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MFPD board re-affirms stance on holding down overtime pay

The Mehlville Fire Protection District Board of Directors reiterated its hold on overtime pay last week after learning employees were being paid overtime without board approval.

Board members discovered at their July 26 session that three district firefighters were being paid overtime while participating in a three-day state certification training session.

Chairman Tom O'Driscoll announced last week he had heard about the situation and asked Chief Ray Haddock if it was true because "we're not doing that as far as I'm concerned.''

Haddock confirmed that three firefighters are taking instructor classes to earn their state certification. They already had attended a session that Monday, July 26, and were scheduled for two more sessions on July 28 and July 30.

"Don't we already have certified instructors?" O'Driscoll asked.

Yes, Haddock answered, but the firefighters who attended last week's training were "additional" firefighters who want to become certified instructors.

After two 25-cent tax-rate increase proposals were rejected by voters — in April 2001 and August 2002 — the board moved to reduce overtime costs, including eliminating the district's fifth ambulance when overtime is required.

The board voted unanimously in August 2002 to shut down the fifth ambulance and squad anytime the district would be required to pay overtime to those employees to place the ambulance in service.

O'Driscoll said he understood the need to pay to keep up current employee certifications, but he questioned why the district was paying for additional certifications.

Firefighter Charlie Foresyth explained that Deputy Chief James Hampton, who oversees training, is looking for instructors to help with classes.

"It gives credibility and credence to our instructors if they are certified through the state at a very very minimal cost — $60 a man for that certification," Foresyth said. "We don't have members right now who are doing the teaching and instructing that have firefighter certifications through the state. Therefore, he (Hampton) is trying to get guys who are willing to teach classes, myself being one of them, to get their certification."

Chris Francis, president of the Local 1889 of the International Association of Fire Fighters, noted that the district had to pay beyond the class fee for the training.

"But aren't you also being paid overtime for the days that you're out there that are not your duty days and (on) your duty days they are calling in with overtime to fill your position?" Francis said.

Foresyth answered, "They are covering our positions with overtime, yeah."

O'Driscoll asked Foresyth if there are firefighters with the state instructor certification who are not instructing and causing the need for additional firefighters to seek the certification, but Foresyth said he did not have enough information to answer the question.

"That needs to stop as far as I'm concerned," Treasurer Daniel Ottoline said. "I appreciate what you're doing, Chuck, but could this be done at some other time?"

Foresyth said he did not know how often the training was offered and he and the other firefighters already had attended one of that week's three sessions.

Assistant Chief John Schicke told Ottoline that the district was following the memorandum it has with the union.

"I understand what you're saying John," Ottoline said. "For the people who need to be certified, to keep up their certification, yes — no problem ... But they're going and we're paying overtime for them to go — extra people who don't need it at this time ... The board has said to hold up paying overtime."

Haddock said having more fire fighters certified only can help the district.

"We have some people who maybe don't want to train (any)more ... and I don't know that," Haddock said. "But all I'm saying is that ..."

Ottoline interjected, "Don't make a statement like that if you don't know that, Ray."

Haddock added he believed it was beneficial for the firefighters to have the opportunity to receive the certification.

"I agree," Ottoline said. "We need all the trained people we can get. But at this time, we said hold up paying overtime."

Noting that the firefighters already had begun the three-day course, the directors agreed to drop the matter.

"What's done is done," Ottoline said.

O'Driscoll added, "Just as a point of reference, I think we all agree that when we recertify people we have no problem with that."

But other scenarios that require overtime need to be brought before the board for approval, he said.

Foresyth contended that the board's directive did not address educational benefits regarding other classes or seminars.

In other business during the July 26 meeting, Dwight Dickinson and Don Hussman of Dickinson Hussman Architects updated board members on the status of plans for the new No. 1 firehouse that will be constructed off Lemay Ferry Road.

The Mehlville Fire Protection District earlier this year received $1.15 million from the Missouri Department of Transportation for the purchase of the existing No. 1 firehouse at 7409 S. Lindbergh Blvd.

The district's No. 1 house property was sold in January to make way for improvements planned by MoDOT at the intersection of Lindbergh Boulevard and Lemay Ferry Road. MoDot will improve the intersection by adding dual left-turn lanes and dedicated right-turn lanes at all approaches of the intersection.

The new site, which carries a legal address of 3241 Lemay Ferry Road, is comprised of roughly 1.47 acres that includes a residence on Dovedale Lane on the west side of Lemay Ferry across from Mehlville Senior High School. The fire district purchased the property for $225,000.

During the architects' presentation, Schicke posed concerns over the partial-flat/partial-pitched roof design.

Schicke said he believed the district always had wanted a complete pitched roof and requested the matter be discussed and investigated before the district went with a partial-flat/pitched roof, citing maintenance concerns with the flat portions of the roof.

Hussman contended the pitched-flat combo design was more efficient and aesthetically pleasing than a complete pitched roof and invited employees and board members to visit the Mehlville School District's new Oakville Elementary School, which employs the same partial-pitched/partial flat-roof design. Those interested are scheduled to view the constructed roof at Oakville Elementary this week.

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