WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) – For the first time in a least four years, the city of Watertown has set dates to sit down with its fire union to negotiate a contract.
In two weeks, Watertown city officials will be doing something they haven’t done in a long time – negotiating a contract with the city fire union.
“I think it’s long over due. My hope is that we let the past be in the past. This is a new council, so hopefully this can be a new day for this relationship between the city and the fire department,” said Watertown City Council Member Ryan Henry-Wilkinson.
City council discussed the next steps in establishing a contract in executive session on Monday.
“It’s something that the new council doesn’t want to sit back and management doesn’t want to sit back and let linger. We just want to address this head on and move forward,” said Mayor Jeff Smith.
City firefighters have been working with out a contract since 2014 and it has been a bitter few years. One of the biggest issues is minimum manning – the minimum number of firefighters on duty at one time.
“I’m really personally just hoping—and I think the Council as a whole is hoping—that we can come to an agreement that both provides fire protection and is fair to the taxpayers, as well as our dedicated members of the fire department,” said Watertown City Council Member Sarah Compo.
“I hope that both sides can have a very good, very positive discussion. I think that both sides will hopefully be happy with some of the things that will be coming out of the negotiation process,” said Watertown City Council Member Lisa Ruggiero.
When asked if the minimum manning could be discussed, Smith says everything is on the table. Watertown had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in an unsuccessful attempt to get rid of the clause.
“I don’t think that any one department should not be immune to cutbacks. It’s something the city is doing with other departments. It’s got to be something we talk about because of the long term costs, but again, we want to move this forward in a positive manner where both sides can agree,” said Smith.
President of the firefighter’s union Dan Daugherty says since the two sides haven’t sat down yet, it’s too early to comment on the situation. He but did say that minimum manning isn’t something the fire union is willing to budge on.