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Newport Beach firefighters' overtime under fire

Kgcvpnnc Some people in Newport Beach are calling into question firefighters' overtime pay as the city grapples with budget cutbacks.

The fire operations division, which includes firefighters and paramedics, exceeded its overtime budget by about $1 million in each of the last two fiscal years and is on track to do the same this year. The city spent $3.6 million in firefighter and paramedic overtime last year.

Officials have been looking to trim about $8 million from the city's total budget, and they identified some maintenance workers and lifeguards, among others, to either lay off or demote to part-time.

Fire Chief Mike Morgan said he plans to control his department's overtime, but some council members aren't waiting.

"That's been high for years. I don't know, is that a management issue?" Councilwoman Leslie Daigle asked Morgan last week at a study session last week.

Councilman Keith Curry has requested a review of all departments' overtime policies.

"We need to revisit our staff plans and our standard operating procedures to be sure we are being the most efficient," Curry said Thursday.

Morgan said that two types of situations generate firefighter and paramedic overtime: when someone takes a day off and when the department has a vacancy.

Most fire departments are required to keep their stations staffed with a minimum number of firefighters and paramedics at all times; Newport's number is 39 at its eight stations.

While the employees sometimes trade their days off, they aren't required to. This leaves the city paying time-and-a-half, the standard overtime rate. One fire captain, for instance, made $156,000 in regular hours and $44,000 in overtime during fiscal 2009-10.

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-- Mike Reicher, Daily Pilot / Times Community News

Photo: Newport Beach firefighters work to stabilize the front end of a car and extricate the body of a man pinned underneath a Ferrari split in half by a light pole on March 11, 2009. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

 
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L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
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