Newburgh Police, Fire Layoffs Take Effect; 26 Lose Jobs

CITY OF NEWBURGH — When the clock struck midnight on Tuesday to signal the end of 2019, it also brought an end to the jobs of several police officers and firefighters in the City of Newburgh.

The city started the year with 26 fewer first responders after scheduled layoffs went into effect.

City Manager Joe Donat announced in October that steep layoffs were necessary for the financially-distressed city to have a balanced 2020 budget.

Expected cuts of about a dozen first responders each in the fire and police departments turned into 15 police officers and 14 firefighters just before the City Council voted to adopt the budget proposal in November.

A retirement within the fire department after the start of the year, and resignations of two police officers before Dec. 31, led to 13 people being laid off in both departments. Two vacancies were also eliminated in the fire department and four vacancies were cut for police.

Donat said Thursday he granted permanent status for three firefighters who were in their probationary period of employment so that they could pursue work elsewhere; two went to work for the Fairview Fire District in Dutchess County and another will work at the Middletown Fire Department.

According to civil service law, officers cannot transfer to other departments while on probation.

In all, two City of Newburgh firefighters have transferred to Middletown, two have transferred to the Fairview Fire District, one went to Poughkeepsie, and one found work with Beacon’s fire department, according to union President Brendan Hogan.

Two more retirements in the fire department are expected before the end of January.How to Start ExercisingAd by The New York Times See More

“It’s going to be a very fluid month,” Donat said.

Permanent status was also granted to five city police officers who were in their probationary terms of employment, Donat said.

Departures within the police department saved the jobs of two officers, Donat said.

New leadership

Terry Ahlers, Newburgh’s acting fire chief of four years, officially retired at 4 p.m. Thursday.

Assistant Fire Chief Bill Horton will take over as provisional city fire chief beginning on Friday.

“I think he is a capable guy, who has always aspired to be the chief of this department,” Ahlers said of Horton on Thursday. “I think he will do a good job here.”

The city is awaiting results of the civil service exam before naming Horton to the permanent job.

“I’m excited,” Horton said. “It’s something I strived for, both as a line fireman and line officer, and I put a lot of effort into my education. I think I’m well-positioned to use my experience and education to do the very best I can for the city… I’m cautiously optimistic about it because things are going to be difficult.”

Horton’s priorities include updating some of the department’s decades-old vehicles, working with the city to stabilize the public safety buildings, managing his shrunken staff, bridging the department’s bruised relationship with the city, developing a plan for succession and securing a contract for firefighters.

Horton has worked for the City of Newburgh since 2003. He is a nationally-certified fire officer, state fire instructor and code enforcement officer.

Horton said he will continue in his role as the city’s building inspector while working as the provisional fire chief.