselves.

posted by: FacChec on August 24, 2013  2:51pm

I will say in defense of the union with regard to flip from the Capt. to LT. positions, the original 13/14 budget submitted by the Mayor in March of 2013 contained 23 fully funded Capt. positions. It also contained 45 fully funded LT positions.

If the Mayor did not plan to fill all positions this budget year, then they should not have been under consideration for approval by the BOA.

The BOA passed the original budget, but only after the Mayor submitted a budget amendment calling for the twelve position flip.
While the original budget did allow for public input, which the firemen did not attend, neither the public nor the firemen had the opportunity to weigh-in on the budget amendment which was held between the mayor and Jorge Perez behind closed doors.

Nevertheless, judging from the number of positions approved, it does not appear necessary to flip any positions, just test and fill based on the order of need.

With regard to overtime budgeted, the police dept was reduced by 550K and the Fire Dept was increased by 1.1M over the 12/13 budget, in both the original and the budget amendment.

Therefore, with these considerations well within budget, it does appear the administration is picking a fight, it will surely lose.

posted by: downtown dweller on August 24, 2013  9:42pm

There is to be no perfect solution to this problem.  As Rivertostate admits, the firefighters’ union has been in litigation with the city on and off for the last thirty years.  Whenever the city tries to change the terms of the firefighters’ employment, it is sued, or threatened with a suit.  Despite this, some firefighters are taking home almost ten times the national median wage, and receiving benefits on top.  It makes it worse that this is New Haven taxpayers’ money that, in large part, is being taken outside New Haven.

Wooster Squared has proposed the best answer: go to a private or hybrid private/voluntary model.  The firefighters would resist this tooth and nail.  But, if the city is so powerless to make changes in the department, or tame the wage bill, this would be the best option.  It appears that a public firefighting service is a luxury we can no longer afford.

posted by: truck3nhfd on August 25, 2013  7:36am

FacChec I was at the budget meetings including the one that the fire and police department presented their budget and this issue was discussed quite extensivley.  The public had oppertunities to speak and I didn"t hear the fire union President say any thing so it wasn’t done in a back room so if he didnt say anything then or didn’t attend shame on him.
River to State i agree you can’t lay this at the feet of the firefighters.  Looking at their base salaries compared to what they made they must of worked a lot.
What scares me after looking again at the fire contracr online is these guys can get 80 percent of what they make just off their last 4 years of working with overtime included.  If the deputy acting chiefs averaged $250,000 the last couple years and are probably going to do that again and if they can retire with 80 percent because they can have 30 years then they could get pensions around $200,000 a year for the rest of their lives.  How old are these guys.  How long do they have on the fire department.  That contract says something about giving sick time for pension credits does this me they can get more than 80 percent if they do that.

posted by: Rivertostate on August 25, 2013  9:39am

Wooster Squared and downtown dweller, so now that it has been explained that the firefighters union is not “extorting” the taxpayers and the gross mismanagement of the department by Grant, Egan, Smuts, and Destefano has led the NHFD down this path -your answer is still “stick it to the union” and propose unrealistic alternatives.
Here are 2 ideas
1. Educate yourself on the fire service and the history of the fire service in New Haven
2. Step away from your keyboard -march down to city hall and demand that the people who caused this mess be held accountable- demand there resignation and / or make there positions volunteer or privatized.

The union and membership has been in litigation for 30 years because the city just refuses conduct itself within the parameters of mutually agreed upon contracts / settlements. And don’t think the city’s reasoning has anything to do with you the taxpayer- do some research and you will see it is all about a political agenda.

The union has made more concessions over the last 30 yrs than you can imagine, what was once a 500 man department is now 350, overtime at straight pay, increased cost shares for medical, increased cost share for pension- the list goes on. The union agrees to these because they understand the fiscal climate and strain on the tax payers. But when the union stands up for itself regarding staffing, workplace conditions, or promotional practices they are chastised by the administration, the media, and the public.

It amazes me you don’t see this. You refuse to want to address the true problem. And you continue to blame, and want to punish the union members.

Address the problem!!!! Not the result of it!!!! Because until the problem is fixed any other solution will only be short term. And make no mistake about, the problem is management!!! Or should I say lack of.

posted by: anonymous on August 25, 2013  2:07pm

Rivertostate, a typical family in many city neighborhoods makes about a thousand dollars each month.  Typically about half of that money goes to rent. In other words it goes to pay property tax so that we can pay city worker salaries.

Do you think that it is fair to pay union members the equivalent of a thousand dollars per DAY in salary and benefits?

That’s called taking money away from low income families, young people, and immigrants, many of whom work just as hard as the firefighters do, and giving it to mostly middle-aged people in towns that are more than 10 times wealthier.

I’m all for paying firefighters well above what anyone would consider to be a living wage.  But we need to make sure that residents in the rest of our city can enjoy a similar quality of life, not feel like they are permanently imprisoned by poverty while simultaneously seeing their libraries, parks, schools, and snow removal collapse because more and more money is exported to the suburbs each year.

posted by: downtown dweller on August 25, 2013  3:51pm


I’m pretty well educated on the New Haven fire service, thank you.  I’ll ignore your patronizing tone—which is not the way for you to win the public support you desperately need—and cut to the chase.

It’s great that the NHFD has cut numbers.  It would be great if NHFD continued to cut numbers.  Why?  Because there are fewer fires than there used to be.  Fires requiring a fire service response in New Haven fell by 20% between 2001 and 2011.  Firefighters spend most of their time responding to medical emergencies.  The city could easily trim the department, close a firehouse, and reduce the departmental minimum staffing requirements.

Volunteer and private firefighting services work fine.  Most firefighters in this country are volunteers.  Frankly, the country seems a pretty safe place to me in terms of fire protection.

Your confrontational post just proves my argument, unfortunately.  The union and the city are incapable of coexisting.  If the union is always right, as you claim, then it seems that the city is always signing over-expensive contracts.  The only way to prevent that is to move to a different model of firefighting.

posted by: downtown dweller on August 25, 2013  4:12pm

Anonymous makes a good point about salaries.  A lieutenant in the army makes between $40,000 and $55,000 in cash per year, plus an undefined amount in benefits, perhaps in the region of $25,000.  I have a hard time understanding why a lieutenant in the fire service should be able to earn so much more.

posted by: Rivertostate on August 25, 2013  4:21pm

Anonymous, I completely sympathize with the low income families that live in the city. But you leave out important information. That family making 12k a year also gets welfare, housing assistance, food stamps, WIC, free state health care, heating & utility assistance, child care assistance, and a host of other programs. Now who funds all of these programs? That’s right, those very suburbanites you despise. And those low income renters, unless they own a car, are paying $0 in property tax - the for profit property owner is paying the property tax.

Do I think it’s fair? Fortunately this is not a socialist society so a lot of things aren’t fair. Is it fair a doctor makes 250k yr. working 5 days a week when he is paid by medicare / medicaid?
My father taught me to work hard and create my own path in life (he was a truck driver) I’ve worked since I was 13 most of that time having 2 jobs. Is it fair I have to work 2 jobs to support my family and about .35 cents of every dollar I make goes to taxes that subsidize all those govt. programs for the low income families you speak of? Tack on my 10k property tax bill, gas tax, and sales tax. I pay my share and more of my tax dollars get funneled into New Haven than stays in my hometown.

The firefighters are TAKING nothing. Most of those guys are doing the job of 2 firefighters so the city is adequately protected. Sure the OT is nice, but ask most of them and they will tell you they are tired.

posted by: truck3nhfd on August 25, 2013  5:03pm

As I said before you can’t lay this at the feet of the firefighters. They’re just working and working a lot. I remember visiting the firehouse on Lombard as a child and have been by there with my son and the guys at truck 3 were always the best and the other fire truck to. I am still a resident of fairhaven and know I can still rely on the guys over at Lombard.

It’s still scares me the amount of what these pensions might look like and that’s a problem the city should be talking to the union about because it is crazy but the guys just get what everyone agreed to.
Seems like you could spread the blame between the city administration and the union administration for the share of BS but we shouldn’t blame the firemen.

posted by: Think About It on August 25, 2013  7:00pm

Downtown Dweller & Anonymous:

As far as a volunteer fire department in New Haven, it is highly unlikely that you would draw enough residents to fulfill the obligation of responding to all the fire related calls in the city.  Which fire houses would be volunteer, and which ones paid?  The NHFD does not just respond to structure fires.  If you are understanding of the statistics, then surely you must know that a large chunk of our business is responding to activated fire alarms in businesses, that do not result in large scale fires, as well as motor vehicle related calls, hazmat calls, specialty rescue calls, and various other emergencies that don;t fall within the police or EMS realm. 

You don;t just say “I want a volunteer department” and poof you have people ready to go.  Each individual, in order to be a simple firefighter, must go through months of training and practical drills to assure competency—I know, because I teach these people as a side job.  If you are also well versed i the volunteer fire service, then you realize that volunteer fire departments are dropping off like flies because people simply do not have the time to devote to the initial training and continuing education and training that is required to be a “qualified firefighter.”  So—hundreds of hours just to be a firefighter.  This doesn’t even scratch the surface on technical rescues, becoming an EMT, or other aspects of the fire service.  So as far as a volunteer department, it is kind of a wish, but not a real solution.  You can research NFPA requirements if you don’t believe me.

As for pay, you are paying less than the going rate for a Lt & Capt in CT. Sure, you can always pay less, and you will get less people willing to put their lives on the line for you.  You will get feet to fill the boots, but when the bell rings, do you think those underpaid guys and girls are going to be rushing to save you, give their all on medical calls, or provide you with what you deserve, its simple as NO.

posted by: Think About It on August 25, 2013  7:12pm

Dweller & Anon:

As far as the pay thing goes—the union is not fighting for more money—they are fighting to keep the command structure in tact.  If these positions were filled properly, from private to Deputy Chief, you would not be seeing outrageous pensions, and incredible annual incomes.  Al firefighters from top down, would be making their annual budgeted salary.  The union is trying to save you money, they realize the guys are getting burned out from being “softly ordered” to work overtime, or they will be mandated to work.  Most members are working the hours of 1 1/2 people, giving them 1 1/2 times their annual salary.  There are a bunch of members that work many overtimes so other members with obligations won’t be ordered to stay.  These are the members that are “stuck out” by Rob Smuts as greedy and treated as a succubus o New Haven, when in fact they are sacrificing time away from their own families—and some getting divorced so others won’t get screwed.

Your city administration has failed you in every aspect, from the under-filling lawsuits of the 90’s against african AMericans, to the New Haven 20 lawsuit in 2004.  They have left the fire department to whither and die, and are now trying to blame it on “greedy” firemen.  Since when do the workers control the Mayor, or the Chief of a Department; this would be the first I ever heard of.  The City new these vacancies were coming over a decade ago.  They new guys were retiring from every rank, but failed to fill the vacancies in a timely manner.  How does a well run department get to the point where they have over 100 vacancies?  Answer they don’t!  So the obvious answer is: it is not run very well.  Last I checked, Deputy Chiefs, Battalion Chiefs, Captains, Lieutenants, and Privates had no say in the City’s budget, the hiring process, the promotional process, or any other management aspect.  But feel free to continue to blame the worker.

posted by: mike1985 on August 25, 2013  8:14pm

Let’s all do the math. 10 engines, 4 Trucks, and 2 Squads equals 16 companies which should equal 16 Captains and 48 lieutenants. It doesn’t take rocket science to figure it out. Check with FDNY, Boston, Bridgeport, Providence, etc. New Haven has been overstaffed in the Captain ranks for years and Smuts finally caught onto this. The senior captain is in charge of the fire house. New Haven should have more Lieutenants. The rank and structure has been antiquated since the begining but it should also be a negotiated item. The privates should all be happy for more promotional oportunities. Enough said.

posted by: member on August 25, 2013  8:33pm

Wooster Squared, Let me know when you’d like to spend 3 14 hour night shifts with me on my Engine Company in Fair Haven I’ll make the arrangements and I’ll even buy you dinner, you’re gonna eat it in the engine because we’re gonna be busy, but I’ll still pay for it. Let me know. Maybe you can start a drive for an all volunteer department and I’m sure you’d be more then willing to be the first to volunteer.

posted by: Wooster Squared on August 25, 2013  9:27pm

@Gary Cole,

I would jump at the chance to spend 3 14-hour night shifts with you on your engine. Perhaps we could work with NHI to arrange this. I’m sure it would be very tough, but it’s something I’d like to do.

The question is, are you serious about this offer or would you just use this as an excuse to haze and/or embarass me because of the fact that I’ve criticized NHFD on this site?

Send me your number via the author of this article and we can talk.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on August 25, 2013  10:04pm

This is why they make money.

We shall never forget these 343 Firefighters.

Emergency workers killed in the September 11 attacks

Of the 2,977 people killed in the September 11 attacks, 412 were emergency workers in New York City who responded to the World Trade Center. This included:
341 firefighters and 2 paramedics from the New York City Fire Department (FDNY);[1]
37 police officers from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department (PAPD);[2]
23 police officers from the New York City Police Department (NYPD);[3] and
8 emergency medical technicians and paramedics from private emergency medical services.[4][5]

This article lists those emergency workers from the three main emergency services, the FDNY, PAPD and NYPD, who died whilst fulfilling their duties at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

Any takers for there job.

My bad I forgot.Some of them will not get to spend a dime of there money.

Still dying from 9/11: Toxic legacy of World Trade Center attack revealed as dust increases risk of cancer by a fifth

By Julian Gavaghan
UPDATED: 07:45 EST, 2 September 2011

Aftermath of 9/11: Study Shows Firefighters’ Breathing Problems Never Went Away


April 7, 2010

ABC News Medical Unit

posted by: Rivertostate on August 25, 2013  11:02pm

Your assessment of the Captain situation in New Haven is not that far off. New Haven is a Captain
heavy department but every fire department is structured differently. Example, some of those jobs you mention the driver or chauffeur is a promotion with higher pay in New Haven it is not.

That aside, Smuts is not looking to permanently get rid of those Captains positions. He is looking to keep those positions in the budget hence they are funded at $1. If Smuts has his way he will promote the extra lieutenants now and when they give the captains exam re fund the captains slots and de fund those new LT slots. It is just a game of shells or underfilling. In the end he is not looking to restructure the fire department. And be careful what you ask for…. Someday you may be looking for that captains position that used to be there, then you’ll be singing a different tune.

Kudos to you for going and researching the collective bargaining agreement. It can be quite a boring read. Yes, the members working all this OT will have substantial pensions. But turn to the last page of the contract and you will see the signatures of the current mayor, current fire chief, and current assistant chief (then union prez). This contract dates back to 2006 and not much changed regarding pension calculation from the previous contract. Right there is proof positive that management was asleep at the wheel. How could they say they did not see this coming? Had the city promoted and hired properly this situation would not exist.

posted by: HewNaven on August 26, 2013  8:15am

If these guys are so valuable, let’s get a Fireman of the Week series going, so we can get to know them a little better. Maybe these jobs are worth the money.

posted by: downtown dweller on August 26, 2013  12:52pm

The arguments above are really all over the place.  Some firefighters admit that salaries are incredible and that pensions are outrageous, but say that if the department was fully staffed, the city would actually save money.  This makes no sense, because the last 2006 contract includes a minimum staffing requirement, inserted at the union’s behest.  That’s the problem here.  And other firefighters are admitting that the union stuck it to the management in the last contract negotiations, and that the city fell asleep at the wheel.  The firefighters are a bit embarrassed by this, but sheepishly ask us taxpayers and voters to take it out not on them but on the city officials.  Actually, taxpayers aren’t going to shift responsibility so easily.  It takes two sides to sign a bad contract, and the firefighters are at fault as much as the city.  If we can’t even up the bargaining power between the city and the union—and we probably can’t, because politicians like to pose in front of fire trucks at election time—we need to rethink firefighting in this city completely.

posted by: just my view on August 26, 2013  1:08pm

@ Downtown Dweller - you posted “Volunteer and private firefighting services work fine.  Most firefighters in this country are volunteers.”

Find a city the size of New Haven (or even half the size of New Haven) that has a private fire service or more even more unlikely a volunteer fire department.