Fire station dedication

Killeen Firefighters form a line on the driveway at Fire Station No. 9, while listening to Fire Chief Brian Brank give remarks during a dedication ceremony for the station Thursday, March 9, 2017.

For the second time in three days, a Killeen Fire Department ambulance was taken out of service because of insufficient staffing. The Killeen Professional Fire Fighters’ Association posted the news on its Facebook page Tuesday morning.

This time, just two firefighters called in sick, according to the post. But the department experienced other staffing issues.

“We have several unfilled vacancies, plus people in paramedic school are off for various different leaves,” an administrator for the page wrote.

The topic first sparked concern Sunday, when a similar post was written, and detailed the same scenario. That time, five firefighters called in sick, according to Marc Clifford, the association’s president. However, they were not all from the same station, city officials said.

Killeen has eight fire stations. Depending on the size of the station, there are anywhere from five to 13 firefighters working at a station at any given time.

The short staff can partially be attributed to the fire department’s new overtime tier-reduction policy, which the department created in response to budget cuts approved by the City Council last fall. That means additional city firefighters won’t be called in to replace those who call in sick, or are absent from work for other reasons.

Killeen Fire Chief Brian Brank could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Councilman Jim Kilpatrick took to the association’s Facebook page Sunday to blame the Herald for the staffing reduction.

Kilpatrick is head of the council’s ad hoc Audit Advisory Committee tasked with acquiring an investigatory audit of the city’s finances. Residents have demanded an investigation after hearing June 30 that the city needed $8 million to balance the budget and had been overspending for three consecutive years.

Kilpatrick was criticized in a Herald Sunday editorial for repeated attempts to keep that audit from happening. His latest move was trying to tie the audit, a tiny fraction of the city’s $202 million budget, to the fire department staffing shortage.

In his comment on the fire department’s association Facebook page, Kilpatrick said resident demand for a $394,000 management audit of the city’s finances — which is being paid through unbudgeted operational and enterprise reserve funds that are not tied to the fire department’s overtime budget — was manufactured by the Herald’s editorial staff.

The council voted 5-2 to approve the audit March 14.

On Sept. 13, Kilpatrick was part of two unanimous votes to cut the 2017 budgets for all city departments by 2.5 percent and cut overtime reserves for all departments by more than $100,000. He was the second on the motion to approve the overtime cuts.

On Monday, the department was fully staffed and operational. However, the Professional Fire Fighters’ Association expressed concern that the low numbers could cause a problem in the near future.

That future might have been nearer than some expected, however.

254-501-7552 | sullivan@kdhnews.com

(4) comments

Alvin

This is the personal opinion of this writer.
@dailymajor: It seems that you are being too shortsighted. For me it was the 'excursion of $750,000.00 by mayor Hancock and his city council', and further, it was he, and his city council, that not introduced the citizens, who have been clamoring for some/any mention of 'where in the world did this money go, and who had/had it'. What was the 'excuse' for the, say least, $8 million dollar excursion, and what has led to the amazing $5 million dollar that was 'found' since. You clamor over the $394,000.00 that is being spent for the audit???? I agree, with all of the shenanigans that is the result of the audit, first let me say, 'councilman Kilpatrick is/was the wrong person to lead as he is/was definitely the wrong candidate as he didn't think the audit was worth it; second, the name change does not fit the program; third, this accounting firm ares not the ones, in my opinion, who have the city of Killeen's best interest and I say that because an accounting firm that will 'hold the city and it's contingency harmless, and by that I mean 'the accounting firm has said that the city and presiding council is the ones to whom they will answer to and not the city and it's citizens proper. The citizens of this city are the ones to whom this accounting firm should be answering to, not the city council. We are the tax payers and thus we, the citizens are the ones who are paying for this audit, not the council.
@dailymajor: it may well be money down the drain as to who and how this name change, the effect of 'what is to asked for' and 'the fact that this accounting firm is proceeding to answer only to this council. That in itself gives me pause to reflect on the outcome'.
@VetA42: I too am asking the same questions and as yet, we haven't been provided with answers.
And it still does not answer the question of 'Why are we suffering the shortage, two out of the last three days we have not had the ambulance service that this city requires'???? How has the city wide service been in accordance with all of the other statistics as in sickness by the fire department, more, less, equal???? That would surely be worth noting and accounting for.
I wonder what it will take to get an honest and above board council that is above reproach. To me, in my opinion, we certainly don't have one now. Maybe they could start by being more communicative.
One of the few who voted.

VetA42

Councilman Jim Kilpatrick is blaming a newspaper for the short fall in the budget! Councilman Jim Kilpatrick is blaming the Citizen's of Killeen for wanting to understand where the funds disappeared and who authorized the disappearance! Seems to Me that the newspaper (I am not defending the media) just informed the Citizen of the missing funds nothing more nothing less!
How can any Council Member or the Mayor or other Killeen, Texas City Administration even consider blaming the Citizen for the short fall.
The Citizen, Councilman Jim Kilpatrick says threw the finances out of sync (my term) when in fact all the Citizen wanted was factual figures that were being collected and spent, they wanted to know who if anybody was authorizing money for there benefit of unnamed individual and project that would only be in the interest of developers and the real estate market. Things like infrastructure, water supplies that were being lobbied and approved without proper funding. To accomplish this City Council Members and City Administrators spent money out of other budgeted line items, when they took too much money they raised the cost the Citizen paid by saying there existed a shortfall ing the fund when in actuality there never was any shortage. Councilman Jim Kilpatrick along with every other elected and or hired City Leader needs to fess up and give the money back to the coffers.
Just saying

dailymajor

I certainly don't agree with Kilpatrick about everything, but I do agree with him about the audit. Nearly half a million dollars to find out that money was mishandled, that funds were spent, shuffled, and mishandled that shouldn't have been? Do people think there was some kind of great criminal conspiracy that put us in debt? I don't think so.
I think it is going to be a real waste of nearly five hundred thousand dollars for this audit that as you say was "demanded" by citizens. Well, not all citizens felt that way, even tho being egged on by the KDH constantly in editorials and articles....The city has an auditor(s), CPAs, and local people that could have gone over the books..for far less money, but no, we want to spend a half a million dollars. Let's see what this wonderful audit finds out for that huge amount of money. I hope the KDH and those "demanding" citizens are happy with the results.a Personally, I think it is going to be a sad, unfortunate waste of a lot of money that could be put to much better use.

Alvin

This is the personal opinion of this writer.
Copy: 'The short staff can partially be attributed to the fire department’s new overtime tier-reduction policy, which the department created in response to budget cuts approved by the City Council last fall. That means additional city firefighters won’t be called in to replace those who call in sick, or are absent from work for other reasons.' End of copy.
People, there is no earthly reason for anybody to claim the fault is the newspaper like certain councilmen have been doing because if there was not a 'sickness in this town, there would not be anything to report'.
Copy: 'In his comment on the fire department’s association Facebook page, Kilpatrick said resident demand for a $394,000 management audit of the city’s finances — which is being paid through unbudgeted operational and enterprise reserve funds that are not tied to the fire department’s overtime budget — was manufactured by the Herald’s editorial staff.' End of copy.
Come on – It is my personal opinion that this city's approximately 60% loading of 'safety' is one of the primary concerns. Never mind 'the city's newspaper', people should concentrate on 'what's going on around them', not the newspaper. In my opinion, the newspaper is more than a conduit in which the word can be disseminated, where people can read it or not read it, that is their choice. But to blame the newspaper for all of the fault that belongs in this city's hands is ludicrous.
And the fact that this fire department can stop an ambulance from being available for the absence of only 2 individuals, well it is my opinion that this city had better start looking for personnel, for there is something wrong when this fire department can be shut down with the loss of the ambulance service by the loss of only 2 people. If the fire department has available slots that are not being filled for a reason, maybe the fault can be traced to the previous city manager. There the problem might just reside.
One of the few who vote.

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