By Michael Regan
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — North Tonawanda Fire Chief John Lapham met with the common council Tuesday evening to discuss his department’s budget pitch in lieu of Mayor Rob Ortt’s recent proposal and a looming Nov. 13 vote.
While the city seems open to granting the fire department two additional firefighters after the loss of senior employees last year who took retirement buyouts, there is still a difference of several hundred thousands dollars between what Lapham has requested and what Ortt proposed to leave in the 2013 budget, $3,649,513.
“We have a younger department now,” Lapham said. “Sixty-one percent have been with us less than 12 years.”
Lapham has said overtime costs have increased since the department has been under-staffed.
Among Lapham’s requests is a $520,000 reserve pumper that he said would replace the department’s current vehicle and is nearing the end of its lifespan after 24 years in service, which, if approved would be bonded.
He also seeks to raise the amount of protective gear, called Nomex, that firefighters are required to use when responding to calls. He told the council that the department presently has no back-up gear for those in its ranks. The suits run roughly $2,000 for each firefighter.
“If somebody joins, I have nothing to give them,” he said. “It takes roughly eight weeks to make the gear.”
Lapham also asked for dozens of new portable radios and other auxiliary equipment to align with an upgrade to Niagara County’s communication system as well as office machines, medical supplies and other public safety equipment.
Lapham is asking for $3,212,188 for the 2013 budget related to the department, about $80,000 less than 2012.
A public hearing to review the preliminary budget will commence at 6 p.m. Nov. 8 in council chambers. A copy of the budget will be available from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. starting Oct. 26 at the clerk-treasurer’s office for public inspection.Contact reporter Michael Regan at 693-1000, ext. 4115.