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Harp Hears Pleas For Change At Fire Department

by Cora Lewis | Dec 10, 2013 9:18 am

(8) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Posted to: City Hall, Legal Writes

“Listen to what the firefighters have to say tonight. They’re crying out,” Fire Union President Jimmy Kottage implored Mayor-elect Toni Harp’s transition committee on public safety Monday evening.

Kottage (pictured), president of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 825, made that pitch following testimony by firefighters calling for changes in administration, testing criteria, and increased diversity in hiring and promotion in the fire department.

The 12-person committee from Harp’s transition team, on public safety and crime, met in the basement hearing room at 200 Orange St. for two and a half hours to hear advice from the community on crime, policing, fire and paramedic practices, prison re-entry, and youth services, in anticipation of the new mayor taking office Jan. 1. The committee plans to make recommendations to Harp by next week.

Much of what the committee heard concerned dissatisfaction in the fire department.

“Right now we’re just listening and gathering information,” said Committee Chair Bill Carbone. He said that he found the firefighters’ statements “compelling,” and that they would be “taken into consideration.”

Fire Lt. Gary Tinney and firefighters Darrell Brooks, Kenneth Oliver Jr. and Steven Ortiz all spoke up in favor of a department shake-up.

CORA LEWIS PHOTO Firefighter candidate Daunne Blake (pictured) also told her story—of studying rigorously, training physically to exceed the required athletic criteria (she said she lost fifty pounds), and still finding herself locked out of hiring, due, she said, to the heavy weight of an oral exam over the written portion of the test.

Brooks criticized the department’s lack of an emergency medical services (EMS) supervisor, a critical position given that 80 percent of firefighters’ calls include medical help.

When the previous supervisor retired, two firefighters in the department were qualified to fill the position, Oliver claimed: a black candidate (himself) and a Hispanic candidate. A third, Caucasian candidate, had an expired certification, but was working at the time to get the necessary credentials to test for the spot. Despite the two existing potential hires, the process ended abruptly, with the seat unfilled, he said.

When Oliver acted as interim EMS supervisor for six months, he described himself as a whistleblower for pointing out that more than 100 department members had expired CPR cards. The cards, when valid, indicate the required level of training in life-saving techniques has been fulfilled.

Lt. Tinney spoke about the need to introduce a training program in New Haven among high school students to prepare them for careers in police, fire department, and security. He told the committee that classes are already underway at Hillhouse High School; he estimated it would cost $240,000 to expand the education initiative to the city’s public school system.

Such a program would mean there could be “no excuses” when it comes time to recruit and hire new department members from within New Haven.

Dispatcher Sherri Thompson also weighed in on the organization of police and fire dispatch centers. Since 2005, fire and police have worked in a “civilianized” center, she said, which means dispatchers are responsible for responding to both police and fire 911 calls, despite some dispatchers lacking adequate training.

Social worker Onya Harris, football coach Reggie Lytle, and heads of local youth organizations also gave advice to the city’s new mayor-elect at the public hearing.

Between 25 and 30 community members, including Mayor-elect Harp (pictured), attended the session, filtering in and out. Harp arrived a little over halfway through the proceedings.

Barbara Tinney of New Haven Family Alliance spoke on the importance of restricting access to guns in New Haven, citing the statistic that 60 percent of firearms are purchased legally in-state.

In addition to Chairman Carbone, the committee included: Jason Bartlett, Lucy Roach, Dawud Amin, Doug Bethea, Dina O’Neill, Eli Greer, Miguel Pittman, Edward Taylor, Robin Higgins, Annex Alderman Al Paolillo and Beaver Hills Alderman Brian Wingate.

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posted by: nhfddivision4 on December 10, 2013  11:51am

More like just crying. The change should include the union leadership. The same guys spouting the same lies. Kottage Brooks and Tinney have done more to damage morale than anyone else has.  All they do is knock our Department with a bunch of made up BS. Go to work and do your job. If Kottage and Tinney are so concerned about New Haven they should live here and not in the burbs. Kenny please give it a break ems is run better now than it ever has been with Captain Marcerelli in charge of it along with running the training school. It was a mess before Matt took it over.  Jimmy try to focus on atleast keeping what we have and not giving it all away like you criticized the police union for.

posted by: justmythought on December 10, 2013  1:07pm

It’s a complete circus !! With a room full of crying clowns ! What’s amazing is how these guys Kottage Brooks, and Tinney now have formed an alliance , in order to get what they want !  And the circus doesn’t stop there ! Dawud Amin on Harps committee ?  Kottage is still sulking because of a feud he has with Pat Egan , seems like the Teflon chief eats Kottage ‘s lunch every time !  As for the other two race agitators, they are never happy , but now with a Black mayor and with Wingate and Amin on the panel they will whine even more !  Kenny Oliver is a gentleman and does bring compassion to a very difficult job . He should be heard and not lumped in with the rest of the lumps !

posted by: Noteworthy on December 10, 2013  2:30pm

For guys who supposedly “run in when we run out,” these firemen do an awful lot of crying. What they’re proposing is not reform or overhaul. It’s about having their cake and eating it too.

Real reform would mean cutting staff, closing a firehouse; requiring all firemen to not just have basic EMT training but more; it would be no more fire trucks and buying more ambulances and actually transporting those with a medical need instead of handing it off to AMR which hangs around like a bunch of vultures. Our fire department costs significantly more than it should, way more than the national average and there’s no excuse for it.

posted by: Threefifths on December 10, 2013  2:53pm

Look it is a done deal.The chief is staying.This is what happens when you give your vote without a Agenda.Sorry Firebrids it is to late.

posted by: FacChec on December 10, 2013  3:24pm

With the exception of:

“Barbara Tinney of New Haven Family Alliance spoke on the importance of restricting access to guns in New Haven, citing the statistic that 60 percent of firearms are purchased legally in-state”.

All the other persons, including the fire department, provided testimony which appeared to be of a personal nature for personal gain.

The Fire department particularly has other avenues available to them to resolve grievances such as; the union contract, the grievance procedure, and city/union arbitration. So just why are they here with another complaint that this transition committee can do nothing about

They’re testimony concerning “calling for changes in administration, testing criteria, and increased diversity in hiring and promotion in the fire department”.  Are all civil services, and contract negotiation issues.

The Fire department needs to cut it out_ already.
Read the Mayors transition report which covers many of the items mentioned.

Here:

http://cityofnewhaven.com/Mayor/pdfs/Without Contacts/2.3 Fire Transition Document.pdf


“Dispatcher Sherri Thompson also weighed in on the organization of police and fire dispatch centers. Since 2005, fire and police have worked in a “civilianized” center, she said, which means dispatchers are responsible for responding to both police and fire 911 calls, despite some dispatchers lacking adequate training”.

More personal input stories, encompassing civil service/union issues.


I am interested in reading the committee’s findings and recommendation in their final report recognizing that many if not all of the complaints have been addressed in the Mayors report here:

http://cityofnewhaven.com/Mayor/transition.asp

posted by: JustAnotherTaxPayer on December 10, 2013  8:06pm

Thank You to the members of this committee who patiently, and politely, listened intently and sincerely to each person who came up and spoke.

So Sad that there was almost no dialogue about the thousand deaths in New Haven, in the past thirty years to gun/gang violence. Sad there was no public interest to come forward and speak on “Community Policing”. Sad that the room didn’t fill up with the relatives and friends of New Haven residents who became murder victims, and their deaths remain unresolved.

But it was a good representation of the ills within our Fire and Police Department. The FD was represented by a tiny segment of none resident firefighters, calling the remainder of their coworkers inept, unethical, and racist. And the Police Department just doesn’t care to become involved in an open dialogue with the public..

posted by: NHgirl on December 10, 2013  8:40pm

Comment to nhfd division #4,  sorry you feel this way about your union leadership.  They have fought long and hard to hammer out a better contract for all the membership to ease the financial burden to the firefighters…..and they are still working for this goal!!!  I am glad you like the improvements made by Capt Marcarelli,  you must be saddened to hear he is leaving. Perhaps if the climate in NHFD was different he would have stayed.
Comment to justmythought, what a rude statement that Egan eats Kottage’s lunch every time.  Sulk, no way.  Why would he, he was voted to his position, has a college degree and tested to move up in rank, can ‘the teflon chief”  say the same…. and those are my thoughts. 
What really amazes me is that with the legal history of this fire department the commenters would not hope for a positive change.

posted by: NewHavenTaxTooHigh on December 11, 2013  12:10pm

The City really needs to bring in an outside independent qualified experienced third party to review New Haven’s needs with respect to Fire (and medical) support/needs/staffing and then make recommendations.

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