ITEM PHOTO BY JIM WILSON
A woman passes by the front entrance to the Hollingsworth Street station.
By THOMAS GRILLO
LYNN — For the first time since the city settled the firefighters’ contract, several stations have temporarily gone dark because of budget constraints and more cuts are expected.
On Monday, Engine 1 on Hollingsworth Street in the Highlands neighborhood was shuttered, Ladder 4 in the Broadway station was out of service Saturday, while the safety officer’s post at the Fayette Street station went unmanned Sunday night.
“When anything is out of service the city is not as adequately protected as if everything was in service,” said William Murray, deputy chief. “But it all comes down to money. The only easy way to save cash is to take engines out of service.”
This is the first of what could be many brownouts. Starting today, the department expects to shutter two shifts per day at least until June 30, the end of the fiscal year, according to Chief James McDonald.
The Fire Department must cut $1.3 million from the department’s $16.6 million payroll. One way to do that, without laying off a firefighter, is to trim the overtime budget, Murray said.
Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy said the brownouts stem from the firefighter’s $2.2 million arbitration award to fund retroactive raises and increased pay for this year.
“The money had to come from somewhere,” she said. “We transferred a lot of money from other accounts, but some of the money must come from overtime accounts to keep our budget in shape for the remaining three months of this fiscal year.”
The $2.5 million deal was settled in February by the Joint Labor-Management Committee, a quasi-public agency that negotiates collective bargaining disputes between municipalities and public employees. Under the terms of the agreement, the firefighters will receive a retroactive 2 percent raise for each of fiscal years 2015 and 2016, a 2.5 percent hike for 2017, another 2 percent for 2018 and on June 30, 2018 they will collect another 1 percent.
Ward 4 City Councilor Richard Colucci said the city has to find some way to pay for fire protection.
“It’s devastating,” he said. “It’s the only fire truck in the Highlands and it’s never been closed in recent memory. I plan to discuss this with the chief.”
Thomas Grillo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.