Letter to the Editor, from Brigantine Mayor Phil Guenther & Councilman Andy Simpson:
If you have attended any of the City Council meetings over the past several months, you are well aware of the ongoing contentious debate surrounding the position of public safety director and the absence of chiefs leading our Police and Fire Departments and Beach Patrol. Out of this heated rhetoric, which has polarized Council along party lines, there is some consensus as each member of Council has articulated his or her support for chiefs to lead our public safety departments.
Moreover, an overwhelming majority of residents, taxpayers, and public safety professionals have expressed their opinions that chiefs are needed to ensure the effective and efficient operation of these departments as well as to maintain the quality of service that we all have come to expect in Brigantine.Therefore, it is time for Council to end this prolonged and divisive controversy at the next meeting on February 5th, and vote to eliminate the position of public safety director and direct the city manager to appoint chiefs.
Once this controversy is eliminated, we can seriously examine personnel costs and objectively consider all options to lessen the impact on the 2014 budget. Unfortunately, Council has been bogged down by the debate about the public safety director and part time firefighters and has not examined all options that could result in greater savings and not impact the successful operation of these crucial departments.
As we develop a plan to lower the personnel costs in all public safety departments, we should explore the following options available through collective bargaining and potential restructuring:
negotiating lower starting salaries; increasing the number of steps on salary guides to reach top salaries; analyzing overall staffing levels and rank structure; quantifying the impact of the difference in salaries for retirees verses new hires; and examining the impact of different schedules.
This list is certainly not exhaustive; other members of Council, the city manager, city employees and the public will undoubtedly have additional suggestions to find savings. As we move forward, it is imperative that we focus on examining accurate data for multiple options to find cost saving solutions that will increase efficiency and not sacrifice the quality of service.
We look forward to working with all stakeholders to accomplish this important work and move our city forward.
Mayor Phil Guenther & Councilman Andy Simpson