State says it will not grant Poquonnock Bridge Fire District bankruptcy and set precedent

Groton - An official from the Connecticut Office of Policy and Management told Poquonnock Bridge Fire District board members Monday that the state would not get involved in their labor dispute and that granting the fire district bankruptcy would set a precedent the state does not want to set.

District board members met Monday with David LeVasseur, acting undersecretary for the Intergovernmental Policy Division at OPM, to discuss the district's financial crisis and its options.

Gian-Carl Casa, undersecretary for legislative affairs for OPM, said Fire District Board President Alan Ackley and Glenn Carberry, lawyer for the district board, were among those in attendance.

Ackley could not be reached to comment Monday. District Board member Deb Monteiro, who also attended, referred calls to Ackley.

Casa said he did not attend the meeting but was given information about it. He said the district board was told it could seek a referral to the Municipal Finance Advisory Commission - which helps municipalities, including fire districts - avoid insolvency, or contact the commission directly.

Casa said LeVasseur said the state wouldn't offer recommendations about the fire district's labor dispute.

The fire district is days 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 fire district planned to challenge the ruling in New London Superior Court, but paperwork had not been filed as of Monday.

Casa said board members asked about bankruptcy and were told they would need the governor's approval. While LeVasseur said he couldn't prejudge what the governor would do, Casa said the board was told "no governor" had granted permission since the current law was passed in 1993. Casa said no municipality or fire district had sought bankruptcy, and some districts facing serious problems were already being guided by the Municipal Finance Advisory Commission.

Casa said LeVasseur explained the difficulty granting bankruptcy would pose as "there are hundreds of taxing districts around the state." Casa said it would set a precedent the state wouldn't want to set.

The fire district board has called a special meeting for 6 p.m. Thursday at the Groton Senior Center to discuss the budget.

d.straszheim@theday.com

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