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Firefighters, City Hall Spar Over Overtime Costs

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ST. LOUIS (KMOX) - St. Louis firefighters are expressing concerns over what they call a reduction in emergency services for St. Louis City residents. But it’s a claim that City Hall disputes.

St. Louis Firefighters Local 73 President Christopher Molitor says Chief Dennis Jenkerson was forced to make a difficult decision.

“He’s doing what we call ‘rolling brown-out,’” Molitor said. “They shut down two pumpers, pretty much to cut back on overtime costs, and they have now included two ambulances as well to cut down on overtime costs.”

Molitor said the St. Louis Fire Department has one of the busiest ambulance services in the country per capita and without reductions there are only 12 ambulances.

“Reducing that number certainly is a concern because it means it’s going to take longer for someone to get an ambulance when they’re in need of one,” he said.

Mayor Francis Slay’s Chief of Staff Jeff Rainford does not deny the number of service calls but questions the timing of the firefighters’ concerns.

“What they’re saying is, ‘OK, you gave us a pay raise and you put many million more in our pension and now there’s not enough money left over for everything else,’” Rainford said.

Rainford said there have not been any complaints or coverage gaps, noting that the system has been in place “for three or four years” and called it “seamless.” And while it costs a City resident more if a private ambulance has to respond, he said insurance picks up that cost.

“There’s no guarantee that those ambulance companies are going to come and you also don’t know where they’re coming from,” Molitor countered.

A vote before the board of aldermen regarding pension issues is slated for Friday.

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