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Fire chief wants to look at injured-on-duty insurance to control OT costs

Posted by Sarah Favot  April 13, 2011 11:20 AM

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Norwood Fire Chief Michael Howard told the Board of Selectmen Tuesday night that he wants to look into buying injured-on-duty insurance for firefighters to help control substitution costs and said he would return to the board later to discuss recommendations to improve the bottom line in the department's substitution pay account.

Last May, Town Meeting voted to fund a study to look at overtime costs, which have been consistently overrun in recent years. The selectmen received the results of the study and recommendations from the Substitution Review Committee Tuesday.

Selectman Allan Howard asked the chief to comment on the study, but the chief, who is not related to the selectman, said he wanted to give selectmen time to review the recommendations.

“I will be happy to come back, but I think it’s premature for me to discuss that until you have the opportunity to receive information from the chairman and the two board members,” said Chief Howard. “But I would like the opportunity to be able to discuss the report.”

The selectmen received the report, but didn’t go into details about their feelings on specific recommendations.

Board of Selectmen chairman Michael Lyons said in an interview that the recommendations make sense, but that they have budget implications that the town may not be able to afford right now. One of the recommendations is to hire two firefighters.

“We have to do the best we can with the recommendations and work within them and be realistic,” said Lyons.

The chief said that he wanted the town to continue to look at the possibility of buying an injured-on-duty insurance policy for firefighters.

Town officials have said that an injured-on-duty insurance policy would ease overtime costs paid to replace injured workers by covering hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical expenses and overtime, which is paid for by the town.

Chief Howard also told the selectmen Tuesday night that he thinks the Fire Department will be able to finish the fiscal year within its budget appropriation, aside from electricity bill payments.

“We have set a goal and we will meet that goal to stay within our budget, with the hope to have funds that will help after,” he said.

The department will be unable to pay five months of electricity bills. The chief said he met with the Finance Commission and it has agreed that the department will hold payment of the bills until the electricity issue has been worked out.

He said that he has closely monitored electricity usage and it is up 10 percent, which he isn’t able to explain.

“We’re concerned that something may be running that we’re not aware of,” said the chief. He said that the system is modernized and should be running efficiently.

Lyons said that the Alternative Energy Committee has been looking to complete a comprehensive energy audit on all town buildings, which should explain the usage increases at the police/fire facility.

Sarah Favot can be reached at
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