On Sunday December 20, 2009 I noticed that a number of New Rochelle Fire Fighters were walking along Drake Avenue distributing literature stating that a fire house may be closed in January; this really concerns me. I had a chance to talk to the firefighters and this is what they said. The City Manager (Chuck Strome) had an opportunity to save firefighters by signing off on an application (Safer Grant) and that the money would have saved firefighters from being laid off. This is outrageous! I understand that we are in a difficult economy, but for the life of me I can’t understand why they wouldn’t support this until it was explained to me.
Firefighters claim that its part of a big plan to cut the fire department even further and for those firefighters that they have already cut, the city has no interest in saving. This really concerns me because I live on Drake avenue, so what they are telling me is that the next closest fire truck is on Webster Avenue, but if they are on a call, they have no idea when or where the next one will come from.
Why is this happening? Why are the firefighters being targeted, doesn’t the City understand that Public-Safety should be first. One firefighter told me that the fire department had been working with the city since June to come up with a plan that would help save jobs. They said that multiple proposals have been made, however; they fell on deaf ears. The gentlemen also stated that at the last minute the republican council members tried to broker a deal with them (1) day before the budget meeting and that the council members were told that they needed to talk to their other firefighter members because any decision would affect all of them. He further stated that they believe Council Member Tarrantino cut a deal and because of that, he proposed an option that would remove the money out of the budget, this cut directly resulted in 6 firefighters to be laid off, this is in addition to the 7 positions already eliminated. The firefighters said that they were put in a difficult position. The firefighters also said that even if they defer their raise, there was no guarantee and based on information they received, they would give up their raise and the city would probably either ask for it back again next year or just lay off those already slated for layoff and more. Firefighters said that without a "true" guarantee it’s impossible. They also said that there is no trust whatsoever, they are continually being lied too and every time they were promised something it never happened. One firefighter said that even when times were better, they looked to cut something from them. Firefighters said that they simply don’t trust any of them.
I am no accountant..but, I do know this: The City has been irresponsibly spending money likes its water; is there any accountability in City Hall? The city is using the firefighters and others to make up for all the bad deals they have made. Tax abatements, back-room deals, inability to collect taxes, over spending on everything, and I am sure there is a lot that I missing, this is ridiculous. The Mayor, Council, and Management should be ashamed of themselves, they are all responsible for this entire mess and they should all take responsibility and resign.