EASTON, Conn. First Selectman Thomas Herrmann has denied charges in an open letter to the community from Easton firefighters that he proposed the towns firehouse not be staffed on weekends to pressure firefighters during contract negotiations .
The firefighters' letter, released Tuesday, says Herrmann tried to play the full-time fire department staff against the volunteers by proposing that the firehouse not be staffed on weekends and that instead volunteers respond to calls from their homes. The firefighters said they agreed to overtime concessions to keep the firehouse staffed on weekends.
Herrmann said he believed the letter "either mischaracterized or demonstrated a misunderstanding of the negotiating process."
Herrmann gave The Daily Easton a memo about the negotiations from Fire Commission Chairman Rob Monda stating that The First Selectman never had a discussion with the EVFC regarding volunteers covering FD on weekends.
Tom also assured me that 'The Fire Commission can have 24/7 coverage if the [commission] decides it is in the best interest of the Town, Monda wrote. He added that the commission always planned to propose full staffing in our budget, leaving any cuts to the BOF or the townspeople at the Town Meeting.
The open letter states: The first selectman proposed to eliminate staff at the firehouse on Saturdays and Sundays, insisting that the volunteers would be able to respond to any emergency from their homes, an unprecedented move, unsupported by the volunteer fire chief and his two assistant chiefs.
Easton's fire protection consists of eight career firefighters and over 30 volunteer firefighters.
To counter the threat of reduced protection on the weekends and to keep the firehouse staffed 24/7, 365 days a year, the Fire Department Negotiating Team proposed to reduce the overtime costs as an alternate solution to maintain the current level of protection for all residents.
The letter states that the weekend staffing proposal was a ploy by Herrmann to leverage the Easton Volunteer Fire Company No. 1 against the members of the Easton Fire Department.
Negotiations between the town and Local 1426, International Association of Firefighters, began in 2009 and took three years to conclude. A new contract was ratified Dec. 27.
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