10 firefighters added to roster to offset retirement vacancies.


Byline: Nick Kotsopoulos

WORCESTER - The City Council has unanimously agreed to temporarily increase the Fire Department's table of organization by 10 positions.

The action will enable the city to increase the size of its upcoming recruit class from 29 to 39. The class is scheduled to begin its training in mid-September.

City Manager Michael V. O'Brien recommended the temporary increase in firefighter positions to buffer a potential exodus of firefighters from the Fire Department.

Because a majority of the department's roughly 380 uniformed personnel were hired in the 1970s, they have reached the requisite age and years of service to qualify for superannuated retirements. Firefighters, along with police and correction officers, reach the maximum pension allowance (80 percent of pay) at 55 years old and 32 years on the job.

Fire Chief Gerard A. Dio told the City Council Tuesday night that as many as 35 firefighters are eligible "to walk out the door" because they have reached their maximum pension allowance.

The desired staffing level in the Fire Department is 406 uniformed personnel, though it has been forced to operate with 384 positions during the past two fiscal years because the city's budgetary situation has made it impossible to fill the vacant positions. Chief Dio said the department has 377 uniformed personnel.

Mr. O'Brien sought the temporary increase in the Fire Department's table of organization to fill vacancies created by retirements and give his administration time to better project the city's finances and budgets for fiscal years 2012 and 2013. He said all that would have a bearing on decisions made for subsequent firefighter recruit classes.

District 3 Councilor Paul P. Clancy Jr. praised the manager for his...

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