Update: Trustees Release Statement Regarding Firefighter Layoffs
Board's Public Information Committee says vote to reduce the salaried staff by six positions came after "a great deal of study and deliberation."
The undersigned, a majority of the Board of Trustees, voted to reduce the salaried staff of our fire department by six positions. The decision comes after a great deal of study and deliberation. Among other diligence, the Village utilized the services of an independent national firm with expertise in municipal operations, including the delivery of fire services. It was concluded after consultation with the Chiefs that with the implementation of some new procedures, including the way firefighters are dispatched, that there was an opportunity to reduce the size of the department without impacting the safety of the community. These procedures are now being put in place. The savings to the Village and taxpayers is close to one million dollars a year. At a time when we are confronted with rising health care and pension costs, this decision, however painful, is necessary.
Our residents can be assured that the new staffing levels will not impact public safety and all three firehouses will remain open 24 hours a day. The firehouses will continue to be manned by paid firefighters during all shifts, this is in addition to our 100 dedicated volunteers. Public safety is the top priority of this Board and that is why we continue to be one of two communities in all of Nassau County with a salaried fire department.
It’s important that residents realize that it’s not popular to lay off people and emotions can get in the way of the facts. This decision was based on all the facts and implemented for the benefit of the entire community. We will continue to look for opportunities to reduce spending without impacting services.
The Public Information Committee of the village board of trustees is working on a document, which possibly may end up a Village Facts, explaining how the board came to approve six firefighter layoffs and one fire lieutenant demotion, according to trustee and committee member Nick Episcopia.
The announcement came after some residents, including Episcopia's wife, Dorothy, became frustrated at the Feb. 7 meeting.
"I know how much thought went into this because I live with it. I know these decisions aren't made lightly. Unfortunately gentlemen, the people who walked out of here do not," she said, referring to many of the career firefighters and their supporters who left the Feb. 7 meeting angry and disappointed after the layoffs were approved. "This does everybody a disservice and mostly yourselves. We don't want to wait while you figure out what kind of Village Facts you're going to put out, what kind of press release you're going to put out. For goodness sake, this is very important to many people."
Dorothy Episcopia added, "I am so upset and so disappointed that we didn't hear loud and clear that this ICMA report did include some kind of a risk assessment. That's what brought you to this. Not one of you said it."
TJ Michon, a 13-year Garden City career firefighter, asked Chief Charles Cavarra if in fact a risk assessment analysis was performed.
Chief Cavarra said an analysis was performed. When Michon asked if he could provide copies of it to the public, Cavarra replied, "Sure could, I've never been asked before." (On numerous occasions Garden City Patch has asked Chief Cavarra for a copy of the analysis but none has been provided thus far.)
Fellow Claydon Road resident Allison Sparacino said she appreciated the board's focus on managing the budget but had wished she heard more from the trustees who voted for the layoffs. "I didn't hear how you guys got comfortable with doing that ... How did you come to this decision? What am I going to tell other people that are now going to hear about this meeting to be rest assured that responses are going to be the same and we're all going to be safe in our homes? Can you do that for me?"
Mayor Don Brudie, one of two board members who voted against the cuts, replied, "I don't think you can."
Trustee Episcopia said the public document that's in the works will outline how trustees came to this conclusion and what they think the benefits are. "There was a lot of serious thought put into it. We understand people's lives are involved here. We understand there are young children involved. No one did this because they wanted to get back at somebody or anything along those lines," he assured.
John Delany of Spruce Street, a member of this year's Citizens Budget Review & Advisory Committee (CBRAC) suggested the board release the document "promptly."
"Village Facts, whatever you do, please get it out there because I can see the next Garden City News. You did it behind closed doors. You didn't consider everything. I know that's not what happened and I know you didn't want to do it. But it leaves an impression. Half the people that spoke here tonight don't have any of the facts. Closing firehouses that aren't going to be closed. It's scary to listen to these people. They don't know that's why they say it. Please get something out quickly."
"There are a lot of people out here who would be pleased to know how hard you think about these things but they don't know a thing because nothing comes from you," Episcopia added, addressing the board. "I am very frustrated, very upset and very saddened by this, personally. Don't take a month to figure out a Village Facts and another month to figure out who's going to write it. Get public information out immediately. it is so important to everybody."
It is unclear when the committee will release the document.
Would you like to see a document outlining the reasons why trustees voted in favor of firefihgter layoffs? Let us know in the comments section below.