The beatings will continue until morale improves.

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The beatings will continue until morale improves.

Post by Admin on Sun Sep 28, 2008 10:19 pm

After reading the memo posted below from Len Greaney to RFD Chief Gary Wentzell, its clear Mr. Greaney doesn’t like the Fire Department very much. He brow beats them as being greedy (“RFD does their job for money”, lazy (“No one volunteered”) and creating a “barrage of grievances and letters asking for impact bargaining”. He says “everything is about money, money”.

Mr. Greaney talks about being upset that our Professional Firefighters want to be paid for their work. I don’t know about what most readers think but getting paid for the work you do isn’t exactly a foreign concept. Is Mr. Greaney getting a paycheck for being the town manager? Perhaps he should volunteer as the town manager to show that he has developed a sense of “service over reward”.

This is the truth about the RFD. In 2006, the RFD members knew there was a tight budget situation in town. The members of the RFD agreed to pay and insurance concessions that amounted to well over $90,000 out of their contract. That's $3,000 to $4,000 per firefighter. What RFD asked for in return was an agreement from the town to keep four men on at all times. It wasn’t about money, it was about safety, theirs and ours. Mr. Greaney’s characterization of the firefighters is misinformed and unfair.

Mr. Greaney clearly knows that we need to have four firefighters available to respond to a fire scene. There are laws that say that unless there are four firefighters on scene, they can’t enter a building to fight a fire or save anyone trapped inside. In essence, they can’t do a whole lot of anything except watch it burn and listen to screams.

His solution is to make other towns responsible for the safety of the residents of our town. Mexico has already complained abut the cost of mutual aid due to the number of calls they have responded to in Rumford. Our town leaders need to work with other towns, not dictate to them and characterize them as slackers who “don’t do their share”.

With Len Greaney, it’s clearly not about safety, it’s all about money. While we want our town manager to be responsible with money, we want him to balance that with safety and public service. We want him to care about the safety of the people of this town and of town employees.

Mr. Greaney treats our professional firefighters with contempt, despite the sacrifices they make on a daily basis. Maybe it’s his new strategy to “build the best fire department in Maine” as he promised when Chief Wentzel came on board. Maybe characterizing other towns as slackers and telling them what to do is his idea of sharing town services.

As a tax paying citizen of this community I expect our town manager to be more professional than that. He clearly doesn’t have the experience to be a town manager. He’s aligned himself too closely with one section of the community, the TRR crew, instead of being a leader for the entire community. He treats our employees and our neighbors with contempt. It’s time for him to step down and for a search to start for a “real” town manager. A town manager that is experienced, objective and professional

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Re: The beatings will continue until morale improves.

Post by Phil Blampied on Mon Sep 29, 2008 8:02 am

The town of Sanford, Maine has had a policy of publishing, in the town report, the money paid out to each individual who receives even as much as ten dollars each year. That is, even if you just changed a light bulb in the town hall and charged the town $11, it would appear.

I think this situation could be clarified if Rumford did something similar. I don't find Len's memo necessarily inappropriate, and accusing him of being inexperienced isn't much of an rebuttal on your part. Whether he's on the wrong track or not could be confirmed or disproved by just publishing how much the firefighters receive each year. That's the issue here. Then people could decide if the compensation is fair, and if the firefighters are right or wrong in using aggressive tactics, such as using this blog and taking sides in town politics, to preserve their current compensation levels.

My own feeling is that, while New York City might pay its firefighters $60k to $100k a year, a small town payscale should be more in the $30's. NYC firefighters are out at fire multiple times a day. A small town force may go out only once every other day, other than cat-in-tree calls and fender benders. Others may or may not agree.

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Re: The beatings will continue until morale improves.

Post by Timeout on Mon Sep 29, 2008 9:36 am

Let me just say that in my personal experience regarding "volunteering" is that there's only so much beating people can take before they take a break. Same pattern of behavior over and over - we don't appreciate our volunteers, witness the charter commission (yeah, yeah, I know...they were all evil...whatever).

Let's face it, it's across the board...Phil got it, everyone got it... some of us can keep going, others of us have other stressful things in our lives and we step back. I heard Mexico had an appreciation night for town employees - wow - what a concept... I know everyone always thinks its about money. What if it's about appreciation for some people? I know personally that I can become more demanding when not feeling appreciated. I also know that I'm willing to go a few extra miles with just a simple pat on the back. Of course we don't need to get thanked every day, or at least I don't, but I also don't prefer getting kicked in the head for no particular reason. I got my a--- kicked over and over for volunteering in this town...it does get a bit wearisome.

Yeah, I'm naive - it has nothing to do with love and caring for one another as human beings, right? I think Admin has a good point - let's have some of the governing members of town management volunteer a little more often...oh yeah, they're all too busy with the phone calls they're always getting...

Sorry, I'm not a financial analyst - I tend to see things more from the human dynamics side of things...before you decide I'm a liberal, radical or whatever label you care to place, I think of myself as a pretty conservative independent. Today I'm disgusted - I'm sure tomorrow I will see a bright side to all of this garbage - I usually do.

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Re: The beatings will continue until morale improves.

Post by Timeout on Mon Sep 29, 2008 9:47 am

Some of those "greedy" firemen are my neighbors who would and who have given the shirts off their back to help out...who's keeping score around here anyway? These are real people; it's not an uncommon thing to make them into a depersonalized entity so they can be discounted. Someone here needs to require town government to take conflict management so they can at least have a few tools on board to deal with these situations. What's the real issue? I'd love to see THAT discussion. This can't possibly be about who's the most arrogant...man, that would be a tough contest...lol...

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Re: The beatings will continue until morale improves.

Post by C on Mon Sep 29, 2008 11:25 am

http://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Fire_Fighter/Salary

Do our fireman's wages fall outside this scale? Our fire fighters have to have a lot of training and knowledge- I think they equate the full time firefighters with those who keep a hat and boots in their trunk and help with equipment during a call. Are we paying out more to public safety than other towns with comparable demographics? I wonder what the difference in pay vs. qualifications are regarding Mr. Greaney's salary. I don't see him volunteering to take a pay cut out of service or duty to the community. You can bet if any of the FD had shown up at the Don ceremony there would have been a select few trying to accuse them of being there improperly.

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Re: The beatings will continue until morale improves.

Post by Admin on Mon Sep 29, 2008 4:03 pm

First, the firefighters didn’t post this on the forum, I did and I have nothing to do with RFD. I posted it because I think the memo was grossly inappropriate. How do you “build the best fire department in the state” by treating our firemen with such contempt?

Mr greaney’s inexperience is showing by how he handled this situation. Instead of working professionally with the parties involved, he took it personally and fired off this condescending memo. This memo will only make the situation with the fire department worse and is bound to raise the hackles with our neighboring communities. An experienced town manager wouldn’t be making mistakes like this.

It’s interesting that the date of this memo is just a day after we were critical of Ron Theriault for using his position on the Finance Board to “send a message” to the fire department. I noticed Len Greaney used that same terminology (send a message) in his memo. I’m guessing that’s not a coincidence.

We can debate Firefighter pay if you want to but their pay has been negotiated with the town for years. It’s not the issue I wrote about. My issue is that I believe it’s time to bring a manager into the town that knows how to handle situations like these in a planned, thoughtful way that will improve the situation, not in an off the cuff, angry way that will make the situation worse.


Last edited by Admin on Mon Sep 29, 2008 4:41 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : lang)

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Re: The beatings will continue until morale improves.

Post by xmashen on Mon Sep 29, 2008 4:35 pm

It would be nice to hear from more firefighters, Mexico included , on how they feel about things. Personally, I believe that they are usually unsung heroes and for people to belittle their importance and value is pretty disgusting and petty (but that's just MY opinion).

Granted, every community needs to budget services, but with services that may mean life or death, there needs to be some leeway.

I'm not a firefighter, (and no, i don't even play one on TV) but i have relatives who are and I can say that they are among the most selfless and brave people I could be lucky enough to know. They risk their lives on a daily basis.And they don't do it for money!

It's embarrassing to see them attacked this way by probably well-meaning people who really don't have a clue about what their jobs are all about. They would be the first ones screaming if only 2 people showed up for their own fire and couldn't do their job well enough to save anything.

Firefighters are true professionals, who go through intensive and ongoing training and keep our communities safe. Their schedules are tough and they are ALWAYS on call. They don't do it for glory or public recognition (certainly not in Rumford). And it's not like they are making a fortune either. The firefighters I know do it because they have a gut responsiblitiy to their profession and their community, and want to do it in the best way possible.

I do think Mr. Greany's memo showed a lack of respect to these brave people. Hopefully he will re-think his words.

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Re: The beatings will continue until morale improves.

Post by marktripp on Mon Sep 29, 2008 5:10 pm

Phil,

You can request any town employee’s pay at the Town office, and after this article you probably won’t have to. I’m sure someone is currently working on that to publish on another site or it wouldn’t be the first time our salaries showed up in the RFT letters to the editors section. If that is the case just make sure you not only see the year ending salaries but also ask for the total hours worked. While I do agree with you to some extent on pay scale VS New York city you must also realize FIRE does not discriminate, it burns the same in NYC as it does in little Rumford Maine. I think the biggest point is what the admin brought up, how LG handles himself.

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Re: The beatings will continue until morale improves.

Post by KevinNSaisi on Mon Sep 29, 2008 7:32 pm

Phil,
I agree that the fire department has had a problem with payroll. The problem lies not with their base pay, but with the overtime issue. With a dwindling (at times non-existant) call force, the firefighters have a valid point that they need staffing at a certain level to remain safe. When firefighters call in sick or have vacation time, their shift still needs to be covered. Before the return of the "Utility Man", the remaining firefighters had to use overtime to assure coverage. Now that we have a person in the Utility position, the excessive overtime will drop. I had suggested that they have two utility positions, one full time and one part time or per-diem. This would have eliminated much more of the overtime in the department.

Another issue is overtime payment for firefighter training. If we had two utility firefighters, persons who plan on attending training later in the week could take time off during their scheduled shift to offset the hours spent in training. The covering utility firefighter would be on regular time, and the person attending training would be on regular time.

Please remember that even when a firefighter does stay on overtime, he may not want to. Because of safety issues, the on duty firefighters must stay if a person is out and their shift cannot be covered by another firefighter. The four-to-respond policy is not unique to Rumford, but with almost no call force, there are few options.

Other towns in the area rely upon their call force, but they also rely on Rumford as a backup. if they cannot get four people to repsond to a scene, they know that they can call Rumford. This is one of the flaws in the mutual aid agreement. We end up playing "big brother" to the smaller towns without financial assistance with the staffing costs.

As for the NYC comparison, you have a good point. The NYFD is on the road constantly while our firefighters have a call once or twice a week. One needs to consider the benefit to the town vs the cost in a tough economy with a shrinking tax base. Please remember that reduced fire protection affects ISO ratings which likewise affect insurance costs.

I believe the best option is for our emergency services to merge and become a regional services district. This will more evenly distribute then costs of the department to all participating towns. My estimates show that we could easily operate a regional fire service for $80 per capita. While this would be an increase for some communities, it would mean better guaranteed coverage from a uniformly trained team of firefighters.

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Re: The beatings will continue until morale improves.

Post by marktripp on Mon Sep 29, 2008 8:50 pm

Kevin,

I think this is a false perception on some people’s part.
This is one of the flaws in the mutual aid agreement. We end up playing "big brother" to the smaller towns without financial assistance with the staffing costs.


We (RFD) require assistance more than we give assistance, usually. One thing that works excellent is the mutual aid agreements. They are a give and take not a take and receive and that is where a few people get lost. When it is all ironed out, generally things work fine with the exception of last year when the town of Mexico billed us around 7k for responding to our calls.

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Re: The beatings will continue until morale improves.

Post by KevinNSaisi on Mon Sep 29, 2008 9:50 pm

Mark, I would be more than happy to discuss it with you sometime. Smile
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Re: The beatings will continue until morale improves.

Post by Timeout on Tue Sep 30, 2008 9:51 am

Mark - I was at the meeting when Mexico was talking about the amount of time they spent responding to Rumford calls. Can you give us any history about how that typically works? Is there any connection between the skill level of a volunteer vs. paid staff? Is it like comparing apples to oranges or is it equal measure? I think there is misperception or perhaps lack of information regarding how much each town "gives" the other. Thanks.

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Re: The beatings will continue until morale improves.

Post by marktripp on Tue Sep 30, 2008 7:52 pm

It typically works by towns having a agreement written and signed by the chiefs involved that usually out line the type of calls and responses that are expected. You have some calls that are automatic and others are not, but if help is needed you may call the other town anytime you need help. Nation wide Mutual Aid works, there are a few cases when it does not work and that is usually when politics get involved.
The connection between career vs volunteer varies widely. One would think that it is simple the careers FF would have more training than the volunteer, but that is not always the case. In my short career I have had the opportunity to take some very excellent training that some volunteer FF’s might not have been able to commit to, the biggest reason is they have jobs other than firefighting. I have come across the path of some volunteers that have a lot of training and I have come across some career FF’s that hardly have any training and have been career for 10+ years. Then you get down to that one can have all the training in the world and not know how to apply it. I am sure I just made a few more gray area’s rather than answer you’re question, unfortunately it is not a cut and dry answer.

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Re: The beatings will continue until morale improves.

Post by Admin on Fri Oct 03, 2008 4:34 pm

Kevin said:

“I agree that the fire department has had a problem with payroll. The problem lies not with their base pay, but with the overtime issue. With a dwindling (at times non-existant) call force, the firefighters have a valid point that they need staffing at a certain level to remain safe. When firefighters call in sick or have vacation time, their shift still needs to be covered. Before the return of the "Utility Man", the remaining firefighters had to use overtime to assure coverage. Now that we have a person in the Utility position, the excessive overtime will drop. I had suggested that they have two utility positions, one full time and one part time or per-diem. This would have eliminated much more of the overtime in the department.

Another issue is overtime payment for firefighter training. If we had two utility firefighters, persons who plan on attending training later in the week could take time off during their scheduled shift to offset the hours spent in training. The covering utility firefighter would be on regular time, and the person attending training would be on regular time.

Please remember that even when a firefighter does stay on overtime, he may not want to. Because of safety issues, the on duty firefighters must stay if a person is out and their shift cannot be covered by another firefighter. The four-to-respond policy is not unique to Rumford, but with almost no call force, there are few options.”

Kevin, you clearly seem to have a good grasp of this situation, much better than our current town manager who just seems to share the spite and vengeance of the TRR crew. I don’t believe the Firemen have asked for this overtime. They asked to keep 4 men on and actually agreed to a substantial pay cut to do that. They just don’t have the personnel and I’m sure the suspensions didn’t help either.

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Re: The beatings will continue until morale improves.

Post by KevinNSaisi on Fri Oct 03, 2008 6:33 pm

Admin,
The suspensions were a natural concequence for their not observing the rules. I don't know if the rule is constitutional, but until it is proved not to be, it should be followed.
Kevin

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