Will a proposal to merge Stamford's volunteer and career firefighters under a single fire chief help boost its volunteer ranks or ultimately cause the city to hire more paid firefighters?
During an informational meeting at the city's fire training facility on Magee Avenue on Sunday, unionized firefighters touted the controversial proposal before city legislators, according to a report in the Stamford Advocate.
Stamford Fire Capt. Paul Newman said the proposal could result in greater recruitment of volunteers, while former Turn of River Fire Department chief Ray Whitbread said it would likely force the City to hire more career firefighters, thus increasing taxes, according to the report.
Whitbread said if the career department's role is expanded to cover the entire city, the union will use that to justify the hiring of additional firefighters, according to the report. He estimated that the proposal would lead to the hiring of "at least 100 firefighters" over the next few years.
Newman, however, pointed out that the plan requires the city to "promote volunteerism" in the department. He said the plan will result in improved and more standardized training for all volunteers, and noted that some of these volunteers will likely go on to become career firefighters.
The proposal to merge the volunteer and career departments is one of nine suggested charter changes that will appear on Stamford ballots on Election Day.
Currently Stamford has six fire districts — five volunteer and one professional — with the latter serving primarily the downtown but often assisting the volunteer houses.
Under the controversial proposal the fire chief would be aided by two assistant chiefs, one each to oversee the career and volunteer ranks.
For more, check out the Stamford Advocate report.