Officials say fire union voted down its own proposal

Officials say fire union voted down its own proposal

City announces reopening of Station 3, addition of fourth rescue

PAWTUCKET – Station 3 on Columbus Avenue reopened over the weekend after upgrades and renovations, but all is still not well between Mayor Donald Grebien and members of the Pawtucket Local 1261 of the International Association of Fire Fighters.

In a Sept. 11 letter to the City Council, Grebien informed members “with deep regret” that the fire union voted down its own proposal to put a fourth rescue into service while keeping the current six-engine model of fire service.

“This would have been accomplished without creating additional costs to the taxpayers,” he said. “The administration will now need to work, within the confines of the fire union contract, in order to implement this much-needed fourth rescue service.”

While his administration emphasizes the importance of working together, “unfortunately, in this case, the position of the fire union is not in alignment with the taxpayers’ ability to pay,” he said.

Reached by phone Monday, Local 1261 President Scott Giroux said he couldn’t understand the questions due to a bad connection, saying he would call back in two minutes. That call never came and he didn’t respond to follow-up calls and a text.

Fire Chief William Sisson was baffled by the union’s decision to overwhelmingly reject its own plan.

“As a Pawtucket firefighter and former ladder officer, the union’s decision to vote against the plan to implement a new rescue in a six-engine model does not make sense,” he said. “After the closure of Memorial Hospital by Care New England, we have had a great need for another rescue in order to properly service the needs of our community, as over 80 percent of our calls have been for emergency medical services. The Fire Department will continue to keep our residents safe and provide the necessary quality services in the five-engine model.”

Police Chief and Acting Public Safety Director Tina Goncalves said officials have an obligation to keep residents safe and protect taxpayer dollars.

“Ultimately, both the five-engine and (six-engine) models will keep our residents safe and afford them the services that they need and deserve,” she said, adding that she appreciates the hard work of every member of the public safety division.

“The city tried to work alongside the fire union with the hopes of reaching an agreement that would have limited the financial exposure of our residents and maintained the current six-engine model,” she said. “Unfortunately, we were not able to come to a mutual agreement. The desires of the fire union and their contract negotiations cannot and will not outweigh the needs of our residents and their tax dollars.”

This conflict, the latest in a long feud between the union and administration over a lack of a contract and other issues, appears to center on the city’s reluctance to increase manning as a response to adding the rescue.

In comments to ABC6 about the situation, Giroux said that though another rescue was added, there were no additional hires, with the firefighters on Engine 3 moved to the rescue.

“With those two individuals who are running the rescue, potentially out of the city, out of service on EMS calls for up to an hour at a time, we have that many less guys responding to any other potential emergency,” he said. The department was in need of a new rescue, he said, but not at the expense of an engine company.

The ABC6 story makes no mention of the union voting down its own proposal.

Grebien said safety is the top priority, and the city continues to invest in it with the addition of a fourth rescue.

The temporary closure of the Columbus Avenue Fire Station 3 allowed for Red Oak Remodeling to repair the roof without impeding the Fire Department’s ability to run daily operations.

New washers and dryers were also installed as well as a new fire alarm system with federal funds and additional city funds requested by the council. Electrical upgrades were also completed. Along with the partition for the female firefighter sleeping quarters, repairs were made to the ceiling and apparatus floor, and a fob system for security was added outside of the original scope. Other cosmetic repairs were also completed.

Comments

This what happens when you put a cop in charge of fire department, totally different operations.
Putting Engine 3 out of service will eventually have devastating effects to the public, The city / safety commissioner already are responsible for a FF losing his foot because of neglect. What’s next LLOD ?