By APRIL GUILMET
Union Leader Correspondent
LONDONDERRY -- The final town meeting in Londonderry on Saturday marked three victories for members of the town’s fire department.The majority of the 230 voters attending the March 12 meeting approved Article 9, a new contract with the firefighters’ union; Article 11, a citizens’ petition calling for the replacement of personal protective clothing for firefighters; and Article 12, another citizens’ petition seeking funding for the town’s call firefighter program.
The town’s new contract with the International Association of Firefighters Local 3160 will cost taxpayers an additional $5,000 in the coming fiscal year.
The proposed contract would call for a $62,325 increase in fiscal year 2013 and $78,513 the following year.“This was done extremely well by the negotiating team,” Councilor John Farrell said. “The end result is a 1.5 percent cost of living increase over the next few years.”
Resident Dan Collins said he had some difficulties with some of the benefits included in the proposed contract.
“It should be year to year,” he said. “Nobody in the private sector has 700 hours of sick days. Things like this cost us a lot of money.
“In my opinion, this is a fair contract,” resident Greg Warriner said. “I don’t run into burning buildings. I suggest we vote yes.”
Two petitioned warrant articles, Articles 11 and 12, were amended on the town meeting floor. Both were amended so funding of each respective article, at $20,000 apiece, would come from the town’s existing fund balance rather than adding to the tax rate.
Call firefighter Vinny Curro spoke in favor of both petitions. Referring to Article 11, Curro said that as of right now, six of the town’s firefighters are in need of new protective clothing suits.
Former council chairman Paul DiMarco said for the past three years the town has already been replacing six or seven suits each year.
“If we get to a point where a firefighter has equipment not up to standards, we’d find the money in our budget anyways,” he said.
Fire Capt. Jim Roger said, “Yes, there is money in our budget, but there is not enough money in the budget.”
Roger referred to recent case studies where a set of new gear meant survival in a situation that could have been dire if a firefighter’s gear wasn’t up to par.
“Keep in mind, this is the firefighter’s business suit. I urge you to support this, please,” Roger said.
Resident Dan Bouchard said: “If he says we need that equipment, I think we need to provide it for them. The last thing I’d want to see is some firefighters get hurt because we wanted to save a measly $20,000.”
Voters were equally supportive of Article 12, despite the suggestion from some that the call firefighters begin working on a voluntary basis in lieu of the $11.50 hourly stipend they are currently paid.
Former councilor Mike Brown noted that the town’s ALERT (A Londonderry Emergency Response Team), made up entirely of volunteers, provides assistance with first aid, safety, search and rescues, and much more to the town, free of charge. “There’s a model out there, this seems to fit very well,” Brown said.
Curro replied: “I wouldn’t mind volunteering, however I’m up for renewal for my certifi cation and that costs $500. We’re really here to help out all our regular firefighters. For $11.50 we do almost the same things those guys do. I’ve been a member since 1991, and I enjoy what I do.”