By SHERIDAN CYR
The Town Council named Democrat John Moise to the Board of Fire Commissioners at their Nov. 27 meeting. He joins four others on the board, and he will serve until November 2021.
Moise comes from a family of firefighters, and he served for many years on the Board of Finance. “I’m not going into this blind,” he said. “I have a good understanding from both a financial standpoint and the fire department’s side.”
In recent months, the town has been trying to find a solution for the excessive overtime pay within the Fire Department. Especially with hardships the town has faced in relation to the state budget, this has become an interdepartmental topic of conversation.
Overtime for the Fire Department department is part of the town’s budget. It was set at $192,149 with a $500,000 contingency, making the total Fire Department overtime budget $692,149. The total expended overtime, as of Dec. 8, was $479,434, leaving the contingency balance at $212,715.
Moise said that because overtime pay is a part of the budget, it will not be eliminated. But he said that “it could be minimized in different ways.” He described options, such as increasing communication with state police, utilizing highway cameras to scope out a scene before sending firefighters, and prioritizing responses to calls.
“More accountability, if you will,” said Moise. “Nothing is going to happen overnight, but we have to start somewhere.”
Moise said that he seeks a cohesive unit between the fire commissioners, the Board of Finance, and the Town Council. “I don’t want this us-against-them, head-butting mentality, and I think I can bring that to the table.” He said that he also hopes to see better relations form between the volunteer and paid firefighters.
Moise said that his top priority is the safety of residents. He noted that the last hiring in the department took place almost 10 years ago. Meanwhile, during that time span, the town has seen economic development and population growth that seeks additional emergency responders.
“At some point we’re going to stretch the elastic band too far, and it’s going to snap. That’s what we’re seeing now with this increase in overtime by our firefighters,” said Moise. He described himself as “fact-driven” and is looking at data including fire calls, financial reports and beyond to prove that the need is there.
During the Nov. 27 council meeting, the vote to get Moise in was divided along party lines 5-4 with Democrats prevailing. Minority chair Victoria Triano said in an email that she had no comment on the division.
Democratic chair Chris Palmieri said that Moise is “an excellent candidate for the position.”
“He has a necessary history of knowledge and experience from his family background and his time serving on the Board of Finance, and even served as chairman of the BOF at one point,” said Palmieri. “John is thoughtful and proactive, and I am proud to have him join the Board of Fire Commissioners.”
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Cyr, email her at Scyr@SouthingtonObserver.com.