Warren firefighters union resists mayor, who wants to reduce captains

L to R: Bill Monrean, John Jerina

WARREN, Ohio (WYTV) – Warren’s mayor and the firefighters union continue to disagree about reducing the number of captains in the fire department.

At Tuesday evening’s council meeting, Mayor Doug Franklin said reducing the number of captains will keep the fire department manned long-term. The union is still unhappy with the whole process.

Warren Safety Service Director Enzo Cantalamessa started the meeting by updating city council’s police and fire committee about a federal SAFER grant. The grant would fund 15 firefighters for two years, but must be in place by April 1.

He said if the SAFER grant is put in place, hiring will begin right away.

Mayor Franklin then talked about his proposal to reduce the number of fire captains from six to three. He also wants to eliminate the requirement that captains have to be part of all fire inspections.

Those actions would save the city $375,000 a year – money that will be used to keep firefighters after the SAFER grant ends.

“The only motive is to prepare this city for life after the SAFER grant,” Franklin said.

Two representatives of Warren’s firefighters union attended the meeting. At one point, they had a verbal back and forth with Mayor Franklin.

Assistant Fire Chief Bill Monrean asked Franklin which department heads came back to him with management savings.

“I don’t want to muddy this up. We’re talking about fire,” Franklin said. “We have an ordinance here. Let’s talk about it.”

Union president John Jerina questioned why the mayor didn’t talk to them about it before.

“You have no problem going with other unions, discussing ways that we can hire people or set aside manpower issues, but you wouldn’t even discuss this with us. You just came with an ordinance,” Jerina said.

An additional income tax passed in November will generate $500,000 to pay firefighters once the grant expires.

“I think you have to look at it more globally as a larger savings down the road, but it’s also down the road that we won’t have the SAFER grant,” Cantalamessa said.

Some council members asked questions, but gave no indication of how they would vote.