CUYAHOGA FALLS: A lawsuit filed by Cuyahoga Falls firefighters has prompted the city administration to ask for a change in the way safety forces are staffed.
The council today will consider two ordinances that link staffing and promotions of firefighters, police officers and their support staff to the city’s budget.
Firefighters filed an action in Summit County Common Pleas Court last month asking a judge to order the city to promote three of their members to lieutenant.
There are currently 16 lieutenants on the department.
The newest one was promoted in August with a promise to promote more when the city has the money, union president David Witner said.
The proposed ordinance will spell out a maximum number of personnel, using the number of staff currently employed.
If passed, the ordinance will eliminate the three lieutenant positions that are the subject of the lawsuit. It will also change the authorized strength to the current staffing levels.
There is a provision in both ordinances that allows the director of public safety to ask City Council to add positions or to keep a position vacant for up to a year if the money to fund it isn’t in the budget.
Law director Paul Janis said the administration is just asking the council to change the ordinance to match how the city operates.
“Regardless of what the ordinance says, the city can only spend money lawfully appropriated for that service,” Janis said. “The budget is the control and authority over personnel. Not the staffing ordinance.”
Janis wouldn’t say whether changing the ordinance would help the city in defending the court action.
“That’s up to the court to decide,” he said.
Witner said normally there is a lieutenant assigned to each of the five stations for every shift. Because of the shortage, senior firefighters have been asked to take the supervisor role for an extra $48 for each 24-hour period.
“Lieutenants are necessary,” he said. “We are a quasi-military organization that looks to lieutenants to take the lead.”
Witner said the promotions aren’t the only problem. Staffing in general leaves some stations short and on several occasions left city’s Station No. 5 on Wyoga Lake Road unmanned, he said.
He plans to address those issues during today’s council committee meeting.
The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. in the Natatorium and is open to the public.