GLOVERSVILLE — The Common Council has set a one-month deadline to settle a new contract with the fire department before it could potentially make plans to introduce a referendum changing the makeup of the department.
During Tuesday’s meeting, the council agreed to set a limit on how much longer it would go forward with contract negotiations between the city and the Gloversville Fireman’s Association on a new contract.
“My goal is to settle a contract or agree that we can’t agree and move forward,” Mayor Dayton King said. “It’s been a long time and we’ll give it another month.”
King said by the end of February, the contract will either need to be settled or be close to a settlement or the city will look into hiring a marketing firm and going a different route for the structure of the fire department.
“I think we’re going to give them our best offer. I think they’re going to give [the council] a no or yes,” King said of the steps in the next few months.
He said that different route could be a referendum that would change the structure of the fire department.
King said the city could look at creating a department that would consist of a combination of full-time and volunteer fire staffing. He said the city of Johnstown has four firefighters on duty; Gloversville requires a minimum of seven.
King said three to four negotiating sessions have already been held since this winter. The previous contract expired at the end of 2013.
“We have a lot of options we are ready to explore, we want to save money and move forward,” King said. “If we can come to an agreement and move forward in the next month, then awesome, my goal is to have nobody lose their job. And I hope that’s were we can be.”
King said a referendum would ask voters if they support a change in the city’s fire department.
“The specific wording, we’re going to look internally into what that would look like,” King said. “It will certainly be less people, less career firefighters and it will certainly involve volunteers.”
King said the city would look into hiring a marketing firm to get the city’s side of the argument during the lead up to a potential referendum. First Ward Councilwoman Marcia Weiss said the council has talked previously about hiring a marketing firm in relation to a potential referendum.
“At the end of the day, we need to get the facts out to people,” King said.
King said he doesn’t think the city will go to an all-volunteer district, but said he does not know if it will keep the same structure it currently has.
“At the end of the day, I don’t care how many people are over there, it’s about money,” King said.
If the contract is not settled by the end of February, the council will decide during the March 14 meeting if it will go forward with plans for a referendum and hiring of a marketing company.
Fire Chief Tom Groff declined to comment on King’s statements, citing the ongoing negotiations between the two.
Head of the Gloversville Fireman’s Association, Edward Martelle, was unavailable for comment today.
∫ The city did approve the Police Benevolent Association contract during Tuesday’s meeting.
The contract is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2014 and runs until Dec. 31, 2018.
∫ The council has not yet approved the ratified contract for the Teamsters Local 294, which covers the city’s transit department.
That contract would be retroactive to Jan. 1, 2014 and will run through Dec. 31, 2019.
Kerry Minor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.