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Common Council to vote on re-arrangement of Utica Fire Department

By LEXIE O'CONNOR

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - The City of Utica's Common Council will vote Thursday night on whether or not to approve a new complement that re-arranges what positions are cut to the fire department.

The new complement was first presented to the Common Council on Tuesday. If it had been voted on then, it needed to be unanimous to pass. So, the vote was tabled until Thursday, meaning it will need a simple majority to pass.

If approved, the overall complement will not change, but the make-up of it will.

It will mean restoring the Chief Fire Marshal position, restoring 2 Deputy Fire Chief positions, bringing the total number of deputy fire chiefs to 4, as well as restoring 4 fire captain positions, bringing the total to 7.

Also part of Thursday night's proposal is cutting 2 fire lieutenants and 5 firefighter positions.

These changes are based on a deal reached between the Firefighters Union President and Utica Mayor Palmieri last week, which also included a $15,000 retirement incentive.

Fire Chief Russell Brooks says he now has 20 members of the department set to retire.

While this does allow for more favorable changes to the reduced complement, Chief Brooks says the retirements are still a big loss.

"I know it's going to have an effect. I won't know how much of an effect until we're actually doing it. They'll be less men on the fire ground, there will be less experienced men supervising and directing on the fire ground. Very capable men, but they'll be a learning curve," Chief Brooks said.

Chief Brooks says he has faith in the men he has, but not having the most senior, most knowledgeable men assisting and advising him as he goes forward with the restructuring will be tough.

Chief Brooks says this change will most likely allow the city to keep a federal grant known as the SAFER grant, because now they can file as having retirements rather than layoffs. Layoffs would have violated that grant.

The meeting kicks off at 5:30 Thursday night at Utica City Hall.

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