After a 1.5 hour-long union meeting on Tuesday evening, Central Coventry Fire District officials and staff members voted to continue providing fire and EMS services to Central Coventry residents, despite not receiving pay to do so.
"I have several members who are already two months past due on their mortgages, I have several others who are a month or so behind on other bills," said Captain and union president Dave Gorman. "While no one likes the idea of working and not getting paid for it, as of right now we will continue to provide service to the community like we've always done."
When asked how or if this decision will be affected by the Fair Labor Standards Act that may forbid members to volunteer where they are employed, Gorman explained that the district will simply continue serving its residents unless something impedes the decision.
"Our thought process is not to really worry about that at this point unless someone files a charge against it," he said.
Based on the union's decision to continue working, Chief Andrew Baynes will begin moving forward with the plan to file for receivership as early as Wednesday afternoon.
"We've always treated the residents with professionalism, courtesy, respect and dignity," continued Gorman. "Although it mentally tears on you as a provider to not get paid for your job, I have the utmost confidence in the guys that I work with that we will provide the same level of care as we always do. It's in our blood to provide this job. We're a different breed."
An additional roadblock that the district has run into involves its source of diesel fuel for the fire apparatus. Up until now, the district has purchased its fuel from the Town of Coventry and generally has to refuel the firetrucks on a daily basis. Based on a decision made by Town Manager Tom Hoover, Police Chief Bryan Volpe, Town Solicitor Fred Tobin and Town Council President Gary Cote, the Town will not allow the fire district to use the municipal fuel source during this transitional period.
"At this point, they've already taken a vote to file for receivership and to give them fuel credit as this point, the Town of Coventry would be listed as an unsecured creditor and the taxpayers would be put on the hook for that bill," explained Cote. "Once they file for receivership, the Town would be considered a secured creditor and we will be willing to work with them. We just can't take the chance of not being reimbursed for the fuel that they use."
Cote went on to say that he has spoken with Anthony Fire Chief Paul Labbadia and Hopkins Hill Fire Chief Frank Brown about covering any calls that Central Coventry cannot handle in the coming weeks.
"Both Chiefs Brown and Labbadia have agreed to cover calls in the Central Coventry Fire District as needed," he said. "The health and safety of the residents will not suffer."
Check back with Coventry Patch for more information as it becomes available.