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Hickey shot down on Fire Department shift changes

Editorial by Matt Marquardt –

Councilman Travis Hickey’s long-sought after goal of changing the shifts of firefighters and other emergency responders in Mason City was dealt a death blow at yesterday’s council work session.

Hickey has been a critic of the overtime paid to firefighters, which last year amounted to over $50,000.  To try and remedy this and eliminate overtime, he had pushed for possibly changing the shifts of these workers from 24 hour shifts to 8 or 12 hour shifts.

City Administrator Brent Trout finally shot a hole in this theory, saying that 24 hour shifts are “the best place to stay at.”

(PHOTO: Councilman Travis Hickey listens as City Administrator Brent Trout explains that Hickey’s pursuit of 8 or 12 hour shifts for fire fighters and emergency responders is a bad idea.)

Chief Bob Platts confirmed that to have enough firefighters on duty, as many as 9 new employees would have to be hired, thus raising expenses even further and outweighing any gains from eliminating overtime.  The MCFD’s Jacob Schweitzer said at the work session that the newest national trend is actually longer shifts of 48 hours with 96 hours off before coming back to work.

A source confirmed that after the meeting, Hickey was giving up on the idea of pursuing shift changes.

The bigger concern became fatigue of emergency responders.

It was said during the meeting that some ambulance drivers and/or firefighters, after working a 24 hour shift, are allowed to (and do) pick up an extra shift and work as many as 48 straight hours.

This is in conflict with the private sector, the discussion went, where truck drivers, for example, are only allowed to work 10 hour shifts before by law being forced to take a break.

“You would have to go to significant lengths to convince me that someone working 48 hours is efficient,” said Mayor Eric Bookmeyer.  “I mean, we all live life everyday, and we go to sleep after what, 10 o’clock?”

Watch video of discussion:


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