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Jeannette mayor to cut on-call, paid firefighting list

By Richard Gazarik
Friday, Jan. 17, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
 

In one of his first acts as Jeannette's mayor, Richard Jacobelli said he's looking to save money by slashing nearly half the on-call, paid firefighters from the roster, including the former mayor.

“All of a sudden, I'm on a list to be cut,” said former Mayor Robert Carter. “I'm the most senior man in the department. I answer more calls than any of them. I'm on the list, and I don't know why.”

Carter, 55, a certified firefighter, safety officer and driver, is a 40-year veteran of the fire department.

The proposal to eliminate him from the on-call list is political payback, he said. Carter lost to Jacobelli in the 2013 primary, then mounted an unsuccessful write-in campaign in the fall.

But Jacobelli said the issue with Carter is availability. Carter said his job as a chauffeur requires him to drive to Florida several times a year and stay for extended periods of time.

“That's one of the things we'll take into consideration,” Jacobelli said. “It's not political. I'm trying to be as fair and up-front as I can be. We're simply trying to get down to 15 reliable individuals.”

The city has two dozen on-call firefighters who are paid $7.25 an hour for responding to a call and assisting the three full-time employees in the department, said city clerk Mike Minyon Jr. Those firefighters are covered by city-paid insurance while on duty, he said.

In 2012, the city paid out more than $55,000 to on-call firefighters, he said. The amount paid in 2013 was not yet available.

“Reliable? I'm reliable,” Carter said. “I'm always in the top 10 for responses for the past four years. How do I get on the list when I met every obligation by being in the top 10 over the past four years, even though I wasn't getting paid to respond?”

Carter said he did not accept payment for fire calls while he was mayor.

Carter said he was motivated to become a firefighter in 1972 after his father died in a fire at the former Penn-Albert Hotel in Greensburg where he worked as a maintenance man.

“The fire department is in my blood,” he said.

Before any decision about the on-call list is made, Jacobelli said, the issue of size will be discussed by city council.

City Attorney Scott Avolio said Jacobelli doesn't have the authority to cut the on-call list unilaterally.

Council has discussed abolishing the paid firefighter positions, but voters would decide the issue through a referendum before the department could be dissolved and transferred to an all-volunteer company.

Richard Gazarik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6292 or gazarik@tribweb.com.

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