Newry selectmen opt not to ask firefighters for commitment
Newry selectmen have decided against requiring firefighters paid by the town for extensive training to sign a commitment to stay with the Fire Department a minimum period of time.
Two firefighters are currently enrolled in a 260-hour Firefighter I/II certification course. While the course itself costs $300, the firefighters are also paid for their own time if they complete the course.
At the last selectmen’s meeting the board decided to pay the lump sum of $1,200 to the firefighters (the equivalent of pay for half the hours they put into training) when they are done with the training.
The money will be allocated in the next NFD budget, they said.
Fire Chief Bruce Pierce, noting the town is investing a total of about $3,000, had also proposed that the firefighters sign an agreement committing them to stay on the NFD for a minimum of two years. If they were to leave before that, they would have to pay the town back an amount of money proportionate to the time remaining on the commitment.
“I feel it is a little insurance for the town and the department, and both firefighters do not have any problem signing the contract,” he said by e-mail.
But Selectman Gary Wight, a former NFD fire chief, thought it best to look at the big picture.
He said if a firefighter did leave early but “at least stayed in the area, we’re still going to benefit, whether or not they sign the paper,” he said. If they went to the Woodstock Fire Department, for example, “they’re still going to get called to go to Newry. Sooner or later they’re going to come back on mutual aid, unless they pack up and go to some place like Boston, which is highly unlikely,” said Wight.
The Woodstock Fire Department does require a commitment from firefighters, according to Chief Geff Inman. There, firefighters are paid for all the hours they put into the course, and the overall cost to ready a firefighter for duty is about $3,000 each.
But the WFD gives the firefighters an option on whether or not to be paid for their training time.
Inman said only one of three firefighters currently enrolled in the course opted to be paid.
But had all three chosen pay, he said, “we’re putting out $9,000,” and the agreement protects the town.