Selectmen Feel the Heat at Fire Station
by Bobby Blair 10/15/12
Selectmen as part of their roving meetings around town got an earful Monday night from unhappy firemen ...
The smoldering issue of firemen's stipends has been on and off the back burner since 2007 when local jakes on the call fire department were promised a raise. While some of the funds were secured, hard times due to the recession and budget constraints left firemen's paychecks lagging.
Firemen several years ago turned down an offer to tie their request for more funding to an override. Fire Chief Michael Cassidy requested Selectmen in their two most previous meetings for a request in this budget, the most recent plea was in the amount of $214,000. Fireman Mark Heavner said you need to understand the comittment everyone in this room is making on empty promises. "The schools get what they want. We deserve a raise. Fall Town Meeting will come and go and nothing will happen."
Selectman Jay Leary said there are other challenges in town. Leary told the firemen that the town was confronted with unfunded benefits for retirees known as OPEB (Other Post Employment Benefits). In a recent presentation by Rachel Brown C.C.P. of the Classification & Compensation Study by Stone Consulting, Holliston Firemen were not compared to area towns because of their unique "call status". Sean Irr told both selectmen (Chairman Jay Marsden was unable to attend) that "we attend the academy on our own time. The town has no clue what we do." John Gagnon said , "We are dedicated and love it, but we do go into fires risking our lives." Referring to an increase in stipends Shawn Connors noted "It"s time. You've had a bargain for so long". Selectman Leary was not easily swayed and wished to compare Holliston's costs against other call fire departments.
Mark Dellicker made an impassioned plea for selectmen to study the issue saying, "We've created something that other towns don't have." Leary told Dellicker "I don't know if that number ($214,000) you presented to me is sustainable." Selectman Kevin Conley promised that the board would get together with Chief Cassidy soon.