The recent realignment of personnel within the Mobile Fire Rescue Department may represent a breach of the contract between the city and Airbus, according to Mobile City Councilman C.J. Small, who has asked the mayor’s administration to review the terms.
The city’s 2012 development agreement with the airplane manufacturer mandates that in the event of a fire emergency at its Brookley Aeroplex facility, the city responds with three engine companies, one ladder truck, one paramedic truck and one district fire chief, specifically dispatched from the John D. Willett Fire Station on Broad Street and the Louis B. Lathan Fire Station on Maryvale Street.
Last month, in response to a streamlined budget, the fire department announced it was temporarily mothballing an engine company at the Willett Station and moving its personnel to other stations that were short-staffed. After the changes, Willett Station was left with one engine company rather than two, while Lathan Station retained its engine company, a ladder truck and a paramedic truck.
With the loss of an engine company at one of the stations specifically mentioned in the agreement, it would appear the contract has been breached.
But at a pre-council meeting April 1, Fire Chief Randy Smith said the city was still in compliance and the agreement may not have accounted for a crash truck that is on site at Brookley, which is owned by the Mobile Airport Authority but operated by the MFRD.
“I’ll have to review that,” Smith said in response to Small’s question.
The question has since been turned over to the city’s legal department. In the meantime, despite the personnel changes that were scheduled to take place March 29, fire department spokesman Steve Huffman said both engine companies at Willett Station remain fully staffed.
“Engine 11 is currently on duty,” Huffman wrote in an email. “It pretty much has been all week because we have enough manpower to allow it. The chief will do whatever legal advises him to do based on the document in question,” he added.
City Council attorney Jim Rossler said a simple interpretation of the agreement could leave one with the “impression” that the city has fallen below the level of fire protection the contract guarantees, but it also stipulates that the response could come from other stations or areas. Mayor Sandy Stimpson didn’t immediately allay concerns about the possible breach, but told the council, “we will be in compliance with Airbus contracts period. If we have to make adjustments we will make adjustments.”
The fire department is attempting to save about $300,000 in overtime costs by realigning its personnel for the last six months of the fiscal year. Other stations that were affected by the changes include Ashland Station on Old Shell Road and the Rehm Station on Moffett Road.