Waterford RTM agrees to three-year contract with career firefighters

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Dec. 8—WATERFORD — Two years after the implementation of the townwide fire department, town officials and firefighters continue efforts to improve town fire services with a contract.

On Monday night, the Representative Town Meeting approved the funding for a contract with Waterford Professional Firefighters Association Local 4629, the union for career firefighters. The contract, effective from July 1, 2021, to June 20, 2024, will allow for schedule flexibility and new positions.

Tom Martin is the president of the union, which includes 10 full-time paid firefighters and the fire inspector.

"Collaboratively working together, our team of administration and union representatives drafted one of the most comprehensive and forward looking contracts that brought better protection to not only all of the town firefighters but the public we serve as well," Martin wrote in a statement Monday night.

First Selectman Rob Brule said he appreciated the efforts made by the union and the director of fire services in working together to reach the agreement. "This agreement, coupled with the ongoing efforts of our volunteers and part-time firefighters, continues to put the safety of our community first," he said.

Director of Fire Services Michael Howley said the contract took three and a half months of negotiation. He said the biggest highlight is the ability to support 12 full-time career firefighters, up from the previous 10, and changes in the shift schedule.

The career firefighters' work schedule was Monday to Friday with no weekends. With two new career firefighters, there would be an opportunity for coverage seven days a week and a three-platform rotation schedule. Each full-time paid firefighter then would have a 24-hour workday and 48 hours off in rotation.

Using the collection of data, Howley said he can determine if this is the correct model and schedule for the community. He said the contract "sets the base" and gives the fire department the opportunity to build off of that.

He said the department and its five volunteer fire companies — Cohanzie, Goshen, Jordan, Oswegatchie and Quaker Hill — also would continue to use part-time firefighters and rely heavily on volunteers. He said the department has 28 active volunteers, six of whom were acquired over the past six months.

The contract also allows for the creation of the shift captain position for each shift.

Martin said the position will benefit career, part-time and volunteer staff to ensure a certified fire officer will always be on scene of an incident.

"This position gives the career staff an opportunity for career advancement, encourages continuing education and can assist the director of fire services as needed with other duties, such as scheduling," Martin said. "These are the first operational supervisor positions implemented in the fire service since the hiring of career firefighters in 1967."

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