When Mayor Michael Pavia unveiled his budget for the 2013-14 year, it included at least one controversial stipulation in that it failed ot provide funding for three volunteer fire stations in Stamford beyond six months.
The three departments affected, Turn of River, Springdale and Long Ridge, would have half their funding for the year held in a contingency account until an agreement can be reached on certain terms and conditions included in the Charter Revision department unification.
"When you look at the numbers, you'll see that Glenbrook and Belltown are funded for the full year. Turn of River, Springdale and Long Ridge are only funded for half a year," said Director of the Office of Policy & Management Pete Privitera, who pointed out the funds were available in the contingency account. "We want those three companies to come to the table and comes to terms and an agreement on the new fire plan and the way this new Stamford Fire Department is going to be and going to operate. Once there's an agreement in place, the mayor will release this money to the volunteer fire departments."
Both Glenbrook and Belltown were funded to the same level as they were previously, with Belltown receiving an additional $46,000 for a "Day Man" care taker and janatorial position at the fire house.
Pavia called the move to withhold funding "measured," and said his actions weren't meant to be punitive, but meant to force everyone to come to an agreement sooner rather than later.
"We got some clear and precise direction from Glenbrook [on how they would implement Charter Revision updates]," the mayor said. "We got clear and precise direction from Belltown. So it was easy to fund them. But when the other volunteer companies are still unclear what direction they want to go in, how they want to define their future."
According to Turn of River Chief Frank Jacobellis, all he and the other departments have been trying to do is come to an agreement, but Jacobellis said they are the ones being ignored.
"My first reaction to hearing about the withholdings is just utter disappointment," said Jacobellis "We've honestly just been trying to get the city to come to the table to negotiate with us and what they want doesn't seem to be that far off from what we're proposing. They've replied to us stating we didn't take into account the Charter Revisions, which couldn't be further from the truth."
Jacobellis said, much like how the mayor must feel, his options for forward motion within the city are becoming much more limited and soon his hand would be forced to make the matter a legal issue.
"We have no other options but to file a lawsuit at this point," Jacobellis said. "I think we're all willing to accept one chief, to accept one fire marshal, all the things in the charter. There were just some minor little nuances we wanted to negotiate through. Hopefully we'll be able to move forward and past all this, but right now I'm just really disappointed."
Pavia said his concerns was not that lawsuits might arise. His concern was only that Stamford Fire Departments, volunteer or otherwise, were the best they could possibly be to continue keeping the city's citizens safe.
"It's not so much about the lawsuits as it is implementing the kinds of procedures that we're looking to have implemented. The main initiative is to bring everyone together so we have a standardized, well-understood and well-respected fire and safety service in the volunteer districts," Pavia said. "It has to do with standardize procedures and protocol and how they want to spend their money and whether or not the way they're spending their money conforms to the way we know to be the latest and best methodology."