Poquonnock Bridge Fire District VP decides to step down

Groton — The vice president of the Poquonnock Bridge Fire District Board of Directors has resigned, saying he feels terrible about the timing, but can no longer devote the time required to the volunteer post.

Dr. Gary Bertman, who was elected at the annual meeting in May 2013 to a three-year term, resigned Thursday night.

"There's only so many hours in a day, and it has been an extremely demanding past year trying to make it to all of the meetings," said Bertman, owner of G P Family Care LLC in New London. Bertman said he didn't realize that as a top vote getter he'd been elected for three years.

The fire district's finances, meanwhile, are so bad that the department, which has already closed a fire station, may fail to pay its bills and may lay off as many as one-third of its firefighters.

Fire Chief Todd Paige told the board on Thursday that it would have to default on its $415,000 payment to the town pension plan and lay off nine firefighters to run the department with the money it has. Taxpayers approved a budget of $3.9 million for the fiscal year that begins July 1, about $700,000 less than the district has now. The board didn't make a decision but plans to meet with Paige next week and vote on a plan June 19.

Bertman said he told Board President Alan Ackley before Thursday's meeting of his decision to retire.

"Certainly it's a terrible time to pull away" Bertman said, but added he's "optimistic" that others will step forward. He urged people in Poquonnock Bridge to become more active.

"People should get more involved, should make themselves more aware of what's going on," he said. "Get the facts rather than just hearsay."

He said he would also tell residents, "not to panic. People will continue to be available for emergency services. And change is always difficult."

Board Member Ron Yuhas said he knows Bertman was extremely busy.

"I think he was of great value to the board because he has medical insurance experience and was very well spoken," Yuhas said. "It would be great if we could force him to stay, but I think he's got too many other things going on in his life."

d.straszheim@theday.com

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