Niagara Gazette


May 29, 2014

Lockport officials, fire union await staffing decision

Niagara Gazette — The City of Lockport and its firefighter union await a decision on whether officials can go through with cutting minimum staffing levels, a fire truck and an ambulance.

And if the city prevails, it could mean the end of the Fire Department’s ambulance service.

The Fire Board voted last month to cut staffing levels down from nine to seven firefighters per shift. The board also ordered one of the two city ambulances and one of the three fire trucks be taken out of service.

But at a Common Council meeting earlier this month, members openly talked about doing away with the ambulance service altogether. According to an affidavit signed last week by Fire Chief Thomas J. Passuite, the loss of the ambulance service may be inevitable.

”Operating the ambulance service compromises the department’s ability to adequately staff our fire apparatus,” Passuite said in the affidavit. “Having been part of this recent city discussion, I fully anticipate that the decision to eliminate the ambulance service is forthcoming.”

The Common Council and Fire Board were supposed to meet this month to talk about doing away with the Fire Department’s ambulance service. The meeting was canceled after the Lockport Professional Fire Fighters Association union obtained a temporary restraining order from Boniello stopping the city’s proposed and Fire Board-approved reductions.

Both sides appeared Wednesday to argue their case before state Supreme Court Justice Ralph A. Boniello III in Niagara Falls. Boniello will issue a decision on whether to lift the restraining order sometime in the near future.

The LPFA’s attorney, Andrea Sammarco, said in court that the union contract commits the city to having sufficient staffing to maintain firefighter safety.

“There is a safety issue not only to the public in this case, but to the firefighters,” Sammarco said.

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