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Newark Fire Department to spend $700,000 in overtime this year

The fire department says it’s battling short-staffing, as well as an increase in the number of calls.

NEWARK, Ohio — It’s the cost of operation, but what’s the cost of sustainability?

The Newark Fire Department is currently five employees shy of being fully staffed at 84. Because of that, taxpayers are having to pay almost three-quarters of a million dollars in overtime.

“We have overtime almost every day,” Kevin Garwick said. “At least one overtime spot almost every day.”

Garwick is the IAFF Local 109 union president and says low staffing is resulting in a big overtime bill.

“Obviously, when you see a bill of $700,000 over time, it’s concerning for a lot of reasons,” he said.

Last year, NFD raked up $552,218.41 in overtime. This year, they look to spend at least $700,000. Garwick blames it on many things from short-staffing to run calls. Last year, NFD went on more than 12,400 calls and Garwick says that number jumps about eight percent every year.

“The workforce is already overworked due to just the run volume and now we’re having to work more on top of that to cover the staffing shortages,” he said.

Garwick said it’s also difficult to keep good firefighters and medics.

“The last time we were fully staffed was May 13, 2021, and it lasted for four days,” he said.

Retirement and transfers create a dip in staffing. Also, Garwick says Newark is looked at as a stepping stone with good workers traveling to other departments in central Ohio for better pay. Many departments, Garwick says, pay upwards of $25,000 more.

“It’s just hard to keep them here when there’s that amount of money on the table,” Garwick said.

He knows the obvious solution is adding more firefighters. The problem is that as the candidate pool dwindles and with less people taking the test and applying, and with retention already a concern, he says more firefighters just is not possible.

“Until we can keep the firefighters that we hire and retain our employees and keep our staffing levels where they need to be, then it’s going to be a continuous problem,” he said.

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