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Consulting Firm Questions Albuquerque’s Paramedic Staffing

A consulting firm hired by Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry's administration questions whether the city's fire department is over-committing resources to structure fires and whether it needs two paramedics on ambulances, according to a draft copy of the firm's report.

The minimum for an initial dispatch to a residential structure fire is 18 firefighters. The Albuquerque Fire Department is often sending as many as 31, the report states.

The report from Matrix Consulting Group, released Friday, also suggests ending the practice of staffing the Albuquerque Fire Department's dispatch center with sworn firefighters.

It doesn't say whether the paramedics or dispatchers should be moved elsewhere within the department or let go, but suggests adopting the firm's recommendations on those fronts could save the city more than $500,000 a year in base salaries.

The city paid Matrix $200,000 for the analysis after the City Council approved a contract on a 5-4 vote in March, with the council's four Democrats voting against it.

Matrix was hired to identify ways to improve delivery of services and save money in all city departments.

City officials provided the Journal draft copies of the firm's analyses on the police and fire departments on Friday after a public records request.

In an interview Friday, Berry said he hasn't yet read any of Matrix's recommendations and declined to comment on them specifically.

Next, the mayor said, department heads - in the case of AFD, Chief James Breen - will review the reports and provide feedback. The Matrix report will also be posted on the city's website at www.cabq. gov.

Berry said he expects to announce in the next two or three months which of the consultant's recommendations he plans to present to the City Council for consideration in the fiscal year 2014 budget.

Diego Arencón, president of the union that represents local firefighters, said the Matrix analysis of AFD is "intentionally vague."

"It offers no justification for its recommendations," Arencón said Friday. "All references stem from cost savings with no regard for the impact on firefighter or citizen safety. We await the AFD administration's response to this report."

Among the report's other recommendations are: evaluating the costs associated with providing training at the AFD Academy to firefighters from other agencies, merging the AFD and APD dispatch centers and keeping a closer eye on response times.



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