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Fire Department's Budget Heating Up

The Woodstock Fire Department is under some heat with their projected budget. It's increased by 4.9 percent, at close to $7.7-million. The biggest increase is in their staff wages, which has broke $5-million. Deputy Chief Brian Arnold says the biggest challenge within the wages and benefits is overtime. "We've been given the direction to try and maintain the status quo of $50,000 annually. It is a challenge but hopefully by the approach we take to manage that money, we'll be able to keep it in a reasonable amount without going over," said Arnold. Woodstock Councillor Paul Plant was concerned that their overtime costs have exceeded the projected cost for the last two years. "If they have two more people on we save $200,000. Well that's on one platoon, there are four platoons. So you're going to spend $800,000 to save $200,000? I mean, you can't make the world a totally safe place, even if you spend 100 percent of your budget." said Plant. Other than wages and benefits, repairs and maintenance to their trucks has seen the biggest increase. Arnold says their fleet is aging. "We utilized our spare and reserve fleet quite extensively this past year. But it's a good thing we have them in order to keep providing that service. So, unfortunately we have significant increases. We have to cover them, we have to keep the fleet in service and going so we had to increase our budget and make sure it reflected reasonably what we anticipate for this year," said Arnold. They've asked for $90,000 for the fleet. The Fire Department is currently under a third-party consultant review. The review will hopefully find efficiencies to cutback their budget increase.

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