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Rockland Lays Off Four New Firefighter/Paramedics
Updated On: Mar 64, 2008

Fire chief criticized for letting four go: Sammon says budget cuts left him no choice

The Patriot Ledger

ROCKLAND - Selectmen this week criticized Fire Chief Michael Sammon over his decision to lay off four firefighters.

Selectman Louis Valanzola said he believes the July 1 layoffs could have been avoided if Sammon had carefully scheduled vacations and work shifts to cut back on overtime.

Amid a townwide financial crisis, town meeting voted in May to cut the fire department’s budget by $419,000.

Sammon responded by letting his four newest firefighters go. Valanzola believes they could have stayed if the chief had found a way to reduce overtime shifts, which cost the town more than $500,000 in the last fiscal year.

‘‘By working smart, we can actually do more,’’ Valanzola said Monday night. ‘‘This is going to hinder our operations up there.’’

On Tuesday, Sammon defended his decision to let the four firefighters go. He said he looked at reconfiguring shifts and vacation schedules but believes the contract with the firefighters union would have prevented any drastic changes.

‘‘Mr. Valanzola didn’t like my decision, but the bottom line is you can’t cut $419,000 without layoffs,’’ Sammon said. ‘‘You have to cut somewhere. I had to cut manpower.’’

The union president, David Wooley, said the firefighters understand the chief’s decision and support it.

Wooley believes the vacation schedules are already closely managed to limit overtime.

‘‘I don’t understand what ... (selectmen are) talking about in terms of tinkering with it,’’ Wooley said. ‘‘It isn’t just a do-whatever-you-want fire department.’’

Selectman James Simpson said the four firefighters, who recently finished their academy training, found jobs in the Weymouth Fire Department.

‘‘Basically, we’re the training ground,’’ Selectmen Chairwoman Mary Parsons said.

Selectmen will meet with Sammon next Monday to see if he can rework his staffing schedule in a way that would allow the four laid-off firefighters to be recalled.

Selectmen believe the firefighters might be willing to return to Rockland if they are recalled before the end of the month.

‘‘I really hope they are still available,’’ Valanzola said.

Andrew Lightman may be reached at .

Copyright 2007 The Patriot Ledger
Transmitted Wednesday, July 25, 2007

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