Stamford Settles Dispute with Volunteers

A longstanding battle between the city of Stamford, Connecticut and one if its remaining volunteer fire companies has been settled. Mayor David Martin signed a new agreement with the Turn of River Fire Department yesterday, ending not only a lawsuit filed in 2013, but what Martin described as “a battle and dispute that has been going on for 20 years.”

At the center of the dispute is the incorporation of the remaining volunteer fire companies in Stamford into a unified fire department under the command of one fire chief. In 2012 Stamford voters passed a referendum requiring a consolidation of all of the fire services, but the referendum did not specify a time table nor details.

The agreement between the city and Turn of River Wednesday ensures the volunteer department’s autonomy, while starting to consolidate procedures, training, and staffing for both career and volunteer firefighters at the Turn of River station.

Stamford Fire Chief Peter Brown was quoted as saying “Our goal is to have equal protection for all citizens of this city from (Long Island Sound) up to the border to New York. Volunteer firefighters and career firefighters will work together. They’ll be treated equally.”

Turn of River Fire Chief Frank Jacobellis was equally positive about the agreement, praising Mayor Martin’s leadership: “When he came into office, it was literally a breath of fresh air as far as stepping on the right path.”

The lone dissenting voice to the agreement came from IAFF Local 786 president, Brendan Keatley, who claims the agreement conflicts with the collective bargaining agreement between Local 786 and the city.

Here is a copy of the agreement. Stamford and Turn of River FD

Although not clearly discussed in the agreement, Turn of River was awarded a $2.9 million SAFER grant to hire 24 career firefighters. At one time the city provided career firefighters from Local 786 to staff Turn of River but they were removed years ago. The Stamford Advocate is reporting that the city will accept the $2.9 million, hire the 24 firefighters, but will reserve the first eight positions for current volunteers.

More on the story.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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