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Hackensack FIRE / EMS Goes Back to the Past
It takes a incredible amount of patience to try to understand New Jersey politics, and unless you live there you just can't imagine the circus the great citizens of this incredibly beautiful state have to deal with. This is just unbelievable to read, and hopefully somehow enough attention can be focused on this to get this tragic miss-step corrected. The IAFF is working closely with local 2081. I will keep posting on this as long as it takes to get this injustice and public safety foul up corrected. What follows was provided by the local 2081.

In the wake of Hackensack Fire Department EMTs receiving pink slips in the mail this week, City residents and a union official had harsh words for City Manager Stephen Lo Iacono and Mayor Michael Melfi. They vowed to stop City Hall from replacing fire department EMTs with a private ambulance company already hired by Hackensack University Medical Center. They also questioned HUMCs wisdom in hiring Vanguard Ambulance Services, a company that was tossed from other hospitals due to poor time performance and patient complaints.

Although the City's party line for issuing the walking papers has been budget constraints, opponents say politics, not money, was the driving force. The proof, they say, is in Lo Iaconos own words, and in an impartial analysis of the City's budget.

John Linquito, president of Hackensack Professional Firefighters and EMTs, I.A.F.F., Local 2081, disclosed that the union has offered the City an impartial financial expert a former fiscal officer with many years of experience in municipal budgets to show Lo Iacono and Melfi how the City can save money without eliminating an appropriation as important to residents as EMTs.

In an analysis of various City financial documents, the expert found the City of Hackensack to be in excellent financial condition, and not in any serious economic stress, according to Linquito which he said is consistent with Lo Iaconos own assessment of City finances, as Lo Iacono writes in the City's spring 2008 newsletter: I am happy to report that the City is fiscally sound… Moodys Investors Services noted the 'substantial addition to reserves' in 2007

Linquito and Charles Grieco, president of the Hackensack Uniformed Fire Officers Association, I.A.F.F., Local 3172, have offered the fiscal expert to meet with Lo Iacono and Melfi, who have yet to respond with a date even after months of attempts by the union to schedule such a meeting.

The former municipal financial officer provided the union with an informal report stating that the City appears to be having some problems with the CAP expenditure limit a problem that he said could easily be addressed globally within the municipal budget, rather than single out any one specific appropriation to stay within the CAP limit.

The former municipal financial officer also said the City has an escape route, in that it could request a CAP exception from the Division of Local Government as a way of keeping fire department based EMS.

Perhaps Lo Iacono and Melfi already know this and that's why they are in no hurry to meet with someone experienced in municipal budgets. It's clear that eliminating EMTs is politically, not budget, driven. They made their backroom deal with HUMC and they're sticking with it even if it places the emergency medical care of 42,000 residents at risk, Linquito said.

Lo Iacono says the City is financially sound then says it can't afford EMTs then goes out and signs a four year deal with a new schools superintendent at $190,000 per, and 4% pay hikes each year. A schools superintendent is as important to our children's education, as EMTs are to their health and well being, Linquito said. And we have Melfi anointing himself the Mayor of quality of life issues, then he throws one of the most important issues EMS under the bus.

Residents are willing to give the City the benefit of the doubt. If the City is truly in a fiscal crunch, Hackensack taxpayers are willing to foot the bill to maintain municipally provided emergency medical services. If this change is being driven by budget issues, we are willing to pay the price, said Carlos Guerra, a co chairman of the Hackensack Residents & Businesses Coalition to Save HFD EMS. Divide the 16,000 Hackensack households into $600,000 the amount the City claims it will save by eliminating fire department EMTs and bill each household an additional $37.50 a year, which is $3.12 a month. When can we mail our checks? Guerra added.

The unions today also submitted an amendment to the original unfair labor practice charge it had filed June 9th with the State's Public Employment Relations Commission. The amendment charges that City negotiators did not negotiate the current contract in good faith because they had been negotiating a deal with Hackensack University Medical Center to take over the City's EMS, with plans to eliminate the EMT positions during the contract.

PRESS CONTACT:Steve Mangione914-403-4072 (cellular)
Next Council Meeting will be August 5th at 7pm at City Hall.

Roberto Burgos - SecretaryHackensack Professional Firefighters - Local 2081INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF FIRE FIGHTERS, AFL-CIO-CLCCell : 201- 481-2382P.O. Box 117Hackensack, New Jersey 07602-0117

posted by Bobby Halton
8/02/2008 02:02:00 PM

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