City manager says Ogdensburg's ISO fire rating not expected to change despite cuts

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Nov. 26—OGDENSBURG — The city's Insurance Services Office fire rating is expected to remain the same, despite cuts to staffing at the fire department and claims by people who Ogdensburg City Manager and Fire Chief Stephen P. Jellie calls "local government disruptors."

Mr. Jellie, in a press release issued Wednesday, said that the city completed its ISO fire rating visit on Tuesday as part of a five-year evaluation. An ISO fire rating is a score provided to fire departments and insurance companies by the ISO. The score reflects how prepared a community is for fires — 1 being the most prepared and 10 being the least prepared. The city's current rating is a 4, obtained in 2016.

"The initial review of information presented to the evaluator does not demonstrate that the city will have a decrease in its rating, and likely not have an increase. The rating will be issued in the next several weeks and be available for public review," Mr. Jellie said in his prepared statement.

He said that a complete and comprehensive report will be provided and available to all for review as soon as it is issued by ISO.

Beginning in 2022, the fire department will set a goal of improving to a Class 3 rating, according to Mr. Jellie.

"The standard to increase above a 4 is very rigid and will require a commitment to quality improvement and preparedness. As discussed at the city council meeting last evening (Monday), staffing has very little to do with the overall rating and the recent changes to staffing at OFD will not reduce the current rating and nor will an increase in staffing improve it," the press release stated.

In a portion of the press release that Mr. Jellie labeled as "Facts," he wrote that "residents are not in any increased danger, property is not at risk and insurance rates will not increase."

"Factually, many of the nation's largest insurance carriers do not use the ISO rating any longer as a gauge of risk so the ISO rating means nothing to households with carriers like State Farm and Allstate," Mr. Jellie wrote.

He added that the fire department is operating in a "highly efficient manner," is "well trained, well prepared and ready to respond," and that it now costs far less than in previous years to provide fire protection to city residents. It is one of the ways the City Council was able to reduce the tax rate by 10% in 2021 and possibly in 2022, as proposed in the preliminary budget.

The 2022 preliminary budget calls for a reduction of three members of the fire department to 18 employees. The proposal will have a fire chief, one assistant chief, four captains and 12 firefighters.

Mr. Jellie's release indicated "life safety" is the No. 1 priority.

He called out a small group of residents — he calls "local government disruptors" — who are using the ISO rating as their "latest attempt to elicit fear and anxiety in the community." Some have stated on social media that the ISO rating will worsen with the cuts to the fire department and insurance rates will increase.

"Please do not pay any attention to their fictional tales and deliberately false information designed only to garner the personal attention they desperately seek," wrote Mr. Jellie, "Their claims of increased risk to personal safety and negative impact on insurance rates is as false as their credibility."