This response is a follow-up to the previous question about Fire
inspections posted here.
In the FY 2015 budget, the Alexandria Fire Department (AFD) adjusted
Fire Marshal schedules to rebalance the workload between night-time enforcement
of overcrowded establishments and day time inspections of properties and
systems. The adjusted schedule is similar to neighboring jurisdictions, who
also work to balance between the day (inspections/investigations) and night
(enforcement) needs of communities. The FY 2015 budget also included the
elimination of two inspector positions, and so the schedule change was also intended
to reduce the impact of the budget reduction.
The City Manager focused on fire inspections during the Fire Department’s
FY 2015 performance measure review and update meeting, and he initially
recommended that AFD develop a proposal to address this issue.
As a result, the Fire Marshals looked at the most cost-effective manner
to address inspections and delinquent inspections. Staff reviewed a variety of
ways to address this issue including hiring new staff, hiring part-time staff,
and using overtime. In the end, staff chose overtime as the best means to
address delinquent inspections. Overtime is the least expensive short-term way
to address this issue, and allows existing staff, who are experienced with the
City properties and inspection system, to help catch up on delinquent
inspections. Furthermore, this option can be an incremental step to a better
long-term solution. As indicated in the April 12 work session, the City Manager
has placed the issue of how the Fire Marshal’s Office could manage the current
inspections workload on the Office of Performance & Accountability work
plan for FY 2017.
Overhires are not a viable solution to this problem. Overhires are helpful in the case of the EMS transition, since those overhired positions will (eventually) not be necessary from a staffing standpoint and will decrease over time due to natural attrition. In prior years, overhires were effective in reducing overtime costs while the Department brought new firefighters into the training academy and took time to get them ready to serve on apparatus. In the case of Fire Marshals, overhires are not recommended for several reasons:
With only seven Fire Marshals, there is not as much turnover as Firefighters or Medics, hence an overhire might end up having to be eliminated through a Reduction in Force (RIF), making the position hard to hire.
- In the case of the single-role medics, the Department is using overhires as a bridge to a more permanent solution. There is no permanent solution for this issue, making the overhire somewhat hard to manage/justify.
- Overhires still require time and effort to train before they are fully operational and their benefit is realized, and is reason why overtime was proposed as a more cost-effective solution.