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[Letter to the Editor]: Board of Rep Member Responds to Weekend Letter

A letter from Eileen M. Heaphy regarding Charter Revision Question #2.

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I would like to respond to the Letter to the Editor from Rachel Lussier (Oct. 20) about the fear of raised taxes if the Charter Revision question #2 concerning reorganization of Stamford’s fire service is approved on November 6.  Her letter is replete with incorrect information and erroneous judgments.

She claimed that the volunteer departments of Stamford will not be able to attract volunteer because of pressures from the career Stamford Fire and Rescue Department’s union.  This argument, which reflects tensions over the past decade, simply masks the true problem—that the volunteer departments are hurting for volunteers.  This nationwide trend reflects our changed economy and how families live today.  The volunteer departments are rooted in a time when the town of Stamford (North Stamford today) was rural and all hands left their farms to go put out a neighbor’s fire.  It also is rooted in a time when Stamford was a manufacturing town where workers were available to help out with fires since their factories were nearby.  Today, we are a finance and service economy focused downtown.  Moreover, today’s two income families often cannot find the time to commit to be a volunteer fireman where nights are filled with tasks once done by stay-at-home moms.

Faced with this shortage, the volunteer companies pushed for Mayor Pavia’s plan which would unite the volunteer departments under one chief and hire over 50 career fire personnel at a cost of $8 million the first year; the proposed budget includes over $1 million to pay off Long Ridge Fire Department’s long overdue settlement to its own paid personnel.  Ms. Lussier also claims that taxes would go up drastically because the SFDR would buy the volunteer fire departments’ property.  There is no such plan; the volunteers and their communities will continue to own their own houses.

The SFRD proposed a counter plan to the Mayor’s plan which would not increase their budget.  They are currently staffed at sufficient level in North Stamford to handle the workload that the Vols would have their new career hires perform.  The SFRD proposal (known as the Brown Plan) was an attempt to demonstrate that reality.  The Mayor only presented to the Board of Representatives’ Public Safety Committee the budget generated by the Vols.  Requests from the Public Safety Committee for the Administration to cost out the Brown Plan too were met with silence.

Ms. Lussier only talks about the four volunteer departments, when in fact there are five (as in the Big Five!).  Glenbrook Volunteer Fire Department, faced with a shortage of volunteers, invited the SFRD to stage an engine company there.  It is still a volunteer department, but the career and volunteers train together, eat together, and put out fires together.  Volunteers are increasing at Glenbrook and one volunteer has just been selected by SFRD to enter its new class of recruits.  The experience at Glenbrook demonstrates that cooperation can succeed if both sides put their minds to it.

Don’t let fear-mongering over taxes stop you from voting for a Charter Revision that will improve the safety of all our citizens.

Eileen M. Heaphy

Board of Representatives, D-8

Mike October 25, 2012 at 01:28 AM
I am not sure how you can believe safety is not an issue in Stamford, that in and of itself is reason to change the Charter. Without elaborating further in a public forum I am sure you can think of situations where more firefighters on scene immediately and a single chain of command would have served the public and the firefighters in a more advantageous way. As far as changing the districts from CS to A or B…the difference would be nominal at best if at all. The City is redistributing manpower and assets not adding any (zero cost overall). The tax burden would be spread throughout the city as it should be since the assets from SFRD are in fact responding throughout Stamford and it is necessary to continue that response. The alternative plan would also increase taxes by establishing a redundant system without the prospect of direct oversight by elected officials. In regard to “agreeing” to swap apparatus depending on the perceived need based on the call. Under the current system in order for those changes to take place the City as a whole needs the approval of 6 different Chiefs and/or fire departments. If the proposed Charter change is passed a single Chief of the united Stamford Fire Department can make those changes unilaterally throughout the City. There will be no room for the bickering and arguing that has stalled the progress of public safety in Stamford.
Mike October 25, 2012 at 01:29 AM
In addition, the idea of not swapping apparatus was to give the volunteer firefighters a greater role by leaving particular pieces of apparatus for them to take to the call. I hold both the volunteer and career firefighters throughout the City in high regard. I do however disagree on the organization of the current system as it was arranged in the Charter decades ago. Stamford is no longer a quaint town. It is a City that requires an organized force to deal with emergencies as they relate to fire and rescue scenarios. In the same manner, Stamford has one police department we need one fire department. A combined system throughout the city provides the best allocation of resources for everyone and there will not be district lines to stand in the way of progress now or in the future. Under a single system the volunteer and career firefighters will interact in a greater capacity and ultimately strengthen their relationship and public safety throughout the City. There is not an organization in existence that can operate efficiently under the direction of 6 different Chiefs. Ask yourself one question…If you were to design a fire department for Stamford would it have 6 Chiefs or 1 Chief to make decisions and be responsible for the entire organization? Vote YES to Charter revision question #2 for increased safety and efficiency.
LD100 October 25, 2012 at 01:34 AM
This isn't about me and I won't post my name. I'm simply trying to point out an issue with the process as I see it. The mayor requested a cost neutral plan by SFRD. SFRD delivered a cost neutral plan. I'm simply pointing out who is to blame for this. The mayor is to blame for this. You two are bashing the SFRD plan, citing a lack of information on it the mayor won't release. On top of it your asking for support of the Mayors plan, pretty convenient on your part.
LD100 October 25, 2012 at 01:39 AM
I've read everything published on the fire issue, I've seen every meeting (bor or bof) in person or on video. I've done my research, I've asked you to back your statements up and you have not, you've offered your opinion on the subject but no facts.
John Sierra October 25, 2012 at 04:27 AM
I am John Sierra in the interest of disclosure I am a professional firefighter in the SFRD. To be precise I am a Capt. in the SFRD, until a few months ago I was assigned to one of the units which presently and for more than four years has serviced the North Stamford area. The true fact of the matter is that North Stamford has had the service of fully staffed SFRD units which the Brown plan called for. As I stated this service has already been provided for over four years and will continue to be provided if the Charter revision is passed. The contention that 100 firefighters will need to be hired due to charter revision is completely untrue. Also it should be noted that amoung the 100 volunteers which Mr. Maounis mentions some of the names on his rolls are former SFRD members who have retired and moved to other parts of the country or who no longer volunteer yet their names are still used to beef up the numbers. Also it should be noted that sterling example of paid working with volunteers which Mr. Maounis touts forced a majority of the paid staff to vote to move to the SFRD due to concern for their own safety. It makes no sense to have more than one set of rules and more than one chief and expect good results. Mr. Maounis and Mr. Gladstone would like everyone to believe that this is an issue of the volunteers vs the union, its not. It is an issue of safety for the citizens and by extention firefighters, both paid and volunteer. These facts can all be verified,vote yes.

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