Anne Arundel County agreed to a new three-year contract with its firefighters union yesterday, a move that county leaders say will begin to address the issues that led the county fire chief to resign last month.
Firefighters will receive a cost-of-living raise in each year of the new contract. The county will add more than 70 firefighters at a cost of $3.5 million to $4 million, decrease the amount of hours firefighters work each week and impose stricter controls on leave time.
By the end of the new contract, firefighters will have 72 hours off at a time instead of 48 and will be required to give advance notice of requested leave.
Officials said the changes will decrease the Fire Department's reliance on overtime, a major factor in the resignation of former Fire Chief Roger C. Simonds.
"This agreement goes far to addressing the long-term systemic issues in fire services that were detailed by the Ad Hoc Fire Department Committee," County Executive Janet S. Owens said in a statement.
That committee began meeting in August after The Sun published articles about the department's soaring overtime costs and questionable uses of overtime money.
The task force and the county auditor had recommended hiring more firefighters and implementing stronger management controls.
Union officials also praised the new deal, saying increased staffing and more time off each week will help firefighters perform better.
"From a recruiting standpoint, this contract will improve our competitiveness with the surrounding jurisdictions," said Keith Wright, president of the 600-member firefighters union.