Poquonnock Bridge firefighters agree to reopen talks with district

Groton - The firefighters union has agreed to reopen negotiations with the Poquonnock Bridge Fire District, District Board President Alan Ackley confirmed Thursday.

After the board's regular meeting, Ackley said the union had agreed to meet, but a date had not yet been set.

Board member Peter Legnos said the step was "a real positive sign."

Union President Kale Kiely, who attended Thursday's fire district meeting, declined to comment.

The district is in the midst of a court challenge over a disputed 10-year contract with Uniformed Professional Firefighters Association of Connecticut/IAFF 2704.

In August, the State Board of Labor Relations ruled that the fire district would have to honor the contract, which provides annual wage increases of 3 percent, along with additional staffing, increased paid personal leave and a boost in benefits for retirees.

The fire district then appealed the board's decision, and New Britain Superior Court Judge Eliot Dalton Prescott issued a stay in the case Sept. 23. The stay means the district will not have to comply with the contract until the case is decided.

The contract dates back to July 2012, and the labor board had ordered the district to pay back wages and benefits.

In the meantime, the fire district has been in a financial crisis. Poquonnock Bridge shut down firefighting operations at one of its two fire stations on Nov. 1, moving all firefighters to the remaining station on Long Hill Road.

The department also began responding to some medical calls by sending firefighters out on a pickup truck equipped with medical equipment, to save money on fuel and engine maintenance.

Fire Chief Todd Paige said that since that change went into effect, the pickup has responded to 27 of the district's 53 calls.

On Thursday, the district board also discussed eliminating an ordinance that explains what businesses must do to connect to the fire box alarm system. The board has been considering eliminating the system, which provides a direct link to the fire station.

Board members voted in August to send more than 130 letters to businesses notifying them that they should make other arrangements for fire alarm service, since it may shut the system down.

There are about 260 fire boxes in Poquonnock Bridge.

d.straszheim@theday.com

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