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Norwalk council to Norwalk fire chief: ‘No’

Norwalk Fire Chief Denis McCarthy talks to the Health, Welfare and Public Safety Committee on Thursday night.

NORWALK, Conn. – An opportunity to try to create a regional fire department vehicle maintenance facility in Norwalk with state money was soundly rejected by Common Council members Thursday night.

The council’s Health, Welfare and Public Safety Committee unanimously voted no after grilling Norwalk Fire Chief Denis McCarthy for about an hour, thereby ending the chief’s attempt to get $1.9 million in grant money from the Connecticut Office of Policy and Management. Norwalk would not have had to put in any money if it won the grant.

“Call me old fashioned but I’m not one for regionalization,” Common Councilman Glenn Iannacone (R-At Large), a retired fire marshal, said to explain his “no” vote. “I’m a home rule type of guy. I don’t like giving control of our apparatus to someone else.”

The unanimous vote inspired a quip from East Norwalk activist Diane Cece.

“This was weird,” she said. “It was like the ‘Twilight Zone’. Who are they and what have they done to the Common Council?

Council members never turn down what looks like free money, she said.

McCarthy said in his pitch that the council would have many opportunities to turn down the project as the process to convert the current facility at 100 Fairfield Ave. to a larger usage continued even if the grant was approved. There was no risk as there was no need for matching funds, he said.

“I see an opportunity to resolve some of the larger issues we have with the facility and with staffing by applying for the grant,” he aid. “If it doesn’t work out, if we can’t work out the legal liability and the financing, the fee structure, then we walk away. … To not to apply for the grant, we are missing the opportunity to at least investigate whether we can save the city of Norwalk some money.”

Richard Bonenfant asked if Norwalk fire vehicles would wait in line behind fire vehicles from other towns in a building that it had ceded control over.

“Right now. with 1½ employees, our trucks are on a waiting list,” McCarthy said. “If we have 4½, or 3½ or 4 employees, we have a greater ability to maintain our fleet and the larger fleet. We can make better decisions by moving pieces around, prioritizing the work. … I think a larger staff gives you more flexibility to make those decisions.”

Committee Chairwoman Michelle Maggio (R-District C) said liability was a concern.

“It sounds really nice and happy but anybody who is involved in any type of an accident, no matter who it is, we’re finding people who are suing anyone. So there is no way that Norwalk is not going to be named in a lawsuit if, God forbid, something happened to someone,” she said. “It could have been the guys from New Canaan who weren’t trained properly on their apparatus and then an accident occurs and it goes back to the maintenance records, which is going to be taken place by the city of Norwalk’s mechanics. … That is something that we really have to think about as citizens here.”

Comments

20 responses to “Norwalk council to Norwalk fire chief: ‘No’”

  1. anonymous

    Good to hear, good points made by Council members.

  2. jlightfield

    How shortsighted of the Council. The City of Norwalk had an opportunity to be seen as a leader in the region and could have developed a new revenue source not dependent on Norwalk taxpayers.

  3. spanner

    Its so nice to see we have experts in Norwalk,but I will go with what was done last night and give my lesson of the day from those who enjoy a good read.

    Another lawsuit has been filed over the January 9, 2009 apparatus accident that claimed the life of Boston Fire Lieutenant Kevin M. Kelley. The accident occurred when Boston Ladder 26 lost its brakes going down a steep hill and crashed into an apartment building.

    The suit was filed by the building owner’s insurance company, Federal Insurance Company, on January 5, 2011 in Suffolk County Superior Court, against the city of Boston and six vehicle maintenance shops. It alleges negligence in maintaining Ladder 26’s brakes, and seeks to recover over $410,000 paid to repair the structure.

    The suit is the second to arise out of the accident. Last November, Lieutenant Kelley’s family filed a wrongful death suit against the same six vehicle maintenance shops. The family did not name the city of Boston as a defendant.

    with that I add

    March 25, 2009
    PRESS RELEASE:
    This announcement is bittersweet for the members of the Norwalk Fire
    Fighters
    Association, Local 830. We begin by saying that the Executive Board of
    Local 830 is
    extremely proud of our membership in their coming together as one
    unified voice to the
    powers that be with our concerns with the executive leadership of the
    Norwalk Fire
    Department. On March 17th and 19th, 2009, the membership of Local 830
    overwhelmingly voted no confidence in Chief Denis McCarthy and with
    complete merit.
    Without going into the laundry list of items which have been mismanaged
    during the
    Chief’s tenure, his negligence in protecting the members of the Fire
    Department and the
    people of Norwalk is the Union’s greatest concern. On several occasions,
    Chief
    McCarthy has placed the fire fighters of Norwalk in harm’s way by
    disregarding safety
    procedures due to a lack of leadership ability and for his personal
    gain. In the four years
    that he has been the Fire Chief, he has wasted thousands of dollars in
    department funds
    on things such as training classes which were never properly utilized
    and studies which
    were never acted upon. His irresponsible budget cuts have already
    endangered the
    citizens of Norwalk by reducing staffing in the Fire Inspection
    Division. In the event that
    his plans for reducing the minimum manpower per shift are enacted, fire
    protection for
    the entire city will suffer, as well as the safety of the remaining
    personnel still answering
    the calls for assistance.

    With that said I suggest we look again at the safety of our children in our schools one more time considering I didn’t comment on anyone else.

    Norwalk has deep issues with how its run its city throwing stones at those in past does not help our future (but i enjoy it) so I leave with this thought ask around and ask why Norwalk fire does not have a fire ambulance generating money for the city like most fire depts who protect and serve their residents?

  4. Mike Mushak

    Now it is solely up to Norwalk taxpayers to pay for the long-overdue renovation of an obsolete and sadly dilapidated building with roof leaks and peeling paint, instead of the state, at a major gateway to Norwalk? Wow, this does seem like not enough thought went into it.

  5. Oldtimer

    The staff at a regional facility could easily be part of an LLC formed for the purpose of maintenance and repair of fire apparatus from the participating communities. In the event of some incident that called that maintenance into issue, the LLC, with limited assets and some insurance, would get sued, not each participating community, in my opinion. I suspect the real worry for the council was the effect of the inevitable comparisons between pay & benefit packages of the participating communities on fire department contract negotiations when several fire dept mechanics were working together on a full-time basis.

  6. spanner

    I agree Old Timer,Norwalk had at one time paid its firefighters more than any other dept. in Ct.Now with a free fireboat costing the city much more than was first suggested in overtime and training alone and has left East Norwalk short on coverage and where Norwalk still rents that fire station that should of been closed years ago its time to step back and see what we have.Fire trucks that have obvious maintenance problems,and the agency suggesting all this that has done Norwalk wrong in the past it all seems like a red herring with Moccia mirrors.The police dept waits in line for chains in snow storms and other Norwalk city vehicles are sent out becuase the DPW doesn’t have the capability or room to repair them having this long-overdue renovation of an obsolete and sadly dilapidated building with roof leaks be consolidated for all of Norwalks vehicles seems to elude those not in sink with what Norwalk needs.The taxpayers are now hearing for the first time and having the ability to ask whats going on instead of shut up and sit there we know what we are doing attitude is great isn’t it? Free money is turned down all the time by those city and towns who have done the math and realize not much is free anymore without strings,in Norwalks case we have heavy cordage thats been concealed as twine city carting for one example.We also have taxpayers who have never gotten the whole story before they shoot from the hip I don’t blame them they do have Norwalks interest at heart.

  7. Seattle

    @Spanner: Can you explain this quote as it’s somewhat confusing: “a free fireboat costing the city much more than was first suggested in overtime and training alone and has left East Norwalk short on coverage and where Norwalk still rents that fire station that should of been closed years.”

    If the station was closed, you wouldn’t have coverage. Yet you seem to use the “no coverage” argument against this boat. It’s almost like double speak.
    I have several questions for you:
    1. Which is it?
    2. How much does the city pay in “rent?”
    3. How much to build a new station?
    Also, where would you build it and what is that cost as well please (land and building).
    4. Maybe it’s cheaper to rent then to build a new station?
    5. Do the residents on the water deserve protection? (I know my family does.)
    6. I believe that boat has been involved in several rescues since its inception?
    7. Would it be negligent of the city to have this waterway with all this boat traffic and not have any fire protection for it?

    Also, could you explain this quote: “I leave with this thought ask around and ask why Norwalk fire does not have a fire ambulance generating money for the city like most fire depts who protect and serve their residents?”

    Spanner, as I’m sure you’re aware, I don’t think most career fire departments in CT have ambulances or do they? But I would bet that those that do probably aren’t competing against a hospital in their municipality that runs an ambulance service.

    Now, could you please provide us all with the following, as you seem to have a lot of knowledge on this issue:
    1. How many Paramedics would it take to staff these ambulances and at what cost (base pay, OT, benefits, etc..)?
    2. How much would it cost for the continuing education training to keep up their training and certifications on a yearly basis? (please include the overtime pay as well as they would have to do it off duty.)
    3. How much do you anticipate the city earning after all is said and done as they would be in competition with Norwalk Hospital and would not respond to every emergency? (How many calls per year would they respond to?)
    4. Would Connecticut OEMS even allow this to happen?
    5. How many ambulances would we need, and how much would it cost to maintain? (Whats an ambulance cost?)
    6. How many more mechanics would we need to hire to maintain this fleet and what would that cost be. (What is it on a yearly basis as well?)
    7. How difficult would it be for us to get medical control? For those that don’t know, can you explain what that means?

    We all look forward to your response. And when you include all your facts and figures can you please include where they came from so we can check them.

    Thanks

  8. Seattle

    “Call me old fashioned but I’m not one for regionalization,” Common Councilman Glenn Iannacone (R-At Large), a retired fire marshal, said to explain his “no” vote. “I’m a home rule type of guy. I don’t like giving control of our apparatus to someone else.”

    Mr. Iannacone, could you please give us examples of departments doing regionalization in which it wound up being more of an expense for the taxpayers? What negative experiences have you had with it? What other parts of the state/country have you spoken too in regards to regionalization? I would hope that those on this board are looking out for the taxpayers and not playing politics or looking out for their own self interests. But then again, those who are “old fashioned” are not always up for doing things different. No matter how much sense it makes.

  9. Seattle

    @Spanner, could you also explain this statement as it makes no sense: “Norwalk has deep issues with how its run its city throwing stones at those in past does not help our future (but i enjoy it)..”

    What exactly does that mean? I think it says you like when others throw stones as it does not help our future? Am I reading this right? If so, it would appear you don’t want to be looking for solutions but creating more problems? I (we) can’t understand your form of writing and comprehension of the English language. When you finish compiling your facts from the other question, could you address this.

    If I’m reading this correctly, you’ve lost your credibility.

    But I’ll wait for you to answer.

  10. The Deal

    It’s about time someone said “no” to Fire Chief Denis McCarthy. Rubber stamping all his wants and desires, hopefully, is history. Maybe come April he’ll be history as well. More questions to ponder. Was this really about trying to do something for the city of Norwalk or was Denis attempting to expand his control of things? And what of the 1.5 million dollars, yes, 1.5 million Norwalk taxpayer dollars Denis wants to spend on the Westport Ave fire station? He WAS hoping to keep that quiet as well. His dream of expanding his kingdom with taxpayer money never seems to end. Kudos to the Council.

  11. spanner

    With respect to this informative site taking the time to pick apart and give you a line by line answers would be unfair to its owners of the site.I would like to just give you some real time issues with responding to emergencies in Norwalk.

    Our firefighhters do more than some think,they respond with and along side of the ambulances work equipment off the rigs drive the ambulances themselves if need be, and are trained medical rsponders all they dont have is the bus.One of my kids fell ill on the MTA platform in Westport the ambulance bill alone was more was over $1,200 .Ambulances are not free,what makes Westport Darien New Canan and Wilton come to Norwalk and transport people all the time its not charity.Try going from Ct ave to Calf pasture via 95 during rush hour if you were waiting for help and minutes count well thats obvious.So if there is no truck in East Norwalk and they are in the boat well what too bad right?

    The station well why would you want to build something on one level leaving room for other city sevices to accomadate East Norwalkers a sub staion for police etc. maybe that would be energy savy? those who were helped by Wiltons water rescue team during the storm in East Norwalk were gratefull as it is there is no room for expansion is there is East Norwalk.Recently Norwalk fire hosted Westwood Mass fire they gave a class to Norwalk that fire dept has three fire ambulances and one spare so it must work for some depts.Look around Ct many fire depts have them use them all the time they even come to Norwalk.

    Bottom line is the boat is among eight that touch or are very close Norwalks borders,Norwalk police have three? they are everywhere,Norwalk has been to Stamford its the agreement you get the boat you get a call in the sound you go I was to understand.The boat so far on paper got fuel money you recall how much?The three police boats did the job before and after the fire boat came some say the poice have better chance in awkward coast lines on one the boats I’m not sure on that.

    Do the residents on the water deserve protection? Thats what I was trying to say when Norwalk ems went to Redding the other day to a assisisted living complex for a minor call it was certainly not near Norwalk to respond back too so if anyone from OEMS rules against more protection you may want to know all the facts I havn’t got time to explain here.

    Sounds like you must know how many Elderly and assited living units are in East Norwalk and how many new units are going in at various properties ,is there enough so far to have more protetction or one of the many ladder trucks Norwalk has?

    I’m not for taking away services I;m for improving what we have before we are faced with the issue of expanding without first having a study and not a McCarthy study a city study would be good.

    Our new Mayor just hosted a meeting in East Norwalk,guess it wasn’t handicap savy,yet before when the same issue came up the chairs went on the fire station floor at East Norwalk making it fine for those challenged by stairs,A good look into that station would tell anyone the firemen deserve better make pictures available to those who have never seen the inside of that station and get some opinions it may not just be my opinion.

    I’m not sure but Glen was also a firefighter and is due the respect earned so if he said it was a bad idea thats good enough for me.

    “career fire departments” suggest its a money issue or loss of a silver spoon,when your a fireman and leave the apron of a station the last thing you think of is how much money your going to make today.

  12. Seattle

    @Spanner: As suspected, a lot of hot air with no answers. Answer the questions asked. Entertain us. Sounds like your heads spinning? Wasn’t expected to be called out? Party’s over.

    @The deal. Your next.

  13. The Deal

    …….I’m quivering………

  14. Piberman

    More thoughtful Council members would have asked plan sponsors to respond to their questions and then meet again to review new information. But this is Norwalk where new ideas are rejected are rejected as suspicious infringement of local prerogatives.

  15. Mr Norwalk Ct

    Seattle
    You seem to think spanner is wrong on all points, yet you provide zero in the way of evidence to back up your claims.
    Please provide a source that disproves his claims.
    I will wait for your answer.

  16. Seattle

    Um, okay “Mr Norwalk/Spanner” I never mentioned anything regarding “Spanner” being wrong on all points. Also, I never made any claims except that I believe the fire boat has been involved in some rescues:

    http://www.thehour.com/news/norwalk/fire-department-rescues-two-kayakers-in-icy-waters-of-norwalk/article_35a224b6-6fec-5239-9619-9fc09f7b69e6.html

    http://www.westportnow.com/index.php?/v2_5/comments/captain_escapes_boat_fire_off_compo/

    http://www.wfsb.com/story/19754976/norwalk-boaters-in-distress

    What I did ask was for him to answer some questions to back up some statements he has made. I’ve included them below in case you forgot.

    @Spanner: Can you explain this quote as it’s somewhat confusing: “a free fireboat costing the city much more than was first suggested in overtime and training alone and has left East Norwalk short on coverage and where Norwalk still rents that fire station that should of been closed years.”

    If the station was closed, you wouldn’t have coverage. Yet you seem to use the “no coverage” argument against this boat. It’s almost like double speak.
    I have several questions for you:
    1. Which is it?
    2. How much does the city pay in “rent?”
    3. How much to build a new station?
    Also, where would you build it and what is that cost as well please (land and building).
    4. Maybe it’s cheaper to rent then to build a new station?
    5. Do the residents on the water deserve protection? (I know my family does.)
    6. I believe that boat has been involved in several rescues since its inception?
    7. Would it be negligent of the city to have this waterway with all this boat traffic and not have any fire protection for it?

    Also, could you explain this quote: “I leave with this thought ask around and ask why Norwalk fire does not have a fire ambulance generating money for the city like most fire depts who protect and serve their residents?”

    Spanner, as I’m sure you’re aware, I don’t think most career fire departments in CT have ambulances or do they? But I would bet that those that do probably aren’t competing against a hospital in their municipality that runs an ambulance service.

    Now, could you please provide us all with the following, as you seem to have a lot of knowledge on this issue:
    1. How many Paramedics would it take to staff these ambulances and at what cost (base pay, OT, benefits, etc..)?
    2. How much would it cost for the continuing education training to keep up their training and certifications on a yearly basis? (please include the overtime pay as well as they would have to do it off duty.)
    3. How much do you anticipate the city earning after all is said and done as they would be in competition with Norwalk Hospital and would not respond to every emergency? (How many calls per year would they respond to?)
    4. Would Connecticut OEMS even allow this to happen?
    5. How many ambulances would we need, and how much would it cost to maintain? (Whats an ambulance cost?)
    6. How many more mechanics would we need to hire to maintain this fleet and what would that cost be. (What is it on a yearly basis as well?)
    7. How difficult would it be for us to get medical control? For those that don’t know, can you explain what that means?

    We all look forward to your response. And when you include all your facts and figures can you please include where they came from so we can check them.

    Also, if “Spanner/Mr. Norwalk” is still with us, could he please answer this question as it’s the most intriguing:

    “Norwalk has deep issues with how its run its city throwing stones at those in past does not help our future (but i enjoy it)..”

    Again, we’re all waiting.

  17. spanner

    We can make this quick Norwalk had two fireboats the first didn’t seem to have a problem responding to a few incidents each year the three police boats have worked fine for years,both departments train together now ,combining resources and manpower is a Great idea maybe our New Mayor had something to do with it he is not a rookie and did promise change.

    Grants work well didn’t Norwalk get some coin for the last elaborate fire station they built?The boat was a grant and where Norwalk fire spends most of the time on 95 and Merritt a boat didn’t seem to be what they needed the most,with 1 fireboat already in the water and many more in other towns we could of held out for something else.

    You may have some great questions but the way you are going about it may be all wrong I thought you were seeking the best for your family.

    You keep asking costs yet Rowyaton fire sent firefighters to NCC and they won grants with no grant writer,maybe if you took the time to focus on whats good for the city and our 130 firefighters maybe the safety of all of our firefighters and families would be better off.

    Throwing verbal stones at people who use the term career fire departments is what most people do when it seems so demeaning to those who have given their lives in the line of duty when they are only call firefighters.Those type of people should be ashamed of themselves not saying your one of them.Trust me if I needed a fireman whe he came to the door I wouldn’t ask him if he was a volunteer or not.

    The rest of your questions are good you get it,loss of income for some better coverage for others where I am seeking better for my family I would want the medical coverage.

    It would seem you will have the chance to argue against any city ambulance soon this issue has been simmering for years so if your against it by all means go and fight it.I’m sure you don’t own the East Norwalk fire station if you did handicap bathrooms or coed quarters and a spot outside would cost a bundle I don’t know the codes don’t know if it applies to all city outlets but wouldn’t that be a hoot if it did.Another innocent stone thrown.

    I will buy a dictionary and learn English your right Seatol there is room for improvement.

    Thankyou NANCYONNORWALK your site is very informative I am sorry if I took away from your article and the additional information on the conditons of the repair shop and other things us taxpayers never knew until now.Your other readers did shine some extra light on things and for that I thank them as well.My last post on this thread.

  18. RU4REAL

    @spanner
    Give Seattle the location of the info, let Seattle look it up.

    @Seattle
    I think Mr. Norwalk saw you had the questions down pretty good and wanted you to disprove spanners claims.

    Now back on subject, the committee vote was spot on, nothing comes for free folks. As for Mr. Iannacone, he has done more for the City of Norwalk than someone whose tag is Seattle for sure and no I can’t prove that, so don’t bother asking; you an out of towner maybe? He at the very least deserves some respect from the community, whether you like him or not. He is not a bad guy and he truly cares about Norwalk, so go pick on someone else.
    As for McCarthy he has no support from many in the community, not just African Americans, the only reason he lasted this long left in November. The vote of no confidence was the tip of the iceberg, during diversity training McCarthy made comments in regard to African Americans under his command that were insensitive and deplorable, clearly showing a lack of leadership on his part. The diversity training was required by the city around the time McCarthy declined to listen to a tape with alleged racist comments on it, brought to him by an African American firefighter of 25 years. But wait he later said he was sorry, that makes it all better huh? This one you can look up for yourself Seattle just check with Personnel or the Human Relations departments at City Hall (re:Success by Design)or you can wait a couple of weeks until the local branch of the NAACP, comes out with that very same documentation from the diversity training session where he said it! How is it possible for ANYONE to defend or tolerate this sort of nonsense from a Fire Chief, if they do they are just as guilty for defending his actions and that says a lot about their character. Keep in mind haslekamp left quietly after throwing temper tantrums, so how and why is McCarthy still in the top seat at the Fire Department on taxpayer money? Time to go, simply under no circumstances should Rilling extend or renew his contract. Some say he is oh so popular around the state, not when the rest of the state hears what he said during diversity training.
    Tip of the iceberg I tell you!

  19. Seattle

    @RU4REAL: Looks like there is some truth to what you’re saying regarding what happened with the Chief based on what I can find online.
    However, that’s not what this article is about. This article isn’t about what McCarthy said or didn’t say 8 years ago. That’s an argument for a different story.
    Now as you would say, “back on subject.”
    This article is about what’s best for the city and its taxpayers regarding regionalizing the maintenance division of the fire department. I’m sure Mr. Iannacone is a good guy. But that’s irrelevant right now. When you run for office, you do what’s best for the citizens and you get no free passes for being a good guy, etc…(correct?). You’re obligation to those you serve includes researching topics being presented before you and making logical decisions based on your research, not on writing something off because your “old fashioned” and a “home rule type of guy.” By the way you make it sound, I would be willing to bet that both you and Mr. Iannacone will vote against everything McCarthy suggests just because it’s coming from him, regardless of if it makes sense and is what’s best for the city. This type of attitude and thinking is not fair to the taxpayers and we don’t deserve this.
    I don’t know if regionalization is the right thing to do. I do know that it deserved to be looked into legitimately and not discounted because of who it came from or because of a fear of doing something different.

  20. RU4REAL

    @ Seattle
    Tip of the iceberg!

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