New Orleans police, fire, EMS talk about first week of furloughs

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NEW ORLEANS — The City of New Orleans is wrapping-up its first week of Covid-19 furloughs.

“This is never a position the city wants to be in,” CAO Gilbert Montano told reporters during a news conference.

NOPD Superintendent Shaun Ferguson, NOFD Superintendent Tim McConnell, and EMS Deputy Director William Salmeron joined Montano at the table.

Ferguson said that his department has been able to handle the furloughs by targeting days of the week when the department has more officers on duty than others. Ferguson referred to them as “fat” days.

“A majority if not our entire platoon will be working that shift, and that is a prime opportunity to give more officers off to break it down to our average staffing would look like on a normal day,” Ferguson said.

As for EMS, Salmeron said that normally the city has 22 ambulances on the street each day. But even then, there is often a wait due to a high volume of calls. Salmeron said that the department was able to limit most of its required furloughs to administrators. Still, it’s operating with around 18 ambulances each day now instead of 22.

As for the NOFD, McConnell said that he’s furloughing about 13 fire fighters each day. To help make sure the proper equipment is available for fires, he’s reducing the number of manpower for each truck or apparatus when he can. To make sure there are enough people responding to a fire, the department is simply sending more trucks than normal.

Earlier this week, WGNO News reported on three apparatus that the department had scheduled to remain parked because of a lack of manpower. McConnell said there have only been a few of those cases during this first week of furloughs.

“It’s only been six days, but there have only been four units out of service during that time,” McConnell said.

The departments are forced to use the furloughs to help the city cope with a $150 million budget shortfall due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Earlier this week, Mayor LaToya Cantrell traveled to Baton Rouge to tell lawmakers that the pandemic has cost the city $200 million, but it’s received about $50 million in assistance.

Without additional help, the furloughs are forecast to run beyond this year. As the city prepares to budget for 2021, the furloughs are already being factored in.

“If there are periods of time when our revenues are increasing or, say, we get a new stimulus package, we will be able to stop this,” Montano said.

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