Hoboken Fire Chief: demotions may close two fire companies

Acting Hoboken Fire Chief Richard Blohm said on Monday that a city layoff plan may force the department to close one or two fire companies. The layoff plan calls for four battalion chiefs and six captains to be demoted, as well as two civilian clerks. Layoff notices were reportedly sent to those 12 people in the department last Friday, and the city is preparing police notices and other paperwork.

Basis for the layoff plan
Blohm was unhappy that city audits of the public safety departments – audits that were supposed to inform the layoff plan – were not completed, because state-employed auditors were reassigned to a higher priority assignment.
Blohm said the administration never approached him to seek input on the plans, and that having fewer companies in the department means having fewer engines responding to fires.
“I hoped they would have called me and asked for a needs assessment,” he said. “Where’d these numbers come from?”
Blohm made inquires with city officials to quantify the taxpayer savings from the demotions. He said the annual savings were totaled at $622,000.
Using a random piece of property, Blohm said a taxpayer whose home is assessed at $186,000 will save only $2 per year, and $1 for the remainder of this fiscal year.

Pay problems
The four battalion chiefs just recently began getting paid at their battalion chief rates after getting promoted a year ago, Blohm said. An unwritten rule for promotions is that the employee takes the first year without a pay increase.
“The city used them for a year as battalion chiefs, paid them as captains, and then demoted them,” he complained.

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