ARE AMBULANCES PUTTING PEOPLE'S LIVES AT RISK IN UNIVERSITY CITY?
February 25, 2016 -KTVI BY ERIKA TALLAN
UNIVERSITY CITY, MO. - University City City Council member Paulette Carr has questioned the city's new ambulance service, Gateway Ambulance, from day one.
"We ought to feel comfortable knowing that we are getting the kind of service that we always had," Carr said.
U-City outsourced its emergency medical services to Gateway Ambulance last August. It took over for the firefighters. Since then, Carr said it's been one red flag after another, from longer response times to service that, according to her, violates the contract agreement.
"I received a call in September where one of my constituents had a cardiac event-a heart event-and it took 15 minutes for the ambulance to arrive," Carr said. "On the 13th of December, we had at least two ambulances show up, at least two show up, without any paramedics on board."
For her, that's a big deal; not only because it could be putting people's lives in danger, but it would violates the terms of their contract.
"Our contract says they must have one paramedic, one EMT," Carr said.
For months, she's asked City Manager Lehman Walker to supply reports. Thus far, Carr has not been given the reports she's asked for, which she feels is lack of oversight and lack of action on Walker's part.
"We pay a lot in taxes. We deserve this service," said Carr. "He decided to provide a lesser service to us. We previously had two paramedics on every ambulance instead of just one and an EMT, and now he's allowing a company to provide even less."
According to Carr, Gateway Ambulance collects a minimum of $700,000 to $750,000 in revenues from University City.
When contacted for an interview, Walker said he didn't have time to meet outside office hours for an on-camera interview. He said response times have improved by one minute to three-and-a-half minutes since Gateway took over for the fire department, the city is satisfied with their services, and that they are complying with the contract.
However, Carr isn't buying any of it until she sees the facts.
"Something went wrong. It's not working the way that they promised. We would have our EMS service delivered and this is a cover-up to not provide the information, at least not to provide a response to me, is a cover-up," said Carr.
Fox 2 News left messages with Gateway Ambulance, but did not hear back before this report was filed Thursday evening.
UNIVERSITY CITY, FIREFIGHTERS REACH AGREEMENT IN CAMPAIGN DISPUTE
People holding signs that read "We Support Our Firefighters" gathered outside of University City City Hall before a University City City Council Meeting, Monday, May 12, 2014. At least 5 University City firefighters were recently suspended for violating a statue that prohibits first responders from being involved in a political campaign. Photo by Roberto Rodriguez
February 11, 2016 - St. Louis Post Dispatch By Steve Giegerich
UNIVERSITY CITY, MO. - The city and the union representing its firefighters agreed to a federal court settlement Thursday that will result in the distribution of $345,000 to five emergency services workers suspended two years ago for their participation in a contentious municipal election.
City Manager Lehman Walker said the bulk of the settlement reached by the city's insurance company will cover legal fees incurred by the firefighters.
"The matter was resolved by the insurance company to the satisfaction of everyone involved," Walker said Thursday, a few hours after the city and the union representing the firefighters inked the agreement in U.S. Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.
Kurt Becker, district vice president of the International Association of Firefighters Local 2665, said the suspended employees will receive approximately $29,000 each for back pay and damages after the legal fees are paid.
The agreement also stipulates that the city expunge the suspensions from the employment records of the firefighters.
"We feel the outcome is a clear vindication of our contention from the outset that our member's participation in the election process was lawful, and that the city's persecution of them was outside the bounds of the law," Becker said.
The case was brought against the city after the firefighters were suspended for campaigning on behalf of an unsuccessful challenger to an incumbent City Council member in the 2014 election.
Two years later, the fallout from that campaign continues to reverberate through City Hall.
The council in a hurried vote last summer shifted the city's emergency services from the fire department to privately-owned Gateway Ambulance - a move the firefighters viewed as further retribution from Mayor Shelley Welsch, an ally of Stephen Kraft, the council member they opposed in 2014.
The firefighters saga took yet another twist in December when Welsch asked the council to approve an obscure legal maneuver to remove Council member Terry Crow from office.
Welsch charged that Crow breached the city charter and public confidence by forwarding an email to Becker that contained a legal opinion from the city attorney on the laws guiding participation in municipal elections by public employees.
The council in December declined to act on the mayor's recommendation. A month later the Welsch nonetheless convinced the lawmakers to censure Crow.
Nor is there any sign that the tension generated by the 2014 campaign will ease at any point in the near future.
Crow and his own council ally, Paulette Carr, are up for re-election in April.
And active petition efforts are underway to place the measures calling for the recall of Kraft and Welsch before the voters.
RETIREE PENSION FUNDS UNDERFUNDED BY MILLIONS, UNIVERSITY CITY COUNCILMAN SAYS
January 27, 2016 - St. Louis Post Dispatch Special to the Post-Dispatch
UNIVERSITY CITY, MO. - Two municipal retired employee pension funds are underfunded by millions of dollars and the situation will soon require action by the city, according to Councilman Stephen Kraft.
"The council needs to start looking at this because the deficits are real," Kraft said during a council meeting Monday night.
Kraft told the council that it will soon need to consider propping up the city's two retired employee pension funds, which he said are collectively underfunded by about $11.4 million. That number is down from that given in a city financial report which reported that the city's net combined pension liability was nearly $12.2 million on June 30. The report gave the city's total pension liability at about $60.4 million with about $48.2 million in assets.
The city maintains two defined-benefit pension plans - one for retired police officers and firefighters, and one for non-uniformed retirees. Kraft, who is the council's representative on the city's pension board, said the city might need to consider increasing its pension contributions or moving to defined-contribution plans.
The level of city contributions, Kraft said, is low when compared to some other public employee plans, especially that for Missouri's public school teachers.
"I think it is underfunded," Kraft said of the city's two plans.
Councilman Terry Crow suggested that the city's plans should be compared to other municipal plans, and not to the Missouri Public School and Education Employee Retirement System. He added that investment returns for the city's plans are normal. Return on plan investment was 12.6 percent for the fiscal year ending last June, the city reported.
"But it does need attention," Crow said of the city's pension program.
TWO UNIVERSITY CITY COUNCIL MEMBERS CONTINUE OPPOSITION TO CITY'S NEW GATEWAY AMBULANCE SERVICE
Agreement with firefighters, quality of Gateway Ambulance called into question
October 21, 2015 - West End Word by Dennis Hannon
UNIVERSITY CITY, MO. - The rolling brawl over University City's outsourced ambulance service - already an issue on the city council and in the St. Louis County Circuit Court - flared up again at the council's Oct. 12 meeting.
Two council members called into question the integrity of both the ambulance company the city hired, and that of the city government itself.
The trouble started Aug. 5, when the council voted 5-2 to hire Gateway Ambulance Service, the St. Louis subsidiary of a Louisville transport company. The council members who cast the opposing votes - Terry Crow and Paulette Carr - since have conducted a rear-guard action against the agreement.
At the council meeting, Crow raised questions about the city's compliance with the staffing requirements stated in its collective bargaining agreement with its firefighters; Carr contested Gateway's claims regarding ambulance response times.
Crow sought answers to questions raised by skeptics of the city's outsourcing move who suspect the city has been scrambling to make its short roster of firefighters (numbering about 38) meet the minimum staffing requirement (11 per shift) set down in the collective bargaining agreement. The implication, say the critics, is that the city had intended to use Gateway to meet the shortfall.
"Do we have 11 University City firefighter personnel on the (job) every day?" Crow asked of City Manager Lehman Walker. "If not, how many days since we've had Gateway have we not had full staffing? How many hours of overtime has the city approved?"
Walker responded that a council meeting "is not the appropriate forum to discuss labor relations. I have no intention of discussing labor relations."
If the city did have intentions of using outsourced personnel to plum-up its headcount in the fire department, the firefighters union might have stymied them.
On Oct. 5, Circuit Judge Tom DePriest, answering a petition from the Eastern Missouri Chapter of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), Local 2665, ordered the city to comply with the language of the collective bargaining agreement, specifically Section 2.03, which states that "the city will maintain a staffing of at least 11 personnel per crew on duty each day."
Jen Stuhlman, shop steward for University City's firefighters, told the council that the city seldom had been in compliance with the collective bargaining agreement staffing requirement prior to DePriest's order. Fewer than 11 firefighters were on duty on 32 of the 37 days between Gateway's August start date and DePriest's order, she said.
"To claim that this was accidental, unavoidable or anything but deliberate would be a travesty," she told the council.
Crow further questioned the timing between the city signing a collective bargaining agreement with its firefighters in April and contracting to outsource ambulance service in August.
"Where was the logic in signing a CBA when there clearly was a conversation already going on about Gateway?" he said. "At some point in time the integrity of the information we (members of the council) receive must be called into question."
Carr concentrated on what she alleged was deficient quality - and deceitful representation - in Gateway's ambulance service. She recited lengthy call logs from the city's 911 service in an attempt to prove Gateway had misrepresented its response times at least by a factor of two, and in one case much more.
City officials, including Mayor Shelley Welch, have stated the city stood to save $500,000 - half its $1.1 million annual budget for emergency medical services - by hiring Gateway. The company will not be paid a direct fee, but instead will collect an estimated $700,000 in insurance reimbursements from patients who are transported in its ambulances.
SUPPORTERS, FOES IN UNIVERSITY CITY AMBULANCE SQUABBLE BOTH CLAIM VICTORY IN COURT CASE
October 7, 2015 - St. Louis Post Dispatch By Steve Giegerich
UNIVERSITY CITY - Supporters and foes of outsourcing municipal emergency medical services are both laying claim to victory in an order handed down Monday in St. Louis County Circuit Court.
"We see this as a very solid win for the firefighters," said Kurt Becker, district vice president of the Professional Firefighters of Eastern Missouri, International Association of Fire Fighters Local 2665.
"Judge sides with U City," Mayor Shelley Welsch posted on her Facebook page.
The latest flash point over the August contract that turned emergency medical transportation over to privately-owned Gateway Ambulance is a consent order signed Monday by Circuit Court Judge Tom W. DePriest.
University City in the decree agreed to "comply with the language" of the collective bargaining contract it signed with the firefighters union in April.
Becker says the contract stipulates that city fire stations be continuously staffed by a minimum of 11 personnel.
"And it clearly states that two firefighters/paramedics be assigned to every ambulance," said Councilman Terry Crow.
"That isn't happening," Crow added, since the Gateway contract went into effect on Sept. 1.Crow and other critics contend that Gateway ambulances are for the most part staffed by a driver and a single trained medical technician.
A majority of University City firefighters doubled as paramedics.
City Manager Lehman Walker said the decree reinforces the stance University City has adhered to since reaching an accord with the fire fighters in April.
"We will continue to comply with the collective bargaining agreement, as we have done," Walker said in a Tuesday afternoon telephone interview.
Walker said the city currently has 37 fire personnel on its payroll, with budgeting to add two more.
Becker called Walker's assessment is "riddled with errors."
He contends that University City firehouses are perpetually understaffed - a situation Becker fears will worsen if the city follows through with a plan to deplete the ranks of firefighters through attrition.
The firefighters and city officials have been at odds since 2014 when a handful of fire department personnel were suspended for publicly supporting the campaign of a City Council candidate.
The hostilities escalated in August when the council approved the Gateway contract at the conclusion of a five-hour meeting attended by nearly 150 residents, the majority opposed to outsourcing what had traditionally been a city-provided service.
Supporters say the privatization will save the city money while providing residents with better response times by more alert crews.
Gateway ambulance personnel work 12-hour shifts; city firefighter are on duty 48 hours.
"We are very confident we made the right decision," Walker said.
The vote to install Gateway re-invigorated an effort to recall Councilman Stephen Kraft, a supporter of the Gateway agreement.
It also prompted a second recall petition that seeks to remove Welsch from office.
DePriest, the county jurist, issued his decision in response to a brief from the firefighters union seeking a writ of mandamus - defined by the Cornell University Legal Information Institute as an order for a "government official to properly fulfill their official duties or correct an abuse of discretion."
Crow said Councilwoman Paulette Carr, an ally in an effort to restore medical transportation responsibilities to the fire department, intends to address the decree order at the Oct. 12 council meeting.
September 24, 2015 - KMOV By Dan Greenwald, Online News Producer
UNIVERSITY CITY, MO. - Despite concerns over response times, University City officials decided not to make changes to the city's EMS service.
The move came after News 4 learned at an employee with the ambulance service used by the city was disciplined after it took 15 minutes for an ambulance to respond to a heart attack call. University City recently outsourced it's EMS services to Gateway Ambulance.
"We've taken measures with Gateway to ensure it won't happen again, it was an employee issue that has been dealt with," said a University City official.
Two city council members attempted to pass a bill to resolve some of the problems with Gateway. Even though many members of the public spoke in favor of the measure, the proposal did not pass.
University City's mayor said it's not up to the city council to regulate contracts. He said that responsibility lies with the city manager, but the city manager told News 4 he will not make any changes.
GRASSROOTS GROUP PETITION SEEKS TO RECALL UNIVERSITY CITY MAYOR
Residents used a placard to register their opposition to Councilman Stephen Kraft at the Sept. 8 University City Council meeting.
September 8, 2015 - St. Louis Post Dispatch By Steve Giegerich
UNIVERSITY CITY, MO. - The controversy over a contract to turn emergency medical transit over to a private ambulance service took another turn Tuesday when critics of the measure announced a petition drive had been mounted to remove Mayor Shelley Welsch from office.
The announcement prompted sustained applause from a City Council audience composed almost entirely of residents opposed to an agreement that shifted medical transit from University City firefighter/paramedics to crews employed by Gateway Ambulance Service.
Welsch, on the dais, remained impassive.
Council members approved the Gateway contract last month in a 5-2 vote that capped a contentious four-hour meeting at which officials drew fire for a decision opponents claim was made without regard for public sentiment.
Gateway placed two ambulances on round-the-clock University City duty last week.
"It was painful to watch as council members thumbed their noses at the citizens," resident Bart Stewart told the council Tuesday evening.
University City United, the grass-roots organization behind the petition to recall Welsch, is also targeting Councilman Stephen Kraft.
An organizer for the group, Jeff Hales, said Tuesday that the number of signatures on the Kraft petition now exceeded the first ward council member's vote total in the 2014 election. Hales was bested by Kraft in that contest.
Kraft helped draft the legislation that handed University City ambulance service over to Gateway on Sept. 1.
A physician, Kraft maintains residents will be better served by Gateway personnel working 12-hour shifts than by city firefighter/paramedics working 48-hour shifts.
Kraft and other advocates say outsourcing will allow the city to trim a minimum of $500,000 from its annual expenditure for emergency medical transit.
The city will not pay Gateway directly. Rather, Gateway will receive ambulance transit fees now collected by the city.
Officials say the move to Gateway Ambulance will not cost any city firefighters their jobs.
The city, however, will probably not replace the next 10 to 12 fire personnel who leave because of retirement or for other jobs.
Founded in St. Louis, Gateway is now owned by a corporation based in Louisville, Ky.
The union representing fire fighters has filed a petition asking a St. Louis County Circuit Court judge to nullify the Gateway pact. The hearing is scheduled for Oct. 5.
The recall petition for Welsch was not unexpected.
"That's fine, let 'em," the mayor said last month when word surfaced that opponents might attempt to oust her.
Hales said University City United hopes to place a recall of Welsch and Kraft before voters on the April 2016 municipal ballot.
Meanwhile one of the two council members opposing the Gateway contract last night introduced legislation to amend the agreement.
The amendment from Councilman Terry Crow asks that Gateway be subjected to strict insurance requirements, staff each of its ambulances with two paramedics and notify the city in advance of rate hikes.
FOES RAMP UP CHALLENGES AS UNIVERSITY CITY PREPARES TO ROLL OUT PRIVATE AMBULANCE SERVICE
Phyllis Straatmann, of University City, holds up signs during a University City City Council meeting at City Hall on Monday, Aug. 3, 2015. Council members discussed a potential agreement that would outsource emergency services to Gateway Ambulance. Photo by Roberto Rodriguez
August 22, 2015 - St. Louis Post Dispatch By Steve Giegerich
UNIVERSITY CITY - Lingering resentment over a City Council decision to outsource ambulance service continues to percolate here, with the union representing city firefighters mounting a legal challenge, and a residents' group considering a recall effort to target Mayor Shelley Welsch.
"This has pushed people to a tipping point I didn't think was possible," said Jeff Hales, a leader of the recall movement and an unsuccessful 2014 council candidate.
At issue is a contract that will shift responsibility for city emergency medical services on Sept. 1 from University City firefighters to crews employed by Gateway Ambulance Services, a private company with headquarters in Louisville, Ky.
City officials say the switch will improve response times, reduce the possibility of mistakes by exhausted firefighters working 48-hour shifts and save more than $500,000 annually in salaries and equipment the city now devotes to medical emergencies.
The city promises that no firefighters will lose their jobs. University City will not, however, replace at least 10 fire department employees lost through retirement or other circumstances.
Opponents of the move charge that the mayor, a majority of council members and City Manager Lehman Walker purposefully limited public input by waiting until the last minute to announce the deal with Gateway.
Residents learned of the contract on July 30.
The following Monday, nearly 150 residents showed up to voice mostly objections at a contentious four-hour City Council meeting. It concluded with a 5-2 vote approving the Gateway pact.
"I've never seen anything like I saw that Monday night," said Kurt Becker, the district vice president of the International Association of Firefighters Local 2665, representing University City firefighters. "I've never seen elected officials treat residents with such disregard and disrespect."
In a newsletter to constituents, Welsch noted that the "loud" critics of the measure represented a small fraction of University City's 35,000 residents.
As proof of the transparency of the process, the mayor pointed to a 2014 city-issued request for proposals from private firms interested in bidding for the ambulance service, as well as a council workshop where bids were discussed.
Welsch said in an interview this week that the Gateway vote fell within the dictates of the city charter.
"I do not believe every issue needs a public hearing," the mayor said. "And I don't think public hearings need to be held on issues that are mandated by authority of our charter to the city manager and our council. That is the case with this contract."
Becker and residents opposing the privatization disagree.
Local 2665 has filed a brief in St. Louis County Circuit Court asking a judge to overturn the contract.
Circuit Court Judge Tom DePriest has scheduled a hearing on Oct. 5 to determine whether to grant the union a "writ of mandamus" - a legal device which, if granted, would declare that University City elected and appointed officials had exceeded the scope of their duties.
Becker said the union would argue that the Gateway pact violated the terms of a labor agreement University City and the firefighters signed in April.
"We feel this is a breach of contract," said Becker. "Implementing this contract will cause our members to suffer irreparable harm."
As Becker and the firefighters pursue legal remedies, a group of University City residents led by Hales is readying a political response to the outsourcing.
The first step, the group said, is to "re-energize" a petition campaign initiated earlier this year to remove Councilman Stephen Kraft from office. Kraft defeated Hales in the 2014 race for the 1st District council seat.
Petitioners need to secure the signatures of 20 percent of the 26,000 registered University City voters to place a recall referendum on a special or general election ballot.
Kraft, a physician and leader of the effort to replace the firefighters with a private ambulance company, says the outsourcing makes sense from an economic and medical standpoint.
He cites research that he says shows University City residents will be better served by Gateway paramedics working 12.5-hour shifts than firefighters with the potential to be dispatched on a call at the end of a 48-hour shift.
Kraft expressed little concern about the recall campaign.
"Council has been able to make the difficult decisions, and the decisions really are difficult," Kraft said Tuesday. "Almost every issue has compelling arguments on either side, and I admit that I do not have a monopoly on the truth. My job is to listen to the arguments, explain my views and vote my conscience."
Hales said the group had not ruled out circulating petitions seeking the recall of additional council members.
Another elected official may find herself in the sights, as well.
"A lot of people really want to go after the mayor," resident Suzanne Greenwald acknowledged.
"That's fine, let 'em," Welsch responded.
With the Gateway contract about to take effect, the city is moving forward.
"We've done some trial runs to make sure there is a smooth transition," said Walker, the city manager.
The tests, he added, determined that the new system was ready to go.
August 12, 2015 - West End Word By Mitch Schneider
UNIVERSITY CITY, MO. - The City Council of University City voted Aug. 3 to outsource the city's ambulance services to Gateway Ambulance.
The five-year contract with Gateway was approved on a 5-2 vote. The vote followed a contentious discussion lasting three-and-a-half hours, during which more than 30 attendees spoke on the subject. The meeting drew more than 100 people.
The majority of residents who spoke, as well as the two council members who voted against the contract with Gateway - Paulette Carr and Terry Crow - questioned the level of services Gateway would provide. Those supporting the contract insisted that many of those concerns were unfounded.
Kurt Becker, district vice president of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 2665, earlier described the Gateway contract as "a vicious attack" on city firefighters, an attempt by some in the city to "break the back of the union." City Manager Lehman Walker, along with other city officials, have denied that charge.
In July 2014, the city solicited candidates to provide emergency and non-emergency ambulance transportation services. A city council study session was held in September of that year. Gateway and Abbott Ambulance responded with proposals.
Under the terms of the contract, Gateway will have two ambulances stationed in and dedicated to the city. Additional ambulances could be called from nearby areas if needed. Among the advantages of the agreement cited by Walker are cost savings to the city of more than $500,000 annually after the first year. Savings would come in reductions in staff and vehicle costs.
Gateway would be responsible for billing, freeing up the city's finance department staff to attend to other matters. Walker claims that response times would be quicker with Gateway crews positioned in the field, as opposed to current crews stationed at a firehouse.
Walker said that the contract, which goes into effect Sept. 1, has a provision allowing the city to terminate if Gateway does not meet the agreed-upon standards.
Council members Crow and Carr contend that since the request for proposals was sent out, public input on the subject, as well as information provided to council members, was lacking. Crow said he was not aware that a discussion and vote on the matter was scheduled until 9 p.m. on the Thursday before the Monday meeting.
"This council has never met to discuss this agreement. There are 100 people in this room whose lives depend on this. Madam mayor, it is disingenuous, duplicitous and unworthy of your office for you to say that we had nine months to ask questions," Crow said.
Mayor Shelley Welsch remarked that Crow had exceeded his allotted speaking time by six seconds, which led to an extended debate among council members over how much time each should be allotted to speak on the subject.
Carr echoed Crow's sentiments, directing some of her comments at Welsch.
"There has been no opportunity to discuss this. You have not convinced me or them (residents) that this is a good idea. You must give them a chance," Carr said.
A major concern by opponents of the Gateway contract was the level of care that Gateway would provide.
Under the city's current procedure, an ambulance with two paramedics aboard is dispatched first to a scene that does not require a fire truck. If additional support is needed, a fire truck is called in with at least three additional paramedic/firefighters on board.
Under the Gateway contract, the procedure is similar, with the ambulance dispatched first, followed by a fire truck if needed. Gateway opponents, however, noted that Gateway's ambulances are staffed by a paramedic and an emergency medical technician. Technicians cannot perform some of the duties of a paramedic, such as inserting an I.V.
Another concern was that while Gateway does serve several county municipalities, along with the city of St. Louis, it does so as a backup to the municipal services in those areas - not as the primary first responder/ambulance service.
The agreement was supported by other members of the council, including Rod Jennings.
"People have fears about this, and I had fears, but my fears were alleviated. We have an out. Response times may be better than we have ever seen. The council has looked at this and the risks have been minimized," Jennings said.
Council Member Stephen Kraft supports the contract.
"It's about providing higher quality service at a lower cost. Improving public safety is what is important," he said.
Kraft commended the city's first responders as "hardworking men and women who do their jobs with expertise and pride," but added the 12-hour shifts that Gateway employees work is an improvement over the 48-hour shifts worked by city employees.
Greg Pace was one of four citizens who spoke in favor of the contract. Pace assisted Walker during the selection process. He described the contract as a "win for University City and its residents. Quality of care will not decline."
Council Member Carr made a motion to table a vote on the contract for 60 days to allow for more discussion. The motion failed, and the council then approved the contract.
After the meeting, Mayor Welsch issued a written statement she had intended to read during the course of the meeting. It read, in part:
"If this recommendation is approved, residents will be provided with superior service at a lesser cost to all taxpayers .... I am supporting this recommendation. It is the right thing to do."
UNIVERSITY CITY COUNCIL APPROVES CONTROVERSIAL PLAN TO OUTSOURCE EMS
Photo by Roberto Rodriguez
August 4, 2015 - St. Louis Post Dispatch By Steve Giegerich
UNIVERSITY CITY - Over an angry citizen outburst for a recall, the University City Council approved on Monday a controversial contract to outsource its ambulance service to a private contractor.
The 5-2 vote ended four hours of contentious debate between residents and the council - as well as council members themselves - over a five-year agreement that will strip emergency medical services from city firefighters/paramedics.
"This is the height of disrespect for all of you," Councilman Terry Crow told what remained of a crowd that numbered nearly 150 at the start of the marathon meeting.
In addition to objecting to a contract that could transfer first-responder duties to Louisville-based Gateway Ambulance as early as Sept. 1, Crow and Councilwoman Paulette Carr took their colleagues and city officials to task for attempting to enact a last-minute agreement without a proper public hearing.
"We really need time to flush this out," Carr said.
Residents attending the meeting expressed disappointment that no one beyond City Manager Lehman Walker and a handful of top officials were aware that University City was in the process of striking a deal with Gateway.
Most City Council members learned of the contract when the council agenda packet was delivered to them last Thursday night.
The five councilmen supporting the agreement "clearly stuffed it down the citizens' throats tonight," Crow said after the meeting. "They did it without any input at all from the citizens."
Crow questioned the choice of Gateway Ambulance to replace the city fire fighters on emergency calls.
Citing his own research and responses to inquiries posed at the council meeting, Crow labeled Gateway an "emergency transport service" that shuttles patients "between hospitals."
The company paramedics, he added, have minimal experience as first-responders."They are to the best of my knowledge only a back-up" service," Crow said. "And that has to be a concern to all of our citizens."
Carr's remarks during the meeting were among many sparking prolonged applause from residents - many holding signs opposing the outsourcing bid - who showed up in the council chambers on a steamy summer night.
"They are here not because we knocked on doors or passed out fliers. But because they are scared," said Carr.
Under the terms of the contract, Gateway will collect the nearly $700,000 the city now receives from individuals and insurance payouts for hospital transport and on-site medical care.
City officials say the outsourcing has the potential to save the municipality about half of its annual $1.1 million emergency medical services budget.
Gateway officials promised Monday that the company would have two ambulances stationed in University City 24 hours a day with two additional units nearby and available for backup service.
"This contract is about higher quality of service at a lower cost," said Councilman Stephen Kraft, who helped draft the agreement.
Kraft, a physician, said residents would benefit from emergency responses from paramedics working 12-hour shifts as opposed to the 48-hour shifts of city firefighters.
Resident and Republican committeeman David Stokes, a policy analyst with the Show Me Institute, praised Kraft and Walker for the "creative thinking" that led to the outsourcing agreement.
But most residents balked at the proposal.
"I cannot believe a for-profit company can do a better job than the services of the people the citizens of University City have hired," Loren Grossman said.
Like Grossman, Nancy Pasco was one of several residents who prefaced their remarks with anecdotes about positive interaction with University City firefighters/paramedics.
"I just wonder how we can save $500,000 and still get good service," Pasco said.
Resident Dennis Fuller cited a conversation with his daughter, an emergency room nurse, as the basis for his opposition.
"She says there is a distinct difference between the two parties here. And it does not favor Gateway," Fuller told the council.
Kurt Becker, the head of the union representing University City fire fighters, said his members are "are profoundly grateful for the outpouring of support from the community for our members, and in opposition to the notion that a private, for-profit, out-of-state company with no 911 contracts in St. Louis could provide better service. We are disappointed in the decision of the City Council, but we have no intention to let the citizens of U-City down by giving up this fight."
Kraft said no firefighters would lose their jobs as a result of the privatization. But as many as 12 current fire department positions vacated through normal attrition will probably go unfilled.
In a Facebook post on Monday, Becker disputed the math University City officials relied on to justify the outsourcing.
"You are being lied to," Becker wrote to city residents. "You are being lied to you by your city manager. You are being lied to by your councilmen. You are being lied to by some of your councilmen."
The public input on the measure was delayed for 30 minutes Monday as the council debated a procedural point to expand the 10 minutes allotted for council members to ask questions about the Gateway pact.
Dismayed that he and Carr hadn't been consulted on the pact, Crow lashed out after Mayor Shelley Welsch cut him off with an announcement that his line of questions had exceeded the 10-minute limit by "six seconds."
"To call a question on the rules for a (discussion of) a contract I just received Thursday night is disingenuous, duplicitous and unworthy of your office," Crow told the mayor.
UNIVERSITY CITY CONSIDERS TURNING AMBULANCE SERVICE OVER TO PRIVATE CONTRACTOR; UNION SAYS NO WAY
July 30, 2015 - St. Louis Post Dispatch By Steve Giegerich
UNIVERSITY CITY - A bid to outsource emergency medical services in this inner ring suburb is drawing praise from municipal officials and ire from the head of the union representing the firefighters whose duties will be curtailed if a contract with a private contractor, Gateway Ambulance, is approved by City Council.
The council will get its first look at the agreement with Gateway Monday evening.
Kurt Becker, district vice president of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 2665, said the council can count on his membership making their thoughts on the matter known.
Becker on Thursday night labeled the contract a "vicious attack" on city firefighters.
He further called the move to hand emergency medical service duties to a private company an extension of the 2014 hostilities that resulted in the suspension of five firefighters, temporarily removed from duty after they were photographed in uniform for a campaign advertisement.
City officials deny there is a connection between the 2014 incident and the Gateway agreement.
They say hiring the private ambulance service to handle emergency medical services could save more than $500,000 a year. The five-year agreement, completed this week, would turn the emergency medical care now provided by University City Fire Department paramedics over to Gateway. The city paramedics are also firefighters and would continue to respond to fire calls.
University City would not pay Gateway a fee. Rather, the ambulance company would get the nearly $700,000 that University City now collects from individuals and insurance payouts for hospital transport and on-site medical care.
The outsourcing is expected to save University City about half of its annual $1.1 million emergency medical services budget.
City officials say putting Gateway ambulances on the street will expand the current EMS coverage area.
"It will reduce response time and will ensure that ambulances are always available," said City Manager Lehman Walker.
Walker said the Gateway agreement would not result in job losses for any University City firefighters.
Sources however say the curtailment of city-provided ambulance service would involve a gradual reduction in force in a department where as many as 12 employees lost through normal attrition will likely not be replaced.
Under the current system, University City paramedics respond to emergency calls from two fire department locations - one on the edge of The Loop, the other on North and South Road.
Greg Pace, a self-described "volunteer consultant" on the Gateway contract, said response time is slowed by paramedics who must disengage from other activities to respond to emergency calls, cold-starts of ambulance engines and the distance separating the fire headquarters and those in need.
"You can't move a station house," Pace noted, adding that Gateway has committed to round-the-clock strategic positioning of two idling ambulances, each staffed with trained paramedics, at two neighborhood locations.
Each Gateway medic would be assigned a 12-hour shift; a departure from the 48-hour tours worked by city firefighter-medics.
University City Councilman Stephen Kraft, a physician, said the 12-hour shifts conform with accepted medical protocols.
"This agreement means that ambulance personnel will no longer be starting an IV or performing CPR at the end of a 48-hour shift," Kraft said. "This will provide higher quality service at a lower cost to taxpayers."
The contract additionally guarantees Gateway will dispatch ambulances from other jurisdictions if three or more University City medical emergencies occur simultaneously.
University City now has "mutual aid" agreements with nearby municipalities to provide additional emergency vehicles when both of its ambulances are in service.
Gateway will continue to reciprocate should those communities require additional units.
The ambulance company's radio band will also be integrated into the University City dispatch system.
Gateway is a division of Procarent, a Louisville, Ky., transportation firm that bought St. Louis-founded Gateway in 2007.
University City last year dispatched ambulances to more than 3,800 emergencies. Firefighter-paramedics have responded to a little over 2,000 calls in 2015.
The agreement with Gateway could reopen a schism created by the suspension of five firefighters, relieved of their duties in April 2014 for appearing in uniform in a photograph promoting a political campaign.
University City a few months later posted a request for proposals from private contractors interested in the ambulance contract.
Pace, the citizen consultant, said the firefighters can't say they weren't forewarned that a change in the dispatch of University City medical emergency calls was in the works.
"We had a study last year," Pace said. "They should have known this was a possibility from that time forward."
The City Council meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. Monday.
U. CITY FIRE CHIEF ADAM LONG DOMINATES COVER OF BOOK ABOUT NYC FIRE DEPARTMENT
Adam Long in 2008. Photo by John L. White of the Post-Dispatch
July 8, 2015 - St. Louis Post Dispatch By Joe Holleman
- Ginger Adams Otis, a reporter with the New York Daily News, just released "Fire-Fight," a book about of the fight against discrimination in the Fire Department of New York.
Staring strongly from the cover of this Gotham-centric story is STL's very own Adam Long - a 34-year St. Louis Fire Department veteran and the University City chief since 2013.
In 1988, Long was a subject in a striking photograph that showed him carrying a child out of a fire. The photo ran in the Post-Dispatch and won a Pulitzer Prize for photographer Ronald Olschwanger in 1989.
It's a different photo of Long that was used on the cover of the book. The image came from a photo shoot which Long and Olschwanger did for another publication, Otis said.
Otis, who covered New York city politics and the fire department for years, said she first saw the photo while she debated with editors about the book's subtitle - "The Century-Long Battle to Integrate New York's Bravest." (Otis didn't like it.) Her publisher had prepared a possible cover using the photo of Long.
"I saw the picture and said 'wow.' I loved this guy's face and expression. I told the editors I could live with the (subtitle) if we use this picture," Otis said.
Otis did admit she's had to tell New York firefighter friends that, "Yes, I know that guy is not a New York City firefighter."
The book (288 pages; $28; Palgrave Macmillan) was released in May.
MAN FOUND DEAD AFTER HOUSE FIRE HAD BEEN SHOT IN THE HEAD
July 6, 2015 - KTVI
UNIVERSITY CITY, MO. - Police have determined that a man found dead after a house fire had been shot in the head and killed. Just after 5:00am Sunday, University City firefighters and police responded to a house fire in the 6800 block of Julian. After the fire was out, investigators found the man's body.
The victim has been identified as Jeremy Smith, 33. The St. Louis County Medical Examiner's Office came to the scene and determined that he had died from a gunshot wound to the head. Smith's dog was also found dead in the home. He likely died in the fire.
Smith had last been seen at home around 11:00pm on Saturday, July 4. He had lived there for about 3 years.
Investigators found what is believed to be a small amount of narcotics at the scene. No weapons were found.
University City detectives are investigating. Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call the University City Police Department at 314-863-7333 or Crime Stoppers at 866-371-TIPS.
POLICE INVESTIGATING FATAL FIRE IN UNIVERSITY CITY
Photo by KSDK
June 6, 2015 - KSDK By PJ Randhawa, KSDK
UNIVERSITY CITY, MO. - A University City man is dead after an early Sunday morning fire and police are now calling his death suspicious.
It happened on the 6800 block of Julian Avenue.
Fire sirens at 5 a.m. woke many in the Julian Avenue area, but not Carnell Brown. He was already running to the burning home across from his. Inside was a man he knew as a friend. Authorities have not released the man's name, but neighbors say he lived in the home with his longtime girlfriend.
"I tried to go in, help him, call him. No response. It was all smoky and hot. I couldn't get in," Brown, a neighbor and friend, said. "I couldn't barely breathe so we couldn't help him. The fire department even had trouble breathing."
"I talked to him last night. I came by to take a look and i saw them wheeling him out," said Chancey Evans, a neighbor.
University City Police have characterized the man's death as suspicious, but neighbors have their doubts.
"He'd go to sleep smoking all the time. He probably dropped a cigarette or something and it started smoking," said Brown.
"He was in-between jobs, working at a temp service, making like anybody else. He didn't bother anybody. He was a real cool guy," said Evans.
University City's Fire Chief confirms a puppy was also killed in the fire and an investigation is underway to determine how it all started. Meanwhile, neighbors who hours ago leapt into action are left now in stunned reflection.
"He will be missed and he will be remembered," said Evans.
A 20 year veteran of the fire department was injured while entering the home. He is expected to recover.
The identity of the victim is expected to be released Monday, but a cause of death may take a little while longer.
UNIVERSITY CITY, MO. - Was the recent brief shutdown of a fire house a sure sign of risky unmet manpower needs in the University City Fire Department, or was it a benign condition resulting from a one-time Sunday morning scheduling snafu? The answer depends on who is speaking.
"There's a great deal of concern," said Councilman Terry Crow.
"We are all concerned about what we perceive to be a crisis in public safety," said Councilwoman Paulette Carr.
"There is no public safety issue," declared City Manager Lehman Walker.
During a June 22 council meeting, firefighters, council members, city officials and some residents provided their take on the events of the morning of June 14 when the city took Fire House No. 1, 863 Westgate Ave., out of service when six firefighters, rather than 11 who comprise a minimum shift complement, were on duty at 7 a.m.
Walker said staffing was short when "a couple" of firefighter sick cases that morning exacerbated summer vacations that had already been scheduled.
"We were short on staff on that day," Walker said. "There was a scheduling issue."
While additional firefighters were being called in for duty, the fire house was taken out of service for no more than an hour and a half, Walker said.
However, Jen Stuhlman, a shop steward for the firefighters union, told the council that the fire house was not fully operational for about 12 hours. She said the city had personnel sufficient only to man two pieces of equipment.
"For 12 hours, our city was without its needed protection," Stuhlman claimed.
But Walker later said that no calls were missed that day, and he added that one of the city's two fire houses is sometimes taken out of service for training, mutual aid responses and during fire calls.
Crow said the city had insufficient manpower for at least part of that day.
"Six firefighters for a city of 30,000 .... is mismanagement," he said while calling for an independent investigation of the June 14 events. No action was taken on that request.
A number of firefighters filled the council chambers, and stood and cheered at statements that were critical of the city administration and supportive of the firefighters.
Mayor Shelley Welsch reacted to the incendiary atmosphere by stating that the union, Professional Fire Fighters of Eastern Missouri, International Association of Fire Fighters Local 2665, has three lawsuits pending against the city, and she said that Kurt Becker, district vice president for the union, "threatens more."
Councilman Stephen Kraft inferred that the firefighters union should not be making staffing decisions for the city.
"This discussion is who runs the fire department and who makes management decisions," he said. "Neither the firefighters nor the union runs the department."
In early June, Carr and Crow lost a council vote when they tried to restore six firefighter positions to the city's fiscal 2016 budget. Kraft said the department's authorized strength drops from 45 positions to 39 in the budget year that begins July 1, but he said the city was close to hiring firefighters to fill vacancies.
"We haven't hired anybody in quite a while, and we are running a skeleton crew," Carr responded.
Firefighters and the city have been at loggerheads in recent years over issues ranging from the suspensions of six firefighters for 2014 electioneering activities, a new collective bargaining agreement adopted this spring, the city's possible outsourcing of emergency medical services, and minimum staffing levels.
FIREHOUSE STAFFING IS FOCUS OF CONTINUED DEBATE IN U CITY
Photo: The City Hall building in University City.
June 24, 2015 - St. Louis Post Dispatch
UNIVERSITY CITY - A manpower shortage that forced University City to briefly shutter one of its two firehouses has prompted renewed scrutiny of fire department staffing.
"We are all concerned about what we perceive to be a crisis in public safety," Councilwoman Paulette Carr said at Monday night's City Council meeting, which was attended by some city firefighters.
During the meeting, Carr led a council discussion of the events of June 14 when City Manager Lehman Walker said "a scheduling issue" forced the city to close Firehouse No. 1 at 863 Westgate Avenue for less than an hour and a half.
However, Jen Stuhlman, a shop steward for the local firefighters union, told the council that the firehouse was not fully operational for about 12 hours. At 7 a.m. that morning, the city found itself with six firefighters on duty rather than 11, the minimum shift level, Carr said.
"Six firefighters for a city of 30,000 ... is mismanagement," said Councilman Terry Crow, who was joined by Carr two weeks ago in an unsuccessful fight to restore six firefighter positions to the city's fiscal 2016 budget.
After the meeting, Walker acknowledged that "we were short on staff that day" but said "there is no public safety issue." He said that each firehouse may occasionally be non-operational due to firefighter training sessions, mutual aid responses and other fire calls.
In other matters, the council approved a non-binding resolution committing the city to "eliminating all forms of discrimination against women and girls." Mayor Shelley Welsch, who co-sponsored the resolution, said the measure was "symbolic but important" to the city.
ELIMINATION OF 6 FIRE DEPARTMENT POSITIONS NOT WITHOUT OPPOSITION
June 17, 2015 - West End Word by William Poe
- University City has a new $35 million budget but not before the city council grappled with issues related to fire department manpower, police facilities, street repairs, Fair U City, the city manager's office budget, legislative travel allowances, recreational programs and facilities, and even the right of council members to ask questions of city staff.
Fire department employees drew the greatest scrutiny as council members Paulette Carr and Terry Crow were turned back in their attempts to retain six fire department positions, which they contend are vital to the city's public safety. The new budget cuts two captain and four firefighter/paramedic shift positions.
Carr said the "drastic" cuts would reduce the city's firefighting capabilities. Former City Manager Frank Ollendorff said the city deserves full-time career firefighters and paramedics.
"This would bring our department to an all-time low (in manpower)," said city firefighter Jen Stuhlman.
Stuhlman is a representative of Professional Fire Fighters of Eastern Missouri, International Association of Fire Fighters Local 2665. The union recently ratified a new three-year collective bargaining agreement with the city through March, 2018.
Mayor Shelley Welsch took issue with claims that the fire department will be understaffed.
"The fire department is staffed at the level it has been staffed for years," Welsch said. "Our service has not been cut."
Fire Chief Adam Long agreed.
"There is no public safety risk to residents or visitors," Long said.
However, on Sunday, June 14, Engine House #1, located at Vernon and Westgate, was closed due to lack of staffing. "Our minimum manning is supposed to be 11 personnel on duty. Today we will have six. We will be running one ambulance and one engine company out of House 2," according to a written statement from University City firefighters.
Council Member Crow wanted to know, among other matters, whether the city had enough manpower to fulfill its mutual aid agreements with other St. Louis County municipal fire departments and fire protection districts.
Long did not answer, and City Manager Lehman Walker chastised Crow for not asking the question during several earlier budget public hearings and council study sessions.
"I have the right to ask questions at any time," Crow responded.
Crow then asked Walker what criteria was used for fire and police department staffing requirements.
Walker said that a recent study of fire department staffing - an April 8 report by Virginia-based Management Advisory Group International Inc. - recommended changes in authorized staffing.
"We were overstaffed," Walker said.
Walker said the police department had not been similarly studied. He added that the city is in the process of hiring eight to 10 officers.
The police department's capital improvements financing needs were dissected by council members, some of whom questioned a $7 million budget set-aside for the eventual replacement, or renovations to, the existing police headquarters.
According to the city administration, the city for each of the past five years has placed into reserve $1.4 million toward the project. The matter is currently being studied by outside consultants who will report in July.
Crow said the $7 million set-aside was proposed to the council just within the last couple of weeks.
"In the last two weeks, we get an earmark for $7 million," Crow said. "This doesn't make sense to me."
"This did not happen over the last two weeks," Welsch retorted. "It's been five years."
Council Member Michael Glickert said he supported new police facilities but suggested the $7 million should be parked in an unallocated fund. The council approved the transfer.
Crow, Carr and Council Member Stephen Kraft were out-voted in an attempt to take $1.2 million from the city's cash reserves to finance additional street work.
About $600,000 in street, alley, curb and sidewalk work for the new budget year are allocated from the city's capital improvement sales tax, Walker said. Crow and Carr said the amount is inadequate to meet the city's needs, especially in light of the city's proposed $20 million streets bond issue, which was rejected by voters in April.
"Is there a need or not?" Crow asked. "We need to take a look at the priorities of this council."
FIRE FIGHTERS OVERWORKED, OVERWHELMED IN UNIVERSITY CITY
Photo by KSDK
June 15, 2015 - KSDK PJ Randhawa, KSDK
UNIVERSITY CITY - Firefighters in University City say manpower shortages within the department are putting the public at risk.
One of the two fire stations in the city had to close Sunday morning because there weren't enough firefighters to operate the equipment, according to the Fire Fighters Union.
Eleven Firefighters are required to operate the station's equipment, according to the fire fighters union, and only six were available Sunday morning. As a result, the Fire station was closed for most of the day. Kurt Becker of IAFF Local 2665 says the 36 fire fighters in the city have been pulling an average of 40 hours of overtime per day.
"They're throwing people on time and a half on a broken fire truck just to cobble together some kind of story and make people believe this station is operational," said Becker.
Earlier this month city leaders cut six vacant positions totaling roughly $500,000 from the fire departments budget. City leaders say the fire department is not understaffed or underfunded.
"We had a management consult come in from Washington DC to look at the staffing levels, and they concluded we were overstaffed," said Lehman Walker, City Manager of University City.
"University City's citizens are going to continue to have delayed responses while waiting for out of town ambulances and out of town fire trucks to come in to run the calls that University City's equipment should be running," said Becker.
The city manager tells us the city is exploring ways to decrease the overtime. The fire fighters union district vice president says they are considering taking this issue into the courts. Fire Chief Adam Long was in support of the budget cut, but was not available for comment.
UNIVERSITY CITY CUTS OPEN FIRE DEPARTMENT POSTS FROM BUDGET
June 9, 2015 - St. Louis Post Dispatch
UNIVERSITY CITY, MO. -
A $32 million budget that cuts six vacant positions from the fire department has been approved over the opposition of two University City City Council members.
On Monday night, council members Terry Crow and Paulette Carr were defeated in an attempt to maintain the fire department positions, which they claimed were essential to the city's firefighting effectiveness. Both subsequently voted against the 2015-16 budget.
"These are drastic cuts in our firefighting capability," Carr said.
However, Mayor Shelley Welsch and Fire Chief Adam Long disputed that statement.
"The fire department is staffed at the level it has been staffed for years," Welsch said. "Our service has not been cut."
City Manager Lehman Walker said that elimination of the positions was consistent with a recommendation made to the city in April by a management consultant. Councilman Stephen Kraft said experts, rather than council members or the public, are best suited to determine staffing levels.
Crow, Carr and Kraft lost an attempt to take $1.2 million from the city's cash reserves to finance additional street work. Welsch said the use of reserves "is not the best practice."
About $600,000 in street, alley, curb and sidewalk work for the budget year beginning July 1 are allocated from the city's capital improvement sales tax, Walker said. Crow and Carr said the amount is inadequate to meet the city's needs.
UNIVERSITY CITY FIRE DEPARTMENT UNDERSTAFFED; ARE RESIDENTS IN DANGER?
May 3, 2015 - KMOV By Dan Greenwald, Online News Producer
University City is not meeting its own minimum requirements when it comes to firefighters staffing, News 4 has learned.
Under city police, the fire department is supposed to have 45 firefighters, but only 31 are on active duty. Recently, the fire department was forced to hold back fire trucks due to understaffing and were able to answer all calls with the help of surrounding communities.
"It's a big deal and its really running the first responders here thin and we feel like it's a situation where taxpayers are paying for something they're not really receiving," said firefighter union president Kurt Becker. "For whatever reason at city hall, the fire chief was told you can't hire workers for your fire trucks because there's other stuff going on."
Firefighters are currently working overtime, but gaps in coverage remain. Nobody from city hall spoke to News 4 on camera but News 4 was told city officials are trying to come up with a new budget for the fired department after a tax increase was rejected by voters in April.
UNIVERSITY CITY, MO. - University City firefighters and city administrators announced April 13 they had reached agreement on a new three-year collective bargaining agreement through March 2018.
The council granted City Manager Lehman Walker the authority to execute the agreement, which Walker said had already been ratified by the firefighter's trade union, Professional Fire Fighters of Eastern Missouri, International Association of Fire Fighters Local 2665.
"At the end, I think both parties reached an agreement they are happy with," said Kurt Becker, union district vice president.
The union and the city have in recent years been at loggerheads over contract negotiations and personnel matters. The union had, in 2013, filed suit against the council and other city officials, and alleged that they failed to negotiate in good faith regarding a possible new city firefighter contract. The suit was dismissed. The union was said to be behind last year's failed candidacies of three city council and one mayoral candidates.
WOMAN, 2 CHILDREN SUCCUMB TO INJURIES IN UNIVERSITY CITY FIRE
February 5, 2015 - KTVI BY ANTHONY KIEKOW
UNIVERSITY CITY - A woman and two children passed away after a fire ripped through their University City home Wednesday night. The woman, in her 70s, along with two children were trapped on the second floor when firefighters arrived. They were unconscious when they were brought out of the home. The home is located near the 1000 block of Roth Avenue. Several people were inside when the flames started sweeping through the two story home around 10 p.m.
Firefighters and other first responders from several departments, including University City, Richmond Heights and Creve Coeur, were quickly on the scene.
They rescued the victims and all three were rushed to an area hospital where they later died.
The temperature dipped Wednesday night and the victims were using a space heater. Firefighters believe that may have caused the fire.
UNIVERSITY CITY STUDYING OUTSOURCING OF SOME EMERGENCY SERVICES
Photo by University City Fire Department
October 14, 2014 - St. Louis Post Dispatch SPECIAL TO THE POST-DISPATCH
UNIVERSITY CITY -
The possibility that University City could seek to outsource its emergency medical services has run into opposition on the City Council.
"This has been half-baked all along," said Councilman Terry Crow of city administration plans to consider outsourcing.
"EMS transport is one of our core services," said Councilwoman Paulette Carr.
During a regular council meeting Monday night, Carr and Crow questioned potential cost savings that have been cited by City Manager Lehman Walker as a rationale for possible outsourcing.
"Something about these numbers isn't quite adding up," Crow said.
According to Crow and Carr, Walker promised $1 million in savings if the city outsourced its EMS to a private service. The city currently provides EMS through its fire department and staff paramedics/firefighters.
Carr said that possible cost savings are likely to be less than estimated and are just one factor for consideration. Others include emergency call response times, the impact on city firefighting capabilities, and expectations of citizens that the city provide emergency transport with its own personnel, she said.
Walker promised responses to some council questions and said the administration is only studying the idea.
Councilman Stephen Kraft suggested that the council wait until the administration makes a specific proposal.
"I haven't made a decision because I have not seen a proposal," Kraft said. "Let's wait until we have all the data together."
UNIVERSITY CITY OFFICIAL DENIES 'CALLING OUT' NEWS 4 REPORTER OVER EMS PRIVATIZATION
September 10, 2014 - KMOV
UNIVERSITY CITY - University City Manager Lehman Walker denied he accused News 4 of making up how much money the city would save if its EMS services were outsourced.
Walker's denial was caught on video. At a city council meeting Monday, Councilman Terry Crow asks Walker about the potential savings from outsourcing EMS.
"I heard the other night that city manager said we would save $1 million by outsourcing, and I'm trying to come up with where those numbers come from," Crow said at the meeting.
"I didn't make those statements," Walker said at the meeting. "Jasmine Huda is the one who made the comment about savings. I never made those statements."
Walker and Crow are referring to a News 4 report on the possibility of University City outsourcing its EMS services to a private company. For that report, Walker made the following statement, which News 4 paraphrased on air:
"There would be a potential cost savings in excess of $1 million if we were to proceed."
Crow seemed surprise by Walker's denial.
"I believe the report is pretty clear on the statement. As far as a $1 million savings, I can't imagine a reporter came up with that number off the top of her head. That would surprise me," Crow said at the meeting.
Walker spoke to News 4 and denied the denial.
"I'm not taking issue with anything you said," Walker said to News 4's Jasmine Huda.
UNIVERSITY CITY CONSIDERING PRIVATIZATION OF EMERGENCY SERVICES
Photo by KMOV
September 3, 2014 - KMOV
UNIVERSITY CITY - University City is looking into the possibility of privatizing emergency ambulance services. While the city manager assures no services will be reduced, firefighters say vital time and services will be compromised.
"We want to reduce our costs, but we want to ensure that we maintain the same level of service," said Lehman Walker, City Manager of University City.
Lehman insists the services would be the same and the city would save around $1 million dollars. However, he also said it may affect jobs and staffing levels.
"But [more] important than the jobs, candidly, is the service delivery that's going to be given to the citizens," said Kurt Becker of the firefighters' union.
Firefighters argue that outsourcing affects the qualifications and number of responders at a given moment.
University City has received proposals from Abbott EMS and Gateway Ambulance. While no decision has been made, the proposals are under review.
The debate over privatization comes months after six University City firefighters were suspended for posing in a city council campaign advertisement while in University City uniforms.
UNIVERSITY CITY BOARD RECOMMENDS THAT FIREFIGHTERS BE REINSTATED, GIVEN BACK PAY
June 17, 2014 - St. Louis Post Dispatch
UNIVERSITY CITY - A citizen's advisory board has recommended that five firefighters who were suspended over their involvement in a campaign ad be reinstated immediately, given full back pay and benefits and have the incident removed from their personnel file.
City Manager Lehman Walker said Tuesday afternoon that he has the final say on the issue, and he has not made a decision yet.
The five firefighters -- Jen Stuhlman, Jeff Barlage, Nick Robben, Nick Werner and Lucas Andert -- were suspended in April for three months without pay for violating a statute that forbids first responders from being involved with political campaigns while in uniform or on duty. A sixth firefighter, Chris Jones, also was suspended, but he has left the department. They suspensions are in effect through the latter part of July.
The firefighters appeared in a photograph on a campaign ad for Jeff Hales, who was running for the city council in Ward 1. He lost the election.
Some of the firefighters had on protective clothing known as turnout gear and others were wearing shirts, pants and ties.
Firefighters said that turnout gear is not a uniform, but Walker said: "Any reasonable person looking at this would say they were in uniform."
The dispute was reviewed by the Civil Service Board at a hearing May 29. They issued their decision Monday.
Jeff Proctor, business manager of the International Association of Fire Fighter Local 2665, said in a written statement that he was pleased with the board's recommendation and hoped the firefighters would be reinstated with full back pay and benefits.
"These findings support our assertions all along that our members did nothing wrong," he said.
Walker wouldn't reveal when he might make a decision, but he said he does not always agree with the board's recommendations.
"The most recent one that comes to mind is we had some guy smoking dope at the firehouse, and they say the guy shouldn't be terminated," Lehman said. "He was going to be driving a $200,000 piece of equipment, a fire truck. And he had a prior offense of stealing. That was a decision I didn't agree with either."
Gerald P. Greiman, chairman of the civil service board, said he did not think it was appropriate to comment about the board's recommendation outside of the written record. However, he said that Walker's characterization of the board's earlier recommendation -- regarding the marijuana allegation -- was not accurate.
A review of the record in that case indicates that the firefighter asked to be allowed to retire instead of being terminated, and the board agreed.
Further, although a drug test was positive for THC, the main mind-altering ingredient found in pot, there was no conclusive evidence that the firefighter was high while he was in duty, according to the board's report. The record also indicated that the stealing charge, which related to using a city credit card for personal expenses, happened nine years earlier, and the money had been repaid.
U CITY COUNCIL SHUNS RESOLUTIONS ON FIREFIGHTER SUSPENSIONS
June 10, 2014 - St. Louis Post Dispatch
UNIVERSITY CITY - Despite the presence of a dozen placard-waving firefighters and their supporters outside City Hall and amid a cacophony of criticism from residents inside council chambers, Mayor Shelley Welsch and a majority of the City Council have quashed an attempt by two council members to consider resolutions that largely support firefighters who are at odds with the city.
At a combative council meeting Monday night, council members Paulette Carr and Terry Crow failed in their latest attempt to prompt the council to take up resolutions which stem from fallout associated with the April 8 municipal election.
During the election campaign, City Manager Lehman Walker allegedly used a city newsletter to lend his support to three incumbent council members being opposed in the election, and Walker later investigated and the city suspended six firefighters who reportedly campaigned on behalf of council challengers. Four council candidates endorsed by the local firefighters union subsequently lost their election bids. Those election challenges came after the union last summer filed suit claiming that the city was not negotiating in good faith on a new city firefighter work contract.
When it became apparent that Carr and Crow did not have the council votes to force consideration of the resolutions, one of which would authorize an investigation of Walker's pre-election activities, Crow asked, "Why does the majority of the council members not want to see a vote on these five resolutions?" That statement prompted a long and loud demonstration of support by many of the 75 or so inside the chamber.
Resident Steve Arnold later told the council that he was "embarrassed by the farce of city government" and likened the session to a meeting "of the Kremlin."
Carr added, "Might does not make right."
But other residents expressed support for the council's vote. David Olander said he objected to "vindictive rants" by certain council members and extended "a plea for cooperation" among council members.
The council declined to take up a measure that would reprimand Councilman Stephen Kraft for a profanity he reportedly directed at a resident at a May 12 council meeting.
"Mr. Kraft has gotten a warning from me," Welsch said.
UNIVERSITY CITY FIRE DEPARTMENT CHIEF STEPS INTO HISTORY
May 14, 2014 - KTVI
UNIVERSITY CITY - Adam Long's life is a list of numbers, two tornadoes, 36 years as a firefighter and one award-winning photo taken by Ron Olshwanger. It all added up to being the very first African-American chief in the University City Fire Department.
Just after dawn on April 3, 2014, Long looked over the huge tree lying across McKnight Road at Spoon Drive. The smell of noxious fumes was finally gone after an uprooted tree broke a natural-gas line. Trees and limbs had to be cleared from Spoon Drive to make way for repairs to a water main. A first-responder's life is often a time of witnessing wreckage.
"It looks like the tornado may have just popped down here and jumped back up and is gone."
That wreckage can give way to a cycle that includes periods of recovery.
"No one was really injured."
He led firefighters scrambling to reassemble a University City neighborhood after a tornado strike that day. A month later, Long looked at over a dozen roofs covered with tarps. He stepped over a fallen streetlight. But, he could cross the street at Spoon Drive and McKnight Road.
"It's a vast improvement from that day."
Long said the storm moved so quickly that morning, he never expected to face a disaster response effort.
"But, I was the airport fire chief when the tornado hit on Good Friday there," he laughed nervously.
He remembered the tornado that hit Lambert International Airport on April 22, 2011. No one was killed, but several people were injured by flying glass and debris.
"Tornadoes seem to be following me."
He seemed less impressed about what happened one year and six days before the University City twister. On March 28, 2013, his wife pinned a new badge on his lapel. He became the first African-American fire chief in University City's century-long history.
"I just never really gave it a lot of thought, because it's something I've been doing for 36 years."
He spent the first 35 years with St. Louis City, which also covers the airport. But, December 30, 1988 stands out in his mind. That was the day he ran into a burning home on Boyle Avenue and Sarpy Avenue.
"I prayed, 'God. If there is anyone to be found in here, let me find them,'" he remembered. "Then, things got really quiet. All I could hear was running water, like I was next to a brook. I looked over the bed, just as some of the smoke started to lift, and I see what appears to be a doll.'"
After he scooped up the child, unresponsive and her curly locks covered in soot, he ran out the door. Freelance photographer Ron Olschwanger snapped a Pulitzer-winning photo of Long breathing into the little girl. The firefighter ran a block to an ambulance.
"Her name was Patricia Pettis, and it was her 2nd birthday that day."
He said something in his mind told him to go to see Patricia at the hospital.
"Gave her a little kiss on the cheek and I walked out."
The photo was published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch the very next day. And, Long started getting letters of admiration from around the world, even Communist China. But, all the admiration could not save little Patricia. She died six days after the fire. This time, Long faced the wreckage on the inside.
"I really second-guessed myself. I was asking myself, 'Did I really do enough?
Could I have done more?' I had friends and family tell me, "You did all that you could. You did the best that you could."
That triggered the internal recovery, as well. Now, Long helps make sure others can handle that vicious cycle, even if for the first time.
"Diversify as often as we can, and not let a person's skin color or religious preference or sexual orientation limit you or keep you from hiring somebody."
He had a much simpler explanation for his place in history.
"I was just blessed to be in the right place at the right time."
Olschwanger now sits on the Creve Coeur Fire Protection District Board of Directors. He was unable to join us for this interview. But in 2008, he told our partners at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that little Patricia did not die in vain since people saw her final picture and then purchased new smoke detectors.
UNIVERSITY CITY FIREFIGHTERS WILL ONLY HAVE TO SERVE SUSPENSIONS
May 13, 2014 - KTVI
UNIVERSITY CITY - The fate of six suspended University City firefighters is still in the hands of the city council. They were put on leave after allegedly violating a state statute forbidding first responders from being involved with political campaigns while in uniform.
The University City council voted tonight 4-3 in favor of postponing the vote indefinitely, reinstating the firefighters and the possibility of terminating their suspensions.
Therefore, the 6 firefighters will have to serve their full 3 month suspensions without pay.
UNIVERSITY CITY MEETING DRAWS BIG TURNOUT IN SUPPORT OF FIREFIGHTERS
May 7, 2014 - West End Word
UNIVERSITY CITY - The suspension of six University City firefighters drew scores to City Hall on April 28, many of whom held yellow "I support our firefighters" signs during the often tense three-hour city council meeting.
The six suspended firefighters were pictured in campaign literature for two candidates running in the April 8 election. They were notified last week of their 30-shift suspension by City Manager Lehman Walker.
Walker said the penalty was determined after consulting with City Attorney Katie Forster and University City Fire Chief Adam Long. Because firefighters work 24-hour shifts, the suspensions will last about three months.
Forster spoke at the beginning of the meeting about the disciplinary process.
"The city recognizes employees' First Amendment rights," she said. "This is not aimed at limiting freedom of speech."
At issue, Forster said, is that the firefighters appeared in campaign literature in uniform.
A Missouri statute reads, in part, "No political subdivision of this state shall prohibit any first responders from engaging in any political activity while off duty and not in uniform."
The supporters of the firefighters contend that they were not on duty or wearing official University City uniforms when the photographs were taken, and they were not taken in the city or with city equipment.
The University City Fire Department has 36 firefighters on staff. It is considered fully staffed at 40. Long, the fire chief, told the council there are 34 firefighters available, with 11 or 12 on each shift.
Jeff Proctor, a representative of the firefighters union, said there would be 30 firefighters, not including administration or other staff, able to respond to emergencies during the suspensions.
Speculation about mandatory overtime or arrangements with fire departments in adjacent municipalities was not confirmed by the fire chief.
Several of the dozen residents who spoke against the suspensions cited public safety as a concern.
After the city attorney confirmed that the city manager had the authority to hire, fire and discipline city employees, Councilman Byron Price said: "The city manager does not have the authority to put the public at risk."
Also alleged by residents and some councilmen was a double standard over city communication and campaign literature.
Councilman Paulette Carr cited an article by Walker in the city's most recent newsletter in which he praised the council for approving surplus budgets, mentioning Michael Glickert, Stephen Kraft and Mayor Shelley Welsch, who were running for re-election. There was no mention of council members Carr and Terry Crow. The newsletter was issued prior to the election.
Carr likened the article to a candidate endorsement.
"Would it be fair for the press to call this hypocritical?" Carr asked. "We penalize firefighters; the city manager gets a pass."
Crow questioned Welsch and Walker about a re-election brochure for the mayor that included a photo of a University City police officer taken while he was on duty.
Welsch said that no residents had raised concerns about her campaign literature. Walker reviewed the flyer on the dais and said that it did not appear to imply an endorsement from the police officer.
"This is embarrassing!" was yelled from the audience, among other outbursts.
Comments in support of the firefighters triggered loud cheers and ovations, prompting more than one warning from the mayor.
Crow suggested that the council move to reprimand the city manager, compel him to apologize or issue a vote of no confidence, but added that those steps would not likely be pursued by other councilmen.
"If you don't keep coming back," he told the crowd, "this will be an afterthought to the council."
Near the end of the meeting, Councilman Arthur Sharpe said he was supportive of Walker's decision. Sharpe said that as a former school teacher he was "an avid union person," but also knew that discipline sometimes had to be administered.
The firefighters union has had a contentious relationship with some city officials and members of the council.
Kraft spoke of the need for professionals to follow ethical standards and called for the council and union to work on healing their relationship.
"We all live and work in the same community," he said.
Proctor, the union representative, said in an interview after the meeting that the union was researching legal options for the suspended firefighters.
SUPPORTERS OF 6 SUSPENDED U-CITY FIREFIGHTERS RALLY AT CITY HALL
April 14, 2014 - KTVI
UNIVERSITY CITY - Firefighters and police officers as well as University City residents protested outside University City Hall Monday to support the 6 firefighters who were suspended after supporting political candidates.
UNIVERSITY CITY FIREFIGHTERS SUSPENDED FOR POLITICAL INVOLVEMENT
April 24, 2014 - St. Louis Post Dispatch
UNIVERSITY CITY - Five University City firefighters were told Wednesday afternoon they were suspended for the next three months without pay for violating a statute that forbids first responders from being involved with political campaigns while in uniform or on duty.
It's unclear if a sixth firefighter, who also posed in pictures with City Council candidates, will be suspended.
City Manager Lehman Walker told the firefighters after the April 8 municipal elections that they were being investigated. Depending on what was found, he said disciplinary action ranged from verbal reprimand to dismissal.
Though they can keep their jobs, the firefighters were angry about the suspensions. Walker informed them of the decision in short meetings Wednesday.
"These are mothers and fathers who are going to have to try to figure out how to feed their families without a source of income," said Kurt Becker, an attorney representing Fire Fighters Local 2665.
He added: "We will expend all resources necessary to make this situation right. The city manager was so far out of line, it's beyond the pale. The city was completely wrong with their interpretation of the law."
He said there are inconsistencies in University City's enforcement of the statute in question.
Another union representative has said the firefighters weren't wearing official uniforms in the campaign literature.
City Manager Lehman Walker couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday evening.
"Several residents brought it to my attention and considered it to be inappropriate that firefighters be directly involved in an election," Walker previously told the Post-Dispatch. "We believe city employees should be neutral."
The case was under review the past two weeks.
The disagreement comes amid continued tension between representatives of firefighters and some city officials over contract issues.
UCITY FIREFIGHTERS SUSPENDED 3 MONTHS WITHOUT PAY FOR PHOTO
April 24, 2014 - KSDK
University City - Six University City firefighters have been suspended without pay for three months.
Earlier this month, the firefighters seen posing with a city council candidate in a photo, but state law requires that first responders be off duty and not in uniform when participating in political activities.
The firefighters met with human resources Thursday afternoon.
No further information was immediately available.
NewsChannel 5 will have more information as it becomes available.
FATE OF UNIVERSITY CITY FIREFIGHTERS IN HANDS OF CITY MANAGER
April 23, 2014 - West End Word Online
UNIVERSITY CITY -
The fate of six University City firefighters remain unknown, their cases still under consideration by City Manager Lehman Walker.
Walker said on April 19 that he expected to come to a decision on the matter "in the next couple of weeks."
The city manager is looking into the case of six firefighters whose picture appeared in recent campaign ads for two city council candidates who ran unsuccessfully in the April 8 election.
The campaign literature shows six firefighters posing alongside a firetruck, four of them dressed in firefighter protective gear. State law allows for first responders to be involved in political campaigns, provided they are off-duty and not in uniform.
Walker will determine what disciplinary action will be taken against the firefighters, if any.
Contract negotiations between University City firefighters, represented by Professional Fire Fighters of Eastern Missouri Local 2665, and city officials has resulted in heightened tensions between the two parties.
Union officials sued the city in the summer of 2013, claiming the city failed to negotiate in good faith. A judge dismissed that case, and the union appealed.
Firefighters let their unhappiness with the city be known when the union supported a slate of non-incumbent council candidates in the April 8 election, including a write-in candidate for mayor. Though several of those races were close, none of the firefighter-endorsed candidates won election.
Following the election, in a memorandum dated April 10, Kurt Becker, vice president of Local 2665, reached out to Mayor Shelley Welsch and councilmen Stephen Kraft, Michael Glickert and Rod Jennings.
"Rather than rise above the rhetoric that can be associated with elections, I allowed myself to be influenced by that atmosphere, and in retrospect I do regret that my comments may have exacerbated the situation," Becker wrote.
"I'm cognizant that there is work that needs to be done to rebuild the relationship between the firefighters and the city. I do hope that you'll see this overture for what it is, and that you'll accept both my apology and the sincerity with which it was given."
In a Facebook posting, Council Member Stephen Kraft responded:
"We all live and work in the same community and I welcome Mr. Becker's letter as a step toward reconciliation."
UNIVERSITY CITY FIREFIGHTERS INVESTIGATED FOR POLITICAL INVOLVEMENT
April 9, 2014 - St. Louis Post Dispatch
ST. LOUIS -
Six University City firefighters are being investigated for alleged involvement in political campaigns while on duty or in uniform.
The firefighters are displayed in campaign literature for at least two city council candidates, said City Manager Lehman Walker.
"Several residents brought it to my attention and considered it to be inappropriate that firefighters be directly involved in an election," he said. "We believe city employees should be neutral."
This matter comes at a time when representatives of the fire department have been outspoken about city officials and representation of union demands.
According to Missouri statute, first responders can participate in political activity "while off duty and not in uniform."
In one of the recent ads, six firefighters pose in firefighters' protective gear beside a red fire truck with Ward 1 candidate Jeff Hales. A blurb in the ad says Hales will "restore civility and integrity to the city council."
Officials have copies of a similar ad for Ward 2 council candidate Dennis Fuller.
Fuller said by telephone Wednesday that the photograph in his ad wasn't taken in University City, rather at the Pattonville Fire Protection District.
One of the firefighters in question has more than 10 years of experience with the fire department; the others each have four to five years of experience, Walker said.
He said the photographs appear to show a violation, "but we are still investigating it."
He said he will review the matter over the next couple weeks. He said potential punishment ranges from a verbal reprimand to dismissal.
The fire chief and union officials didn't responded to calls for comment Wednesday.
At a city council meeting in March, Kurt Becker, district vice president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Eastern Missouri, International Association of Fire Fighters Local 2665, blasted officials for what he said were misrepresentations of firefighter contract demands.
"Alleging that your firefighters demanded a 10 percent raise and that their proposals could not have fit in the budget without a tax increase is a baseless lie," Becker said then.
Last summer, the union sued the council and other city officials, alleging that they failed to negotiate in good faith on a city firefighter contract. The suit was dismissed by a St. Louis County Circuit judge, but the union has appealed.
In Tuesday's election, the union supported Hales and Fuller. Based on the latest results, Hales lost to Stephen Kraft, 924 votes to 902. Fuller lost to Michael Glickert, 795 votes to 680.
Photographs of the losing candidates standing with firefighters weren't available on their websites.
UNIVERSITY CITY - The most controversial development on Election Day may have come when six University City firefighters were told that they were losing their jobs due to their appearance in a campaign photo, according to the union's vice president.
"[This occurred] despite the fact that they were off duty, not in University City, not in front of a UCFD fire truck, not in uniform, and not identifiable in any way as employees of University City," Kurt Becker of local 2665 wrote in an email to University City Mayor Shelley Welsch. Becker said it was a tremendous concern.
Missouri statute states:
67.145. No political subdivision of this state shall prohibit any first responder, as the term first responder is defined in section 192.800, from engaging in any political activity while off duty and not in uniform, being a candidate for elected or appointed public office, or holding such office unless such political activity or candidacy is otherwise prohibited by state or federal law.
Lehman Walker, city manager of University City, said the city was "reviewing the situation" and state statute to see if any violation was committed. Walker said the firefighters were not told that they would be terminated. He added that he and the fire chief expected to resolve the situation in the next few days.
Becker has asked the mayor to make a public statement condemning the potential discipline. As of Tuesday evening, he said he had not heard back from the mayor's office.
UNIVERSITY CITY - A recent picture could cause six University City firefighters their jobs.
The six firefighters posed alongside a city council candidate who was backed by the firefighter's union. The picture was taken with a Pattonville fire truck outside of U-City and has been circulating in campaign literature.
On Monday, one of the firefighters in the picture received a phone call from U-City Fire Chief, Adam Long. The firefighter was told that no one in the photo would have their jobs by the end of the week.
According to state statute, first responders are allowed to participate in political campaigns as long as they are not on-duty and not in official uniform. None of the gear in the photo shows U-City patches and was said to be borrowed for the photo.
The U-City attorney is conducting an investigation to determine whether the gear in the photo originated from any of the U-City firehouses.
Union Vice President Kurt Becker says the union will consider legal action against U-City if the firefighters are left jobless.
When asked if the incident is an offense worthy of termination, the U-City Chief Long stated "There is a whole range of disciplinary actions available if there are violations and we're still in the process of trying to determine that."
FIREFIGHTERS UNION OFFICIAL BLASTS UNIVERSITY CITY OFFICIALS
March 25, 2014 - St. Louis Post Dispatch
UNIVERSITY CITY - Upcoming municipal elections and a lawsuit pitting firefighters against city officials provided the backdrop for a verbal assault Monday night against the mayor and two members of the City Council by a firefighters union official.
At the regular council meeting, Kurt Becker, district vice president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Eastern Missouri, International Association of Fire Fighters Local 2665, demanded that Mayor Shelley Welsch muzzle Councilmen Stephen Kraft and L. Michael Glickert, both of whom Becker said had been misrepresenting firefighter contract demands.
"Alleging that your firefighters demanded a ten percent raise and that their proposals could not have fit in the budget without a tax increase is a baseless lie," Becker told Welsch.
Neither the mayor nor the councilmen responded to Becker's charge that city officials had been overstating firefighter demands for a new contract for the next fiscal year.
The union last summer sued the council and other city officials, alleging that they failed to negotiate in good faith on a city firefighter contract. The suit was dismissed by a St. Louis County Circuit judge, but the union has appealed.
The union has endorsed a slate of municipal candidates who are seeking four-year council terms April 8. According to the union's web site, the union is backing Jeff Hales against Kraft in the city's first ward, Dennis Fuller against Glickert in the second ward and BWayne Smotherson, who is running for a seat in the third ward to replace Councilman Byron Price, who is not seeking re-election.
Mayoral write-in candidate Steve McMahon, who claims the support of the firefighters union, spoke after Becker and criticized city officials for trying to block his candidacy, which he said meets all statutory requirements.
Are Fire Poles Sliding Away? About Half of New Houses Eliminating Them
July 7, 2013 - St. Louis Post Dispatch
UNIVERSITY CITY - When University City's new fire house No. 1 opens later this summer, it'll be missing an icon of firefighter tradition.
"We won't have a fire pole," said Chief Adam Long. "We're just going to use the steps."
At first, the change was hard for the 34-year veteran to accept because of sentimental reasons, he said. But after shopping around, he realized the apparatus - which runs about $20,000 - just didn't fit in the $3.1 million budget.
"It's a big cost, and we're trying to come in under budget, so we elected to just eliminate the pole," he said.
Long's department is not alone. A survey of area fire departments and districts revealed that about half of the new fire stations being built or recently opened don't have a pole.
For fire districts like Pattonville in Bridgeton, the change was a safety and response consideration. Chief Terry Loehrer said he's seen firefighters suffer numerous injuries on the poles, including sprains and a broken ankle. Partly because of that, the districts' two new stations were designed with the bunk rooms on the first floor and the workout area on the second, negating the need for a fire pole.
"I think we all came to understand that safety issues ought to come first, but the secondary benefit is with firefighters already being on the ground floor, they're probably about 20 steps closer to the fire apparatus," he said.
UNIVERSITY CITY -St. Louis American: So you are running it now. What is different about running a fire department compared to middle management and being a grunt?
Fire Chief Adam Long: I had been responsible for the day-to-day operations of the St. Louis Fire Department's 8th District at Lambert Airport, which had a bit larger workforce, more resources and even a larger budget than I'm currently working with here in University City.
The one difference is here I report directly to the city manager as opposed to reporting to the fire chief as I did in the city. The culture in the county is a bit different, in that the smaller departments don't have the resources that the city has and mutual aid is heavily relied on. I've had a couple of instances where I've received calls from citizens that I have to address and not pass them up the line.
I literally had to hit the ground running because of the new firehouse construction, union negotiation, new communication system, and starting the hiring process for current openings.
The American: What is your role in the union bargaining in U. City? Is there a personnel director as in the city?
Chief Long: The fire department union shop and the city have a current Memorandum of Agreement that is set to expire in June 2013. My role is difficult in that I am hired by the city to manage the day-to-day operations of the department, but try to be an advocate for the members of the department in guaranteeing that the working conditions, living conditions, equipment, etc. are favorable. I stay away from the pay and benefit issues unless asked specific questions. University City has a mayor, a city manager, and an HR director. The city manager and HR director are responsible for the hiring and benefits that we receive. The city manager has a council that he reports to on all city business.
The American: You come out of a contentious union environment in the city. How do you perceive the contrasts between St. Louis and U. City, in terms of the issues raised by F.I.R.E.?
Chief Long: The one difference that I've noticed is that the majority of the firefighters in the county belong to Local 2665, both African-American and white. I think Local 2665 has a bit more influence in some of the departments, especially the ones that are fire protection districts that are governed by boards. They seem to work very had in getting members elected that will be pro-Local 2665. I've also noticed that some of the departments don't reflect the demographics of the communities they serve. But I've not yet seen the racial issues that sometimes dominated the news in the past. I'm not saying that it doesn't exist, I've just not seen here in U. City.
The American: The politics in the St. Louis Fire Department is some of the nastiest stuff I've seen? Why? And what has it been like to step away from that?
Chief Long: It's not just true of the St. Louis Fire Department, it's somewhat the same nationwide to a certain degree. The fire service in America has always been dominated by whites, was almost all volunteer, and was somewhat of a fraternity that could exclude blacks. It wasn't until the early 1920s that blacks were allowed to serve in their own communities under the leadership of white officers. I think that it's a sense of entitlement that some still hold. You never really step away from it simply because I see the need to get more African Americans involved in the fire service, no matter whether it's the city or county.
The American: You saw Fire Chief Sherman George go down over fairness in testing and a promotions list that emerged from a test that he thought was inadequate. Do you have similar issues in U. City?
Chief Long: We just took applications for a job posting and had over 100 hundred applicants, and out of that number there were three black candidates. Although I can't comment on the specifics of the testing process here, I've not seen the same concerns here yet.
The American: Young African Americans and their parents will read this. Some will wonder what they need to do to become a firefighter. Tell them what to do.
Chief Long: The fire service has changed tremendously in recent years. We don't have the number of fires that we had 20 years ago due to the fact that the public is more informed when it comes to fire safety and prevention. Our largest call volume has to do with emergency medical services, which has become an intricate part of the fire service.
To make yourself more marketable, you need to be at least an EMT (Emergency Medical Tech) to work for the city fire department as a condition of employment and that training is offered at the community college level and takes about four to six months.
For most departments in St. Louis County, it's required that you be a EMT-P (Paramedic). That training is also offered at the community college level and takes about a year of classes. Both will also require that you spend some time in a hospital emergency room and do a series of ride-alongs with various departments or ambulance services. County departments also require the St. Louis County Fire Academy training, which costs around $5,000.
Once I get settled here and get a few things of high importance out of the way, we will look into starting a cadet program here in hopes of attracting more African Americans to the fire service.
UNIVERSITY CITY - Newly installed University City Fire Chief Adam Long takes the oath of office from city clerk Joyce Plumm during ceremonies in University City, Missouri on March 28, 2013. Long, a former St. Louis firefighter was the subject of the 1988 Pulitizer Prize winning photograph of him giving CPR to a two year old child while carrying the girl out of a burning home.
New University City Fire Chief still humbled by Pulitzer Prize winning photo taken of him in 1988
March 28, 2013 - Missourinet
UNIVERSITY CITY - Adam Long has been installed as the University City Fire Chief.
Long is a former St. Louis firefighter who was the subject of a 1989 Pulitizer Prize winning photograph shot by freelance photographer Ron Olshwanger.
Long says he is still humbled by the photo, which shows him giving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to an unresponsive 2-year-old girl, Patricia Pettus, as he rushes her from a burning apartment in St. Louis. Despite his heroic efforts, Pettus later died at St. Louis Children's Hospital. The photo, which ran in the Post-Dispatch the day after the fire, won the Pulitzer Prize for spot news photography in 1989.
Long received a Medal of Honor for his efforts, but told The St. Louis Post Dispatch he didnâï¿½ï¿½t feel very heroic.
"For about a year, I second-guessed myself: 'Did you really do all that you could have done?" Long said. He says to him, she is the hero because more than 20 years later, "people are going out and buying smoke detectors because of what they see in that photo."