Firefighters referendum on hold

GLOVERSVILLE — The Common Council has decided to withdraw a resolution that would have set money aside in the budget to pay for a marketing firm for a potential referendum related to the fire department.

The resolution would have moved $50,000 from the city’s contingency budget to pay for a marketing firm to manage a referendum that would change the makeup of the fire department to include fewer members and introduce volunteer firefighters.

The city has been in negotiations on a new contract with the Gloversville Firefighters Association, Local 719, since October. The two sides have been unable to come to an agreement so far.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Sixth Ward Councilman Wrandy Siarkowski withdrew his sponsorship of the resolution with the rest of the board agreeing to drop their seconding of the motion.

Following the meeting, Mayor Dayton King said if the city can get the word out about what they want without spending the money, they would do that.

“The only agenda we have ever had is to decrease the tax burden for the taxpayers,” King said.

King said the city wants to exhaust every opportunity it has to settle the contract. He said spending the money now to hire a marketing firm could send the wrong message.

“We hit pause on it. We were able to come to an agreement and don’t have to spend that money, I think that is best,” King said.

King said he believes the two entities are close to an agreement.

“I want to stay above board. I think they are good guys and they work hard. My only motivation is saving money,” King said.

Gloversville Firefighters Association, Local 719 President Edward Martelle said the union was unaware going into the meeting that the council would withdraw the resolution.

Martelle said the union has had hope from the beginning that the two sides would be able to work out a deal.

“We still feel that there is a solution that can come out of this. A positive solution for everyone,” Martelle said. “A settled contract keeps that level of response.”

King said the city has not ruled out hiring a marketing firm further down the road.

“At this point, it’s on pause. Just like anything else, you want to continue the conversation. I’m hopeful that we can, and at the end of the day I want to come to an agreement,” King said.

The city and union will be going to mediation through the Public Employees Relations Board. The union requested the mediation through PERB.

According to the union, in cases where mediation is required or requested, a PERB mediator contacts both parties and arranges a meeting. The PERB representative determines if contract consensus can be reached.

Martelle said the union is waiting for their assigned mediator to set up an appointment for the two sides to meet.

The city has said it wants to see $1.2 million in savings over the course of the contract, and switching the health insurance set up that currently sees increases in premium costs only when firefighters get a raise. The city also wants to go to a five-person minimum staffing instead of the current seven.

The union has stated that a February offer turned down by the city would have resulted in around $300,000 in yearly savings over the course of the contract. Additionally, the union stated there are no up-front costs to their proposal after removing all stipends and all retroactive pay from the proposal.

King has said the city would like to see the department reduce its size of from 28 to 24 members through attrition.

King said there could be room for negotiation on the health insurance for the department.

Martelle said the department runs over 300 calls a year in under four minutes, something that the department will strive to do, regardless of the future outcome of the contract.

“No matter what happens that is going to continue,” he said.

Kerry Minor can be reached at [email protected]

By Chad Fleck

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