The Public Safety report examining the Fire and Police Departments received mixed reviews from the two departments – one welcomed the review and the other blasted the findings.
Representatives from The Matrix Group presented their findings to the Town Council Tuesday night at a special meeting. Because it was a special meeting, input from the public was not allowed.
Among the recommendations for the Fire Department was for a 16-man minimum per shift, said Travis Miller of the Matrix Group.
“I don’t think this community can safely provide service with less (staffing),” Miller said. “Unless you look at service changes.”
Watertown Fire Chief Mario Orangio said he saw the final draft of the report in January and it had a minimum staffing of 17. He asked if the 16-firefighter minimum is a typo, or if the 17 in the final report is a typo.
Richard Brady, who was the project manager for The Matrix Group for the report, said the draft number was a typo.
Orangio was upset by the recommendation, as well as the response.
“Somebody lied in the Council Chamber and it wasn’t me,” Orangio said after the meeting.
He added that he had many other problems with the recommendations, but did not elaborate.
Other recommended changes for the Fire Department include:
- Manning two ambulances at all times
- Changing the number of vehicles sent to some calls
- Split the Fire Fighters union in two – one with firefighters and one with lieutenants and captains - and removing the four deputy chiefs from the union.
Deputy Fire Chief Tom McManus said having two ambulances staffed with only 16 people on duty could make it difficult to cover a house or building fire. He said the National Fire Protection Association recommends sending 15 firefighters to fight a structure fire.
“If we are at 16 we will have a problem if we respond and rescue is out, we have only 14 (firefighters),” McManus said.
On the other side of the spectrum, Watertown Police Chief Edward Deveau said he was pleased with the findings in the report.
“Our goal is to be the best Police Department in Massachusetts,” Deveau said. “When they said we are an exceptional police department in the Commonwealth and the country I was extremely pleased.”
The Police Department has very fast response time on all calls, according to the report, and all officers, not just detectives are encouraged to follow up on calls.
The report recommended a number of changes, including changing from three 8-hour shifts to two 12-hour shifts each day.
“I didn’t agree with everything in the report,” Deveau said. “I have not been totally sold on the 12-hour shift.”
Town Council President Mark Sideris said the recommendations would be discussed by the Public Safety Committee, and fire and police officials would be invited to give input.
Tom Thibaut, president of the fire fighters union, said he was upset that he could not speak at the meeting, especially because Miller, who did the fire department report, will not be there.