Poquonnock Bridge fire chief asked to plan for closing one of two stations

Groton - The president of the Poquonnock Bridge Fire District board has asked the fire chief to outline a potential plan for closing one of the district's two fire stations.

Board President Alan Ackley said Tuesday no decision had been made yet about the 13 Fort Hill Road station, but he and another board member asked Chief Todd Paige on Monday to report back with details, such as relocating equipment and moving the fire marshal's office to the Long Hill Road station.

"We're looking for every possible savings that we could garner here," Ackley said. The board is also waiting for legal advice on what other steps it might take to save money, Ackley said.

The board of directors is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. on Thursday in the Fort Hill Station.

Poquonnock Bridge is strapped because taxpayers approved a budget of $3.5 million for the year that began July 1, slightly more than half of what the board had sought and not enough to meet payroll.

Ackley said the district board had sought to re-enter negotiations with Poquonnock Bridge Professional Firefighters Union by Aug. 5, but the union declined.

James Ferguson, the lawyer representing the union, wrote to Ackley on July 30 that the fire district and union already have an agreement that was ratified in 2012.

"Since we have a fully executed collective bargaining agreement in effect, Local 2704 at this time feels there is no need to meet with you," Ferguson's letter said.

Ackley said the contract is in arbitration and the two sides expect to hear the decision this month.

Paige said earlier that running the department on $3.5 million would "decimate public safety." He said he looked at potential cuts and found that even if he laid off firefighters, the department would not save money because he'd have to pay others overtime to meet minimum staffing.

He said closing the Fort Hill station would save $40,000, not including the cost of moving equipment, and would increase response time by 3 to 4 minutes in parts of the fire district.

d.straszheim@theday.com

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