Poquonnock Bridge Fire District officials, state to meet on fiscal mess

Groton - Poquonnock Bridge Fire District Board members are scheduled to meet today with a Connecticut Office of Policy and Management official to discuss the district's financial crisis and its options.

David Leaser, acting undersecretary of the intergovernmental policy division at OPM, is expected to meet with fire district board members Deb Monteiro, Peter Legnos and Gary Burtman, board Chairman Alan Ackley and lawyer Glenn Carberry this afternoon in Hartford.

Gian-Carl Casa, undersecretary for legislative affairs for OPM, said staff plan to discuss the district's finances to try "to figure out exactly what their situation is" and go from there.

Monteiro said she expects the board to discuss topics including potential bankruptcy and whether the district can levy a supplemental tax.

She said she also hopes to learn more about the process for obtaining assistance from the state's Municipal Finance Advisory Commission, which helps municipalities, including fire districts, avoid insolvency.

She said the goal "is to find out what help they can give us, what authority they have and discuss what options the district has."

Last week, Ackley wrote to OPM and the attorney general that the district was in financial crisis and asked for assistance.

Poquonnock Bridge, which covers 12 square miles, and includes a large commercial strip along Route 1 and the majority of town-owned buildings, could run out of money in January or sooner, board members have said.

The district is also about one week away from the end of a 30-day waiting period imposed by the state Board of Labor Relations, which ordered it to honor a 10-year contract with firefighters that calls for annual raises of 3 percent and other benefits. The labor decision was issued Aug. 28.

The district plans to challenge the ruling in New London Superior Court, but Monteiro said she believed this would wait until Monday's meeting.

The district board has also called a special meeting for 6 p.m. Thursday at the Groton Senior Center to discuss the budget. The meeting is expected to be held in executive session.

d. straszheim@theday.com

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