Benefits sought for full-time fire company workers

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The town is likely to take up the issue of medical benefits for the two full-time employees at Beacon Hose Company No. 1 during contract negotiations later this year. FILE PHOTO

BEACON FALLS — The town’s two full-time employees at Beacon Hose Company No. 1 are looking for medical benefits.
The Board of Selectmen discussed the request from the company at its meeting Monday night.

The company consists mostly of volunteers, but includes two full-time, paid positions for an administrative assistant and a daytime emergency medical responder/firefighter. When the positions were created, there was no provision for benefits.

Jeremy Rodorigo, public information officer for Beacon Hose Co. No. 1, told the board the revenue for the benefits would come from ambulance fees.

Under the current agreement between the town and the fire company, the net profit from the fees is split, with 80 percent going to the town and 20 percent going back to the fire company.

If the company provided employee benefits, the net profit, and thus the town’s profit, would be reduced.

Rodorigo said he researched medical insurance and found a plan that would cost about $1,100 per month, with employees paying 40 percent of the premium. The benefits would cost the town and fire company about $8,000 to $8,500 per year, Rodorigo said.

Although Rodorigo calculated that the fire company makes enough profit to pay for such benefits now, there is always the possibility that revenue will go down while expenses go up, making it more difficult to balance the books.

First Selectman Susan Cable said she had already made inquiries and found out fire company employees can’t be added to the town employee insurance group.

Selectman Michael Krenesky said he had mixed feelings about offering the employees benefits. He pointed out that before the contract, the town got no revenue from the fire company, but now the town has become dependent on those funds. At the same time, he said, he didn’t want to lose good employees because the town wouldn’t offer benefits.

Cable added that the fire company often ends up using expected revenue on other equipment needs.

Selectman Dominic Sorrentino said he needed more information before making a decision, but raised concerns about what would happen if the revenue from the fees ran out.

In such a case, Rodorigo said, nonessentials like medical benefits would be the first thing to go.

The board made no decision on the matter. Cable felt any discussion of medical benefits should be part of negotiations with the fire company when its contract with the town is up in November.

At the Board of Finance meeting the following day, the finance board came to the same conclusion. Finance Chair Chris Bielik said it makes sense to roll the medical benefits discussion into the negotiations for the new contract.

“I would imagine that the actual negotiations are going to start sometime in the next month or so and be done well in advance of the contract expiration,” Bielik said.