A federal grant that would enable Westport to hire eight firefighters for three years turned out to be a gift horse that could be looked in the mouth. The Board of Finance agreed unanimously Wednesday night not to support the grant without concessions from the fireman's union or evidence of significant cost cutbacks.
The board recommended the town walk away from The SAFER Act money due to stipulations that would keep the firefighters hired past the expiration of the grant. Without concessions or savings, they said the town couldn't justify the additional $800,000 in salary, plus benefits and pensions. This despite most of the board voicing appreciation for the grant itself. Chairwoman Helen Garten said, "If indeed the union was willing to sit down with us, let's do it."
First Selectman Gordon Joseloff staunchly supported the grant, and sparred verbally with members of the board. In the end, he thanked them for stating their stances as it helped hammer home the idea that the union would need to come to the bargaining table if they want the additional crew.
The approval of the Representative Town Meeting will be needed to accept the grant. The Board of Finance's recommendation to the RTM Finance Committee is not to take money at this time.
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