By Matt Byrne, Town Correspondent
Facing an impasse in union negotiations,
The city attempted to extract the cuts without laying off police or firefighters by proposing a revised health care plan, one that so far has been rejected by the police superior officer’s union, and the union that represents all firefighters. The plan would increase costs, co-pays and deductibles for the union members.
“We’ve come to a conclusion in all of [the negotiations], I think, and they’ve staked out their position, and they’re not interested in accepting this proposal we’ve put forward,” said Mayor Richard C. Howard, of the two negotiations. “So we’ll take the steps we have to take to have the budget balanced.”
More than a dozen firefighters received notices this weekend
that they would be either demoted or laid off, said Brian Parrow, president of
The cuts in fire department personnel and budget could force the department to eliminate Engine 4, a situation Parrow said would leave only one engine east of
“It’s definitely inadequate,” Parrow said. “I happen to live
on the east side of the city. I hope it doesn’t happen, but it will be a sad
Parrow said that a number of the firefighters whose jobs are on the chopping block are new to the department; some had left higher-paying positions so they could work for the department. “I don’t know what they’re going to do,” he said.
While the cuts are painful, Howard said that both unions made their positions clear. A vote taken this week by the police union was split 14-13, with the majority opposing adoption of the city’s health plan, Howard said.
The city will continue to meet and discuss with both department’s chiefs in an effort to find alternatives to the layoffs, Howard said, including the possibility of state grants that would allow the city to re-hire or keep on some laid off public safety personnel.
Federal money that paid six salaries last fiscal year may
also not be available this year Howard said. Stipulations in the grant
require that the department maintain a minimum staff level; the department
would fall below the threshold after the cuts, Howard and fire officials said.