Group suggests hiring more staff to cut Arundel fire agency overtime

THE BALTIMORE SUN

At its final meeting yesterday, a task force studying the Anne Arundel County Fire Department's reliance on overtime debated whether the county should hire additional firefighters and paramedics to address the problem.

The eight-person group, appointed by County Executive Janet S. Owens in August, approved two suggestions - one that the county should hire more workers and another that it should "continuously evaluate" whether to do so.

Neither recommendation specified how many firefighters and paramedics the county should aim to hire or how much in overtime savings the new employees would provide.

The hiring recommendation is one of dozens of proposed changes to a fire department whose overtime tab topped $7.2 million during the last fiscal year - millions more than in other Baltimore-area counties.

Task force members also decided to specify in writing that they did not approve of Fire Chief Roger C. Simonds' decision to use $135,000 in overtime money to renovate a warehouse for department use.

The group likely will submit its report to Owens next week, members said, in the hopes that some of its recommendations can be implemented before next year's county budget is finalized in May.

Sun staff writer Ryan Davis contributed to this article.

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