Stamford approves $133K in settlement with fire company
STAMFORD — A long-running dispute between the city and volunteer members of the Springdale Fire Co. has come to an end.
The Board of Representatives has approved an award granted to the fire company through arbitration after the department claimed it was underfunded for years.
The award — $133,000 in cash damages, a relatively new fire engine and $165,000 in renovations to the Springdale station — comes after years in court and arbitration stemming from the department’s claim the city did not uphold a 1997 agreement reached with then-Mayor Dannel P. Malloy.
“We are pleased that they ruled in favor,” said Shawn Fahan, Springdale’s chief. “It confirms what I’ve been saying for 10 years, that we weren’t being treated right.”
The department initially claimed more than a $1 million in damages.
In a 33-page decision, three arbiters wrote that the city failed to reimburse the department when volunteers purchased a needed rescue truck and declined to provide volunteers with a safe and reliable fire engine while also failing to buy the department personal protection equipment.
The volunteers’ only engine is 40 years old, far past its useful and safe life of 25, according to the National Fire Protection Agency, the arbiters wrote. The city argued in court that having career firefighters stationed at Springdale with a fire engine relieved the city of that duty.
The Board of Reps on Monday approved the $133,000 without discussion. Fahan said the city delivered a newer engine last month. Libby Carlson, a spokeswoman for Mayor David Martin, said the $165,000 in renovations was already included in the budget.
The cash award is the reimbursement for the rescue truck, Carlson added.
“All told, Springdale sought an award of monetary damages between $1.7 million and $2.8 million. The arbitrators found in favor of the city on Springdale’s primary claims,” Martin said in a statement. “We are more than pleased with the decision of the arbitrators and believe that it lays the groundwork for a positive and productive relationship with Springdale, to the benefit of our residents.”
The 1997 agreement, the crux of Springdale’s claim, said the city must provide enough money to the department to operate, provide necessary equipment and pay the costs of maintaining that equipment and the fire station.
The department argued the city had underfunded it for years and the volunteers had to make up the difference with fundraising. Arbiters, citing the tens of thousands of dollars Springdale spent on legal fees, decided that contention was faulty because the volunteers could have spent their allocations differently.
“We see no basis for interpreting the agreement to require that the city pay Springdale’s attorney fees for pursuing claims against the city,” the arbiters wrote.
Those fees largely stemmed from suits Springdale and other volunteer departments brought against the city in 2013.
But the three did write that the city failed to keep the volunteers well outfitted, even after the 1997 agreement and a 2013 charter revision that brought the “Big Five” volunteer fire companies into the city’s department.
“On the one hand, the city may impose reasonable requirements on Springdale and treat it as part of the citywide fire and rescue service, but on the other hand, the city may not render Springdale superfluous by starving it of support.”
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