The chiefs say they will present information from their own departments in person at the hearing, rather than provide the documents to Scandariato, who also serves as the citywide fire marshal.
"My concern is, if we don't approach this professionally in a unified manner, we may not get as good an opportunity (to improve the rating) as we would if we show we have our act together," Scandariato said last week.
But volunteer chiefs said the information requested is confidential and part of individual firefighters' personnel files.
"I or my designee need to speak on behalf of the Yantic fire department," Blanchard said. "There's absolutely no way
Laurel Hill Volunteer Fire Chief
Tensions between the city's one paid fire department, which covers the urban core, and the five surrounding volunteer departments have existed for decades, fueled at times by budget and tax disputes over the much higher property tax rate paid by property owners in the central city fire district.
Efforts to restructure the tax system often are seen as threats to the volunteer fire departments, while some politicians advocate reducing the paid department in favor of more volunteers.
The latest rift comes a Scandariato is appealing a 2013 fire protection analysis that gave the city low scores for fire training. The fire protection rating is one of several variables used by insurance companies to set property insurance rates.
The issue became heated at a recent
But Jencks, who was not at the meeting, later said he couldn't represent any other department, and suggested all volunteer departments and the city's paid department represent themselves at the meeting. Occum Chief
"I don't think it should be going out to another chief who is not from that department, who doesn't know the paperwork," LaChapelle said.
Some of the volunteer chiefs also complained that they were never made aware of the appeal request until late August, making it difficult to compile detailed training records, still kept in paper form as all departments transition to a new computerized system.
Scandariato countered that he was not withholding information from the chiefs. While he repeatedly has requested an appeal of the 2013 rating, the appeal was not granted until late August. On
The issue revolves around the 2013 Public Protection Classification report done by the
The 2013 report gave
The grade is applied citywide, not for each fire district.
Fire department information accounts for 50 percent of the grade, water supply 40 percent and telecommunications 10 percent, with each category broken down into several criteria.
Fire training, which is part of the overall fire department score, ranked low in the 2013 report -- a score of 18.75 out of a possible 100 points.
"This was the first time we were not involved in the evaluation," Bilda said. "NPU was not spoken to at all in the process. I learned about the report. Someone at the office has looked at it. In the past, the
Scandariato said the appeal hearing will include a tour of the emergency police and fire dispatch center at the
Yantic Chief Blanchard agreed that the city's fire training scores should be higher, but he said the overall ISO rating for the city remained the same as past reports. He questioned whether the appeal would be worth the effort and whether the rating would have any effect on homeowners' insurance rates.
That stance angered Alderwoman
"Blanchard said 'so what is it going to save the taxpayers? A few pennies?'" Philbrick said recalling statements at the meeting. "That's a slap in my face as a taxpayer. I don't want him to do that."
The ISO rating is limited to an assessment of the fire response to a structure fire and does not take into account many other community factors that go into insurance rates, Barry said. Among those would be risk of storm damage from hurricanes or tornados, theft, vandalism and even the likelihood of a liability lawsuit in a particular area.
Different insurance companies use the ISO ratings differently, Barry said.
He said in an ISO appeal, the city's rating change might only swing one or two points, so changes likely would not have significant effects on rates. But still, the higher the rating, the better, Barry said.
"Any improvement toward a 1 rating is a positive development," Barry said. "I do think that the homeowners' insurance prices are not going to fluctuate too much in one direction unless the rating changes dramatically."
"A community's investment in fire mitigation is a proven and reliable predicator of future fire losses," Andrews wrote in an email response to questions about the rating system. "Therefore, many insurance companies offer reduced premiums in communities with better fire protection as measured under the Fire Suppression Rating Schedule. By offering economic benefits for communities that invest in firefighting services, the program provides a real incentive for improving and maintaining public fire protection."
"There's a lot of barriers to overcome here," Braddock said of fire department relations. "I don't see we're out of the woods yet."
Martin said the effort to obtain a better fire insurance rating is citywide and shouldn't be controlled by the volunteer departments. He objected to the view that training records belong to the specific departments, since the city pays for fire equipment, apparatuses and many other department expenses.
"When we ask on the committee to provide information, they should provide it," Martin said. "They work for us. Our committee gets them the apparatus and the firetrucks. Most people in
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