AUGUSTA — Injuries, an increase in the number of calls for help, vacant positions and a bad run of the flu are to blame for emptying the Augusta Fire Department’s overtime budget, which is projected to be $170,000 over budget this year.

On Thursday, city councilors are scheduled to discuss a proposal to take $170,000 from savings in other accounts to offset the anticipated overage.

Fire Chief Roger Audette, in a memo to City Manager William Bridgeo, said a significant increase in overtime was attributable to four major factors — injuries, a high volume of calls for help, vacant positions and seasonal flu.

He said the department had 11 injuries to firefighters this year, totaling 38 weeks of missed time. That lost time, Audette noted, was filled by other firefighters on overtime. He said most injuries were related to lifting patients, slips and falls, or fighting fires.

A spike in calls for help, requiring the department to call back off-duty personnel to help at an incident site or provide coverage of the station while other units were busy, was also a factor, Audette said, with the biggest increase occurring in the number of medical calls.

Audette said recently the department has had about the same number of firefighter-paramedics since 2000, when a third ambulance was added and staffed for 12 hours a day; and since that time, the number of calls has nearly doubled, to around 6,500 a year for fire and rescues.

Also, five firefighters have retired or taken jobs elsewhere, requiring overtime work by other firefighters who filled in while new firefighters were hired for the vacant positions.

In addition, Audette said, more than 20 of the department’s employees were sick during this flu season.

“Our department, as you can imagine, is exposed to many patients with seasonal illnesses,” Audette said.

Ralph St. Pierre, finance director and assistant city manager, said expected savings in other accounts could be shifted to offset the Fire Department overtime, with $86,000 coming from savings from streetlights, $34,000 from the public works streets budget, and $50,000 from retiree health insurance premium savings.

The proposed city budget for next year, submitted by Bridgeo early this month and which city councilors are reviewing, includes $150,000 in proposed new spending for wages and benefits to hire two new firefighter-paramedics in October. That staffing increase was proposed in part to help reduce overtime expenses and help address the increased call volume.

Bridgeo also recommends, in next year’s proposed budget, boosting the overtime budget by $143,000, to $568,000, a 34 percent increase.

Councilors are scheduled to discuss moving the funds to the Fire Department at their 6:30 p.m. meeting Thursday in the council chamber at Augusta City Center.

Councilors also are scheduled to discuss zoning changes recommended by the Planning Board to regulate medical marijuana caregivers and storefronts. Councilors forwarded proposed medical marijuana rules to the board for a recommendation earlier this year. The proposed rules would ban medical marijuana caregivers from residential zones in the city and require them to obtain licenses from the city and have their indoor grow areas inspected by an electrician.

The rules include no provisions for adult-use recreational marijuana sales, processing or growing — which means no sales of recreational marijuana would be allowed anywhere in Augusta.

Councilors also are scheduled to:

• Discuss the City Council’s goal, as set in a goal-setting session early this year, to improve communications and marketing of the city. Bridgeo said that councilors indicated, at a January daylong goal-setting session also attended by school officials, that improving communications was their top priority for the year. The goal included forming a committee and considering either hiring, or contracting with, someone to handle public relations, communications and marketing for the city.

• Discuss selling properties acquired when their owners didn’t pay their taxes, including a 3-acre Cross Hill Road lot, assessed for tax purposes at $22,600; and a three-bedroom manufactured home at 11 Boulder Avenue, assessed at $125,300.

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