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FireFighter John Keane Letter to the Editor

Letter to the Editor of the
Waterbury Republican-American

     As a taxpayer and a firefighter for the City of Waterbury, I am offended at the repeated attacks I and my colleagues receive at the hands of millionaire editors who know nothing of the City of Waterbury. The Editor describes my wages as "generous", and my working conditions as "cushy." The fact is that Firefighters have not received a pay increase since 1997, and, like most other Waterbury employees, our wages are low when compared to other cities and towns in Connecticut.

     When describing our working conditions, I wonder if you mean to suggest that a firefighter crawling through a burning, smoke-filled, multi-family house, searching for victims could not possibly have it any "cushier." How about a police officer who has a robbery suspect cornered in between houses on a dark street you've probably never heard of ? It doesn't get any cushier than this. These events happen on a regular basis in Waterbury, but often are not printed in the paper. I have been to multiple alarm fires that occur at three in the morning while your paper goes to press. There never was any mention of it, but there was a nice picture of a dumpster fire in Prospect.

     Quite often you describe the large pensions received by some retired Chief Officers, describing the retirees only as firefighters. You don't mention that these pensions are the result of mismanagement by past administrations which you endorsed. You don't mention that we agreed to remove these costly provisions from our contract in 1995. You don't mention that while other municipal workers in other cities contribute nothing to their pension funds, Waterbury employees contribute 9.5% of our pay to ours, only to have the City apply it to the general fund in order to delay revaluation.

     You compare our per-capita spending on fire protection to the statewide average, never mentioning the close proximity of multi-family, balloon frame, wooden structures in this city which are 100 years old. These run-down homes are often owned, but not maintained, by landlords who live in Woodbury, Middlebury, and Prospect. The possibility of a mentally or chemically impaired person dropping a cigarette on a couch, and burning down a six family house may not be a realistic concern on Old Sherman Hill Road in Woodbury, but it is on Walnut Street, Plaza Avenue, and Congress Avenue in Waterbury.

     You stated that firefighters are unwilling to give concessions. This is not true. We have recently offered the City over four million dollars in concessions, and we are hopeful that we will soon have an agreement. At least now we are dealing with a Mayor we can trust.

FireFighter John Keane
Waterbury Fire Department

This letter is to be printed during the week of September 16, 2001.
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