Hope firefighters, town continue without contract

Edited: Further details have been added to the story.

Hope volunteer firefighters will go at least another month without a formal contract. The department went 10 months last year without an agreement with the town and ended up receiving about half of what they normally require to operate.

The Town Council members received the contract earlier this month and decided this week to have it looked over by the town’s emergency services committee before signing off on it, likely at next month’s council meeting. Town Council President Clyde Compton explains some of his concerns.

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Compton also said he is concerned that the fire department is asking for the same amount of money as in previous years, even though they ended their ambulance service last year.

He said that as a town council member he wants to best represent the interest of taxpayers.

Town officials originally held off on an agreement last year because the fire department was being sued over a new fire station under construction on the east side of town. The two sides settled on an agreement in October that paid out about $31,000 dollars, less than half of the $69,000 the firefighters have been requesting for several years.

Fire officials say that financial crunch caused them to miss equipment tests, maintenance and training that they normally perform each year. Fire Chief Randy Wood explains:

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Wood said that overall though, he is happy that the two sides are working toward a solution and he is optimistic that the agreement can be worked out soon.

Town Manager Melina Fox pointed out that the in-place memorandum of understanding between the fire department and town, which went into effect in October, would have allowed the department to be reimbursed for up to $69,000 last year. The agreement requires the department to submit bills to the town, which would be paid after approval by the Town Council and it is still in effect until a contract is signed. The first reimbursements to the department were paid by the town in December.