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Letter: Council Republicans Defend Fire Dept. Restructuring

Town Council member Liz Dolan, Carol Hueston and Charlie Stamm look to "clarify the facts" regarding last week's decision.

This is an open letter to the taxpayers of North Kingstown to clarify the facts regarding fire negations and the reorganization of the fire department by ordinance.

.  The council has the ultimate authority to reorganize any offices or departments by ordinance pursuant to section 310 of the North Kingstown Charter.  We expect the change to save our taxpayers more than $1.2 million per year. At the same time, we voted to increase each firefighter’s annual salary by 10 percent which, incidentally, will increase each firefighter’s pension payment for the rest of his/her life by 10 percent. 

As explicitly stated in section 14-26-c and 14-26-d of the ordinance, the salary and all effects on the working conditions remain negotiable between the Town of North Kingstown and the union’s elected representatives.

The majority of the Council voted to implement a work schedule that the vast majority of paid firefighters follow across America. .  With their generous vacation and other leave time, our firefighters will work about 100 days per year, will have 17 full weekends off and one day off every weekend.

The Council has been studying the three platoon organization structure for years.  We have heard from some of the leading experts on sleep, workplace safety and firefighter safety, that this is a safer, healthier way for firefighters to work than the current four platoon schedule.  In addition to the safety of the three platoon system, it is much less costly to the town than the four platoon system organization because 25 percent fewer line firefighters are needed.  It has also been found to not affect public safety.

After many informal discussions about our serious consideration to reorganize the department, on October 29, 2012 our negotiating team formally told the firefighters’ negotiating team that – absent an alternative proposal that would achieve similar savings – the town intended to exercise its managerial rights to reorganize the department pursuant to section 310 of the Charter. 

To their credit, the union did discuss their demands for wages and hours associated with the three platoon organization.  The town offered a generous salary increase for current employees, increased vacation and sick time, and a no-layoff provision for the remainder of the contract.  Although our proposal would not have realized a substantial savings immediately, by keeping pay rates and paid time off at their current level for future hires, over time the town would have realized savings of $2 million per year.  The union rejected the town’s offer and would not allow its members to vote on the terms of a proposal that contained different terms for future hires.  The union’s counter proposal, which was rejected by the town, would actually cost the town over $400,000 in a little over a year.

The town’s current financial condition is at best distressed.  The town’s reserves have dropped below the standards set by bond rating agencies for the favorable rating the town enjoys and will diminish by $800,000 this year.  Next year’s budget already is projected to require $2 million more than we can legally raise in taxes. Every town department, except for the fire department, has incurred reductions.

Because the town so desperately needs savings, the town’s negotiators made one final effort to reach a win-win agreement for both the town and firefighters.  At the eighth bargaining session, the town’s negotiators offered to immediately increase salaries by 20 percent and by another 2 percent on July 1, 2013.  The annual salary would increase the firemen base pension by 20 percent for life.  Our offer included a no lay-off provision, an increase in clothing allowance, and an increase in educational reimbursement

On the Friday before our meeting on Jan. 30, we learned the union had unanimously rejected our proposal.

We are proud of the men and women who bravely serve our town as members of the fire department. The issue for us, however, is one of financial management. It is our sincere hope that the union will return to the negotiating table to find a mutually acceptable agreement on hours, wages, and working conditions under the reorganization of the department.

Liz Dolan, Town Council Chair 401-294-9952

145 Cassandra Lane

North Kingstown, RI 02852

Carol Hueston, Town Council  401-294-9680

58  Deerfield Court

North Kingstown, RI  02852

Charles Stamm,  Town Council  401-268-3922

85 Pleasant  St.

North Kingstown, RI  02852

Rhodeyresident0303 February 21, 2012 at 03:23 PM
NKRI you just love to stir the pot !.. did i ever say i was aware of a new contract or a volunteer fire department ??? NO I DID NOT ! ..... During the town meeting the council switched around the proposed ordinance by adding "The ordinance also says that “the same savings, efficiencies and level of protection to the town” could only be attained if the fire department switches from all-professional to a volunteer department with call persons and private contractors" ...... That to is public information and you would clearly find this out if you did the work and took the time to find the information you are asking everyone else.
Rhodeyresident0303 February 21, 2012 at 03:29 PM
if the department goes from a fulltime professional fire department to a volunteer fire department or call fire department are you for it ? the town of north kingstown does over 5,000 runs a year how do expect volunteers who have fulltime jobs to handle those runs ? if the town switches to a volunteer fire department who will pay for the training and the equipment each firefighter needs ? will you as a taxpayer and a resident step up to the plate and dedicate the time and energy needed to volunteer for the fire department and your fellow neighbors ? volunteer fire departments in this state and in this country are phasing out due to not being able to get the trucks out of the station when calls come in, not enough trained people to man the trucks, how would you change this ? why would the town council not want a PROFESSIONAL fire department for their residents do you know ? do you have any info for us as to why they feel the need to not have the best possible public safety in this town?
Rhodeyresident0303 February 21, 2012 at 03:39 PM
someone made a comment before that all you need is a high school education to become a firefighter. that may be true in some states but the training they obtain in a academy far exceededs what you can learn in a class room BEYOND THE BASICS - FIREGROUND SUPPORT COMMAND & CONTROL OF FD OPERATIONS AT TARGET HAZARDS CONFINED SPACE RESCUE TECHNICIAN DRIVER/OPERATOR - AERIAL (NFPA 1002) DRIVER/OPERATOR - PUMPER (NFPA 1002) EXPLOSIVES INCIDENT RESPONSE FIRE/ARSON ORIGIN AND CAUSE INVESTIGATION FIREFIGHTER 1 (NFPA 1001 - Level 1) FIREFIGHTER 2 (NFPA 1001 - Level 2) HAZ-MAT OPERATIONS HAZ-MAT TECHNICIAN NIMS: ICS FOR THE FIRE SERVICE Classes Level 100, 200, 300, 400, 700, 800 PLAN REVIEW ROPE RESCUE TECHNICIAN SWIFT WATER RESCUE TRENCH RESCUE TECHNICIAN Rhode Island EMT- Basic Rhode Island EMT- Cardiac American Heart Association CPR American Heart Association AED American Heart Association IV Therapy and IV Pump American Heart Association Advanced Cardiac Life Support American Heart Association Pediatric Advanced Life Support the above classes and training are what the North Kingstown Fire Department and Fire Departments in this state attend and obtain certifications for when they go through training it is also public information http://www.fire-marshal.ri.gov/Classes.php
Rhodeyresident0303 February 21, 2012 at 03:44 PM
how is the math not correct when the ordiance clearly states the firefighters will be working 56 hours and getting paid for 42 hours ? maybe you need to check your information and go back to basic math school ?
NKRI Transparency February 21, 2012 at 04:06 PM
Rhodeyresident0303: I have previously indicated that you are incorrect as I have not seen any mention of converting NK to volunteer. Please provide info to support your statement as I also am not interested in a volunteer FD.
NKRI Transparency February 21, 2012 at 04:10 PM
Rhodeyresident0303: Does prospective FD applicants need a college degree to become a FF or does a high school diploma qualify in order to apply for a FF position?
Rhodeyresident0303 February 21, 2012 at 04:12 PM
http://www.nkffa.org/ordinace_change.pdf page 2 section 10 and i posted word for word what was stated in the North Kingstown patch article http://northkingstown.patch.com/articles/24-hour-shift-for-firefighters-passes-3-2 again i obtain the facts and the public information and you cant do the work yourself instead you blame the union and the firefighters
NKRI Transparency February 21, 2012 at 04:16 PM
Rhodeyresident0303: if you refer to looking for the truth as stirring the pot then you are correct......I once heard that many people don't want to hear the truth, do you? I have yet to see any evidence to support you statements that the town wants to move towards a volunteer fire dept. I'm not sure if you are seeing something that I am not seeing or if you are misunderstanding or if you are distorting the facts.
Rhodeyresident0303 February 21, 2012 at 04:19 PM
answer my questions if you want answers.... all you have done is asked questions when people are asking you questions Carol H. Hueston Town Council Member 294-9680 Charles H. Stamm Town Council Member 268-3922 Elizabeth S. Dolan Town Council President 294-9952 Michael S. Bestwick Town Council Member 294-9642 Charles E. Brennan, Jr. Town Council Member 401-398-0931 Chief Fenwick Gardiner 401-294-3346 give them a call and get your questions answered !
NKRI Transparency February 21, 2012 at 04:22 PM
Rhodeyresident0303: for some reason you are distorting the fact(s) regarding a volunteer FD. I suggest you return to the info you provided and re-read the info as you are wrong. I find it incredible how people can read and interpret things as they see fit.
NK February 21, 2012 at 04:24 PM
Hi NKRI Transparency. Let me answer your question. A college diploma is not required to become a firefighter, However the 2 certifications of EMT-Basic and EMT-Cardiac are. These 2 state certifications take about 12 to 18 months to acquire after secondary education. A degree in Fire Science would help a candidate perhaps rank better in applying for such a job.
NKRI Transparency February 21, 2012 at 04:26 PM
Rhodeyresident0303: it is unfortunte that you can not or refuse to see the truth. I am a Tax paying NK resident working in the private sector. You?
NKRI Transparency February 21, 2012 at 04:32 PM
Hi NK: thanks for the info.
NK February 21, 2012 at 04:37 PM
I will reply directly to your comment. perhaps you missed that I answered your question: Hi NKRI Transparency. Let me answer your question. A college diploma is not required to become a firefighter, However the 2 certifications of EMT-Basic and EMT-Cardiac are. These 2 state certifications take about 12 to 18 months to acquire after secondary education. A degree in Fire Science would help a candidate perhaps rank better in applying for such a job. As far as the what Rhodeyresident is referring to is also correct. In section 10 of the ordinance, there is a reference that states "The same savings, efficiencies, and levels of protection to the Town can only be realized in the Fire Department by changing the nature of fire/rescue operations in the Town including changes from an all-professional Fire Department to one that includes volunteers, call persons, and private contractors"
NKresidenttaxpayervoter February 21, 2012 at 04:39 PM
Rhody and others, while all of this is very entertaining, I think it would be wise to take a step back and read these posts a little more closely. NKtransparency already has the answers and is clearly provoking. It is quite apparent that this person is someone on the list you just provided above. Any further "debate" with this individual would be fruitless, unless you enjoy banging your heads against the wall. Fair winds and following seas.
NKRI Transparency February 21, 2012 at 04:52 PM
NKresidenttaxpayervoter: it is unfortunte that you can not or refuse to see the truth. I am a Tax paying NK resident working in the private sector. You?
NKRI Transparency February 21, 2012 at 04:59 PM
NK: I saw you previous post thanking you for the info. As far as your comment regarding section 10 of the ordinance - "Town including changes from an all-professional Fire Department to one that includes volunteers, call persons, and private contractors". I am not sure how any can indicate that this proposal translates to a volunteer FD.....do you see such as a volunteer FD?
NKRI Transparency February 21, 2012 at 04:59 PM
NK: I saw you previous post thanking you for the info. As far as your comment regarding section 10 of the ordinance - "Town including changes from an all-professional Fire Department to one that includes volunteers, call persons, and private contractors". I am not sure how any can indicate that this proposal translates to a volunteer FD.....do you see such as a volunteer FD?
Nkfamily100years February 21, 2012 at 05:36 PM
I am out of this conversation......Good god transparency run for office then we can put a face and name to your annoying posts. Good luck NKFD you guys do a bang up job for EVERYONE in NK.
NK February 21, 2012 at 05:43 PM
I think that because the ordinance is written in such a way that it gives the town (town council) the right to change the department's operational structure just as they intend to do with their hourly structure. If it's in black and white.. it has to be for a reason. no? I don't necessarily think the town would do that, but adding it into the ordinance gives them that option.
Mike February 21, 2012 at 06:21 PM
It wasn't to demean, just pointing out the pay and benefits are really good for a job that doesn't require an expensive, time-consuming college degree. Also, the town pays for the majority of these certifications, no? Up to $5,500 annually per firefighter per the old contract? Yet another benefit!
NKRI Transparency February 21, 2012 at 06:32 PM
NKfamily100years : I find your last statement(s) interesting, one last question.... I am a Tax paying NK resident working in the private sector. You?
NKRI Transparency February 21, 2012 at 06:34 PM
NK, the option is for a reduction in the mix of the FD as it would not be strictly volunteer.
NK February 21, 2012 at 07:14 PM
Mike, I'm sorry, but I don't see how a college degree should be the only deciding factor on the worthiness of a profession. Granted, doctors and lawyers go to school for an extended period of time to focus/learn their skills, but that doesn't mean every "professional" has to do such, or should be considered "less worthy" because they don't. You are also wrong in your statement about paying annually for the education. Firefighters in the state of RI must have the medical certifications PRIOR to application to even be considered for the job. A cost that comes directly out of the pockets of applicants. In addition, the $5,500 you speak of is not per firefighter. Thats for the entire department, split amongst those who choose to educate themselves further. Any costs incurred above that amount annually come directly from their own pockets.
Mike February 21, 2012 at 07:42 PM
"I'm sorry, but I don't see how a college degree should be the only deciding factor on the worthiness of a profession." NK--please don't words in my mouth. I didn't say it wasn't a worthy career. I said it was really good pay and benefits for a position that didn't require an expensive and time consuming college education. Do you disagree? Thanks for clarification on the educational benefit offered to firefighters--I'll read the contract more closely when I have additional spare time. Blogs can be educational...
NK February 21, 2012 at 07:48 PM
Mike, it's hard to gauge one's reaction in type. I wasn't trying to put words in your mouth. sorry for that confusion, but glad I could offer you more information.
NKGOP Watch February 22, 2012 at 12:50 AM
I couldnt help but notice that NKFAMILY100 didnt capitalize God as he should have. THIS is just what Rick Santorum is trying to say in order to get to be president, the Satanists are taking over! LOL
NK February 22, 2012 at 02:19 PM
Wow. NKRI, if you are saying Satanists and Unions are one in the same, and this entire thread is about a local firefighting union, are you calling the North Kingstown Firefighters satanists? perhaps that's why they go into fires. HAHA!
NKRI Transparency February 22, 2012 at 03:13 PM
NK: your implying much that was never said. The NKFF (individuals) that I know are good people and with a high degree of confidence I'm sure the same holds true for most if not all others . Unions are bringing have all but brought this state to its knee's....shall I remind you about troubled towns and cities including our own which could fall down the same slippery slope if care is not taken. Have you also noticed that when asked representation bloggers go away? All and all they do not like to be asked the difficult questions that exposes the truth. Please tell me you watched the pension reform hearings.
NKRI Transparency February 27, 2012 at 06:47 PM
I wonder when people will get it http://www.pbn.com/US-governors-have-few-answers-as-cities-face-bankruptcy-risk,65672

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