negotiated with firefighters in 2011 and built into the Budget Commission's 5-Year-Plan, is under review by Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt.A plan to consolidate Woonsocket's Police and Fire Department dispatch units,
Baldelli-Hunt said during Monday night's Budget Commission meeting that she has toured the Woonsocket Fire Department to assess the consolidation plan, and will tour the Woonsocket Police Department as well to familiarize herself with how the consolidation would work.
According to a March-April report from the Valley Breeze, consolidating the two dispatch systems is intended to save the city $540,000.
John Ward, former council president and former Budget Commission member, said the consolidation was part of the firefighters' contract negotiation years ago, prior to the Budget Commission's appointment in Woonsocket. He said that while the Budget Commission never voted on the consolidation, the savings from it were built into the Commission's 5-year plan.
Ward said implementing the consolidation was complicated and delayed by the need for specialized equipment.
Baldelli-Hunt spoke about her review of the consolidation, previously under the management of Mayor Leo Fontaine, after Budget Commission member Peder Schaefer asked about the status point-blank. "What's going on?" he said.
Baldelli-Hunt said she had toured the fire department and intended to tour the police department to familiarize herself with the dispatch system. "We're trying to resolve this so we can go forward," Baldelli-Hunt said, working with Acting Fire Chief Tim Walsh, Police Chief Thomas Carey and Public Safety Director Eugene Jallette.
Schaefer questioned the need for a review, indicating the decision to consolidate appeared to have been long-settled. "We're basically starting from scratch," Baldelli-Hunt said.
Budget Commission members were surprised when Baldelli-Hunt next mentioned that injured firefighters were working dispatch in lieu of their regular duties. "It had never been disclosed to us, by the chief (former Fire Chief Gary Lataille), by the mayor (Former Mayor Leo Fontaine), that they were using injured fire personnel on dispatch," Schaefer said.
Cumberland Fire Chief Kenneth Finlay, former WFD Chief and a 32-year member of the department before retiring to go to Cumberland in 2009, said using injured personnel on dispatch as a light-duty assignment is not remarkable. The only catch was that a doctor had to sign off that an injured firefighter was fit enough to climb the stairs to the dispatch room. "We have done that for a long time," Finlay said.