Ogdensburg fire union president says city manager putting residents at risk with reckless actions
BY JIMMY LAWTON
North Country This Week
OGDENSBURG – Ogdensburg Fire Union President Jason Bouchard says the city manager’s one-vehicle response goes against department of health standards and puts citizens at risk.
“Ogdensburg City Manager Steve Jellie, who recently laid off five firefighters, wants desperately to have his way, no matter how unsafe or how much resistance he gets. Ogdensburg Firefighters are unanimously opposed to running only one engine to all emergency calls. The CM simply won’t listen and is pushing us to implement his plan,” Bouchard said in a prepared statement.Bouchard said one big concern the firefighters have is the growing spread of COVID-19.
He says interim guidance for fire service agencies to limit potential exposure to covid-19, it advises the opposite of the CM’s “plan.”
“In a section titled, ‘Specific mitigation strategies for firefighting personnel,’ it says to reduce crew size in each vehicle or increase the number of vehicles in a response, to the extent practicable," Bouchard says.
“We currently respond to certain calls (including EMS) with a crew of two members on one vehicle. The CM’s “plan” is to now put a crew of four and sometimes five personnel on one vehicle for these calls. So he’s not simply disregarding the DOH strategy for limiting exposure, he’s making a change that goes completely against it, potentially exposing more of our members,” he said.
“There’s so many reasons why his one engine response is a bad idea, and we will eventually pay the price for this thoughtless move. Responding to a structure fire with only one engine, with a backup engine at least 10 minutes behind, could very well have devastating consequences. “
Bouchard says the union is at a complete loss for how and why this is happening.
“One man can ride into the city occasionally (he still doesn’t live here) and alone decide to put our members and the community at greater risk. And when he’s strongly advised against it, by DOH Guidance on limiting COVID-19 exposure and by our members who actually respond to emergency calls in the city (which he’s never done), he stubbornly refuses to listen,” he said.
Jellie contended that the complaints were unwarranted and steered the argument back to the ongoing contract negotiations.
“IAFF Local 1799, President Jason Bouchard and Secretary Ronald Bouchard continue their relentlessly selfish 2020 efforts to elicit fear and concern for public safety into the community; their claims are baseless and they are not succeeding. The use of one fire apparatus maintains crew continuity of at least 4 personnel, increases initial firefighting effectiveness and maintains a high degree of firefighter safety; firefighting is the primary mission of the fire department. The data supporting a crew of 4 personnel is well supported by national consensus standards and a comprehensive study conducted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), that continues to be well championed by the IAFF,” he said in a statement to the media.
Jellie says took the opportunity to criticize the union and past council members.
“The only real concern for IAFF Local 1799 President Jason Bouchard and Secretary Ronald Bouchard is preserving the lucrative salaries, benefits and perks they believe they are entitled to in the hastily negotiated, unaffordable contract forced on the taxpayers with the assistance of the previous city council in the final days of their administration after suffering a staggering 2019 election day defeat,” he said. “ IAFF Local 1799 concern for the staffing level of the organization is not genuine as indicated by their lack of effort in acting upon two recent proposals the city offered that would maintain fire department staffing at the level of 24. The proposals also ask President Bouchard and Secretary Bouchard to make concessions to the massive perks and incentives provided to union members in addition to the average cost of $131,000 per firefighter the city pays for salaries, health insurance, retirement and overtime”
Bouchard encouraged residents to voice their concerns regarding the response changes.
“We urge city residents to call your elected officials and tell them you choose public safety. We hope to stay safe, so we can safely help those in need. And please don’t forget that five firefighters are out of a job because of Steve Jellie. How much damage will we allow this one man to inflict on our community?”
Jellie called on the union to make concessions.
“As City Manager, and Fire Chief, I continue to ask President Bouchard and Secretary Bouchard to do what is right for the city and release the taxpayers from the heavy burden placed on them to afford fire protection, and cease the fear mongering campaign. Since the beginning of 2020, the current city council has worked decisively to save the City of Ogdensburg from financial ruin, while working equally as hard to revive the City of Ogdensburg; we sincerely request IAFF Local 1799 embrace this concept and help move the city toward brighter days.”