As the newly appointed Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Stamford Volunteer Fire Department... a joint venture of the Belltown, Turn of River, Long Ridge and shortly the Springdale Fire Company... I would like to briefly highlight the issues faced with the volunteer and career fire departments in Stamford.
First and foremost let me assure you the 4 departments in the Volunteer districts are viable, hardworking, and we all work very well together. We are presently working in committees to enhance recruitment, retention and cross fire training between the companies.
We are hardly a small operation- as we own six fire stations and the land beneath them. We own 11 Pumpers, 4 Rescue Trucks, 3 Tankers, 2 Ladder trucks, and assorted utility trucks, Chief cars, etc.
Our Volunteer personnel include more than eighty highly trained State of CT firefighters and medically trained EMR's, EMT's and Paramedics. We also have another 40 volunteers who provide administrative, training, legal help, accounting tasks and non-emergency volunteer help to the departments.
All of them, except the ten career employees in the Long Ridge Fire Co. volunteer their services for free to the greater Stamford good. Neighbors helping neighbors volunteering.
Our constituents overwhelmingly value our community service. We provide not only public assistance for fire and emergencies, but also pump outs in floods, safety checks, car accidents, tree and wire down incidents, lock-outs, community programs, shelter and cooling operations, fire safety and anti-arson programs, open houses and community block parties.
We have been part of this community for 80-100 years. Neither strangers, nor "private companies" as the local union portrays us.
The volunteer companies have saved Stamford taxpayers millions of dollars by providing emergency services without the need to pay huge salaries and benefits.
With our economy at an all-time low, the Stamford Board of Representatives must carefully read the Mayor's Fire Plan and come to the realization that it is the only plan that makes fiscal sense.
It uses all the existing resources and it is the only legal answer. Frankly, changing the charter will not make the volunteer system go away… it will only try to change the district lines and create more lawsuits. The legality of which, the volunteer companies have already won repeatedly in the courts.
Local 786 has spent thousands of dollars trying to wine and dine the Board of Representatives and convince the public that they can cover the entire city without any cost increase or taxing.
But wait a minute…If indeed that were to be true that would mean they are seriously overstaffed and over equipped. Following that logic it would be easy to understand why they are attempting to take control of the volunteer operations.
They have used billboards, radio ads and web blasts echoing false information and scare tactics.
I doubt the public is aware that the union has declared the volunteer departments in Stamford a “rival” organization. They have made it clear they want to us out of business... and are not interested in working with us. Over the past few months they have demanded our e-mails, meeting minutes and caused us thousands of dollars in legal fees to try to deplete our meager budgets.
Our experience, when the union houses paid men in volunteer firehouses they drive away the volunteers. Mixed career and volunteer department’s historically only work when the Chief of the department is in charge of the career employees in their station. The union obviously does not want their men to be controlled by Volunteer Chiefs.
Stamford taxpayers cannot afford what will happen if the union takes control of our fire stations... what with promotions, overtime and benefits and the loss of those 80 active volunteer firefighters.
And if the Mayor's plan does not go through, taxpayers will need to re-build or to purchase those fire stations, vehicles and millions of dollars worth of equipment that are privately owned by the volunteer companies. Under our state charter, we are required to liquidate all our assets, if and when, we are forced to close down.
I implore all citizens to carefully read Mayor Pavia's Fire Plan and demand that your representatives not create an unnecessary tax burden, nor change to a system that is neither needed, nor is it economically sensible.
As a homeowner in Belltown, I’m very comfortable that my taxing will go to support the Belltown Fire District. I do not wish to fund the Stamford Fire & Rescue Department. The mayor's plan is fair and equitable. My taxes will pay only for the services I receive.
If taxes are too high downtown, maybe those living downtown would be wise to scrutinize what they are paying for their fire service. What with promotions and benefits the Stamford Fire and Rescue has become a department that is currently overstaffed, over-equipped and let's admit it, very well paid.
Stamford firefighters on average are earning better than 80 thousand dollars plus overtime and additional benefits.
I hope this clarifies some of the issues and explains why we have created the Stamford Volunteer Fire Department. The Mayor understands the issues… Please contact your representative to make sure they do as well.
Chairman of the Board
Stamford Volunteer Fire Dept.