A compromise that resolved a years-long dispute between York City and its firefighters might have triggered a temporary manpower problem.
In June, the city and the firefighters' union agreed to a new labor contract — finally settling a quarrel that dated to 2006.
The city conceded to the union's request to restore the minimum number of on-duty firefighters to 10. Staffing cuts in recent years had reduced the minimum number of firefighters on duty to eight.
To make that happen without boosting the fire department's expenses, city officials plan to outsource the fire department's tenant-occupied inspection responsibilities to the property-maintenance inspectors in the city's community and economic development department. The four firefighters who once focused on inspections will be moved to call duty.
Chief David Michaels said the new contract stipulated that on-duty staffing levels be increased within 30 days. The deadline has since passed, he said.
Last week, Michaels said his department was still handling the tenant-occupied inspections but was "in the process of making the transition."
The changeover might not be complete, however, until next year.
Michaels said he believes the fire department will have to "honor that 10 on duty" and stop doing inspections within the next month.
The city's director of the economic and community development department, however, said the official transition date is Jan. 1, 2015.
Working together: In the meantime, economic development director Leonardo McClarty said, the two departments are working together on a plan to make it happen.
"Unfortunately, right now, it's just a little early and premature for us to say, 'This is the exact plan that we're getting ready to unveil,'" McClarty said.
For example, a decision has not yet been made about whether the economic development department needs to hire new employees to handle the additional workload.
There's also the need for training and possibly an increase in the department's budget, McClarty said.
"Frankly, it's a lot of moving parts," he said. "We haven't nearly gotten to a place where we can definitively say, 'This is the plan of action.'"
Charlotte Bergdoll, owner of Cherry Lane Realty, told the York City Council on Tuesday that no one from the fire department showed up Tuesday for three scheduled inspections in units owned by her company.
Bergdoll said she's concerned because the inspections are an effective way of identifying broken smoke detectors.
"That's the part that scares me the most," she said.
All rental units in the city are supposed to be inspected every two years, Michaels said.
Inspectors enforce the property-maintenance code and check for things like working smoke detectors, he said.
McClarty said resolving the issue is a priority. Department heads are talking regularly to work out the details, he said.
"Everyone is going to work to do the best that we can to have a seamless hand-off," McClarty said.
— Reach Erin James at firstname.lastname@example.org.