Fire Department pensions are the tip of the iceberg

February 17, 2010
By

The Journal has learned that Mayor Judith Flanagan-Kennedy is preparing to hire as many as 12 new fire fighters as soon as possible.

Some say it is pay back for the support of the fire department rank and file in her election effort.

Others in Lynn government say it is folly and that such an expansion of the fire department at this time would lead only to the 12 being laid off in the near future.

The hires, it is believed, would be made with the use of government grant money.

The only caveat – as all of us who live here want better protection – is that once the grant money disappears, the only method of funding the additional firefighters would be to raise the tax rate.

It is well known in fire fighting circles and in Lynn city government circles that last year there were fewer fires than the year before – and that during the past ten years, the number of fires has dwindled.

Due to fire safety standards being raised in construction, and with sprinklers in larger buildings, and modern fire alarm systems, it is only natural that the number of fires have dramatically fallen off.

Firefighters here are now first responders for every form of medical emergency, joining ambulance service personnel at emergency calls whenever and wherever they occur.

If you’ve ever had a medical emergency in your own home and called for help, you’ve thanked God that the fire fighters showed up as fast as they tend to do.

This is not a piece about cutting the fire department or cheapening what it does.

This piece is about fiscal sanity.

In the past, the city has had to juggle public safety with the ability to pay for it.

More firefighters for the sake of paying off a political debt doesn’t make sound fiscal sense at this time when the state is cutting back on what it gives to the cities and towns.

In addition, if anything is to be done to the fire department, then pension reform should be high on the list.

The Lynn fire department pays yearly pensions of more than $320,000 to former permanent or provisional fire chiefs.

Now that acting Fire Chief James Caritte is retiring, add another $91,000 a year to that amount.

What’s going on here?

Everyone wants to be chief – for a while – in order to up their pensions. This is why so many former deputy chiefs have become acting chiefs and chiefs – and frankly, no one in government today wants to put a stop to it.

Fiscal sanity should reign over the necessity of political payback.

We all feel safe in Lynn. We know we have a fine fire department.

But if you can’t pay the rent, you can’t live in your apartment.

The same goes for local government – if we can’t afford 12 more men, then 12 more men shouldn’t be hired.

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