Residents voiced strong support for the fire department’s budget requests at a public hearing last week.
On April 3, First Selectman Michael Freda and School Superintendent Robert Cronin presented information on the proposed town budget and education budget respectively.
The public had a chance to address the two town leaders as well as members of the school administration and town government.
Many spoke in favor of granting the North Haven Fire Department’s request for $600,000 to hire eight full-time firefighters, including paramedics, allowing for a second paramedic to be able to respond to medical calls.
There is no increase in fire personnel in the proposed budget.
Some shared personal stories. Resident Mary White said her father, who lived in another town, had a heart attack and when EMTs arrived, they were not qualified to run an IV with cardiac medication as a paramedic would have been.
“The medication he would have received, via the IV, would have prevented the permanent damage to his heart, which caused his death,” White said. “The public health and safety hazard of having only one fireman-paramedic on per shift, who goes out with the first 911 call, remains” without a staff increase.
Lt. Stephen Irons, a volunteer firefighter at West Ridge Company 3, spoke about the request for $1.1 million fire apparatus upgrades as two fire trucks have reached mandatory retirement age of 25 years. The proposed budget does not fund apparatus replacement or an increase in equipment maintenance funds.
Irons said while the town has provided adequate training and gear to firefighters, “I have been riding the same two pieces of apparatus since I joined the North Haven Fire Department 15 years ago.”
Engine 4 is 24 years old and Engine 6 is 18 years old.
“How many of us have cars that we must critically rely on that are this old?” he said. “These aren’t vehicles that if they break down someone will just be late to work. We will be late for an emergency or perhaps never arrive.”
Selectman Sally Buemi, as a member of the public, said while she recognized the fire chief’s reasoning that more personnel is needed due to increased medical calls, eight more full time firefighters is too many to be financially feasible.
She then put forward a compromise.
“Right now we are negotiating a new fire contract,” Buemi said. “This would be the perfect opportunity to renegotiate the possibility of adding two firefighters, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., which would put 10 people on duty during the times when the need for emergency medical calls seems to be the greatest.”
The finance board is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 18 at Town Hall. A budget meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Monday, May 7 at North Haven High School before the Tuesday, May 15 referendum vote.