Editor's Note: This letter was submitted to Norwood Patch by Andrew Quinn, President of I.A.F.F. Local 1631
To the Citizens of Norwood,
We, the Norwood Firefighters Local 1631 are writing to address the recent statements made by the editor of a local newspaper. It has long been our policy to not be baited by unsubstantiated personal views and speculation but, we can no longer remain silent. Your firefighters take great pride and continue to respond 24 hours a day 365 days a year to any emergency in town with unwavering commitment and dedication keeping life safety and property preservation as our top priorities. This individual would lead you to believe that your Fire Department is dysfunctional, lacking structure and has no one in charge. We are a Para-military organization with a structure that allows for a smooth transition when a vacancy occurs within the chain of command ensuring there is always someone in charge.
In 2006, a $10,000 taxpayer funded study was completed resulting in the fire department’s Emergency Medical Service being upgraded by adding a second ambulance at the Advanced Life Support level due to increased emergency call volume. This was overwhelmingly supported by Town Meeting. The addition of a second ambulance was implemented which increased the minimum manning level as directed by the study to 12 firefighters and 2 officers. Chief Howard hired 8 new Paramedic/Firefighters. Nine months later the Board of Selectmen permanently cut two positions through attrition dramatically impacting the substitution account. In 2011, a $40,000 taxpayer funded in depth study resulted in thirty one recommendations to address the issues causing strain on the Fire Department budget. This study can be found on the Town of Norwood web-site under the Fire Department. The town administration chose to blatantly ignore the overwhelming majority of the study’s recommendations. The town administration chose to implement only two of the thirty one recommendations. One was to raise ambulance rates resulting in higher fees and the other was to purchase an insurance policy for firefighters injured on the job (not the policy the study recommended) where monies collected go into the General Fund and not the Fire Department’s operating budget. A key recommendation of the study was to hire 2 new fire fighters to bring down substitution costs. What did the town administration do? Cut 2 fire fighter positions! This currently leaves us with 4 permanently cut positions.
The Strong Chief Law was established to keep politics out of Fire Department operations and we support that position. The Board of Selectmen and John Carroll have and always will be involved with every contract negotiation that impacts the budget. These individuals along with the Finance Commission are responsible for cutting positions and perpetually underfunding the substitution account. For many years they have clouded the issues in an effort to have you believe that the Chief or the members of Local 1631 created the budgetary problems. The continued underfunding of the Fire Department’s budget lies squarely with the administration of the town. This has resulted in a reduced level of service as the Basic Life Support Ambulance has been placed out of service for extended periods of time.
Despite these issues the men and women of the Norwood Fire Department continue to provide the high standard of service which has made us one of the finest departments in the state. Last year we responded to 5,420 calls compared to 2,500 calls forty years ago. We operate today with the exact same amount of personnel as we did in nineteen seventy two with twice the call volume and a second staffed ambulance since 2006.
The citizens of Norwood deserve safe and adequate service. No matter what the situation, if you call we will ALWAYS come to help you. We work for you! If you have questions, concerns or would just like to discuss these issues you can call or come down to the station anytime and talk to me or my Executive board.
Very Truly Yours,
President I.A.F.F. Local 1631