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Commentary and Opinion Aug 16, 2013 - 4:55:51 PM

A Common Budget for a Common Goal

By Brendan Keatley, Stamford Professional Fire Fighters Association President

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The below opinion is that of the writer and does not represent the opinion and views of Canaiden LLC, its associates and entities.

On August 20, 2013 the Stamford Board of Finance will vote on whether give the Turn of River, Springdale and Long Ridge fire departments an additional $1.4 million dollars in taxpayer money. This is despite the fact that Stamford voters overwhelmingly approved the consolidation of fire services under the direction of one citywide fire chief this past November.

Charter Revision Question #2 received more votes on Election Day than any other charter issue, winning by a two-thirds majority. The overwhelming majority of Stamford citizens want the various fire departments to consolidate in order to improve fire scene operations, safety and coordination. Under city law, charter changes are required to be enacted within 30 days of the election, but eight months later the city has seen little change in fire service delivery or in the structures of the departments.

Rather than following the will of the people and consolidating operations, now more than a million dollars in the city budget will now go the Turn of River, Springdale and Long Ridge volunteer fire companies. All three have filed a lawsuit against the city and its taxpayers, questioning the Charter Revision and defying the will of the people of Stamford. This lawsuit has already cost citizens more taxpayer dollars in legal fees. Yet when more money is needed for their “operations”, the volunteer companies have no problem asking for more tax dollars.

For years, the corporations that control these volunteer fire companies have refused multiple requests by the city and the media to make their financial records public. We still don’t have the transparency that all taxpayers deserve.

In addition, the Turn of River and Springdale volunteer fire companies are requesting additional taxpayer funds despite responding to less and less emergency calls in their districts, leaving the Stamford Fire Department to cover their calls. According to SFD 911 dispatch logs, between January 1 and March 18, Springdale responded to just 15 percent of the calls. Turn of River’s statistics were not much better, at less than 50 percent.

If we all share the common goal of a safe and efficient city, there needs to be one common budget that appropriately allocates money to each firehouse. Last Election Day, voters recognized that the consolidation of Stamford’s fire services would improve public safety. It’s now time to follow through, respect the will of the people and follow the operating budget approved for 2013-14.

Allocating additional tax dollars to volunteer companies that are not providing emergency services makes no sense.

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