With city fire retirements forthcoming, council OKs hiring process

(Photo provided by the City of Cortland Fire Department).

The Cortland Common Council unanimously approved 5-0 on Tuesday to authorize the city fire department to hire firefighters in anticipation of retirements next year.

The city fire department, which has an authorized force of 36 firefighters, can now commence interviews to hire two firefighters right before required training.

City fire chief Wayne Friedman confirmed at Tuesday’s meeting that the mandatory recruit firefighter training academies get underway in the middle of this month.

The move puts the city fire department ahead of the curve with its staffing, as retirees within the department look to retire by January 2024. The hires are necessary due to the long process of the firefighter training academy, said Cortland mayor Scott Steve on Tuesday.

According to the resolution from Tuesday’s meeting agenda, the move avoids staffing shortages that “require mandatory staffing levels to be filled with overtime, which is an increased cost to the city and often requires firefighters to work long hours above and beyond their normal scheduled shifts.”

“It’s so imperative that we get (these interviews) happening so we’re not expending energy and time and burning our (firefighters) out to cover these shifts,” Steve said.

The resolution also stated that excessive overtime and longer shifts “negatively impact firefighter safety and morale.”

“Keeping staffing levels full reduces overtime, saves money, and increases firefighter safety and morale,” the resolution continued.