City manager recommends restoring four demoted Watertown fire captains

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WATERTOWN — City Manager Richard M. Finn is recommending that the City Council restore four demoted fire captains back to their original rank.

Mr. Finn wants this to happen effective April 1, according to a resolution to amend the city’s 2018-19 budget that the council will consider when it meets Monday.

In 2015, the city demoted eight fire department captains, leaving firefighters to cover those responsibilities. In August, an arbitrator ruled that the city violated its collective bargaining agreement by not paying the firefighters the captains’ pay rate when they assumed captains’ responsibilities.

The issue of the demoted captains has been a critical point of contention in contract negotiations between the city and Watertown Professional Fire Fighters Association Local 191. The firefighters’ union has been without a contract since July 2014.

If Mr. Finn’s recommendation is approved, the city would return to its full complement of eight captains, as four of the eight captains previously demoted have been restored to the rank due to retirements over the past six months, according to Mr. Finn’s memorandum to the council.

Mr. Finn said restoring the additional captain positions will cost the city $13,364 in the final quarter of its fiscal year, which ends July 1. The money would come from the city’s contingency fund. The resolution council members will be asked to approve would amend the city budget to allocate the additional $13,364 through the end of the fiscal year.

Mr. Finn said that he came to the recommendation after reading several studies of the fire department done over the past 10 years “to gain a more comprehensive understanding of our Fire Department and how the City might move to improve the overall operation of the Department.” He said he will continue his review of the department over the next six months to a year, “which will lead to a series of recommendations aimed at making improvements” in the department.

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