NS Fire & Rescue readies for new hires; Council will commit to looking at future staff increases

Finance Director Cynthia DeJesus, left, explains the affect of the fire contract change on the budget, with Solicitor David Igliozzi sitting center and Town Administrator Paul Zwolenski at right.

NORTH SMITHFIELD – Contract changes are now underway to account for two new firefighter/EMTs to be added to the staff of North Smithfield Fire & Rescue Services.

And Town Councilors on Monday said they’ll also sign a memorandum of agreement, with a commitment to look at the need for more personnel on yearly basis going forward.

Chief David Chartier told the board this week that he’s already hired the individuals who, once trained, will fill in scheduling gaps, allowing the department to be fully staffed 8.5 hours a day, Monday through Friday. The increase, which will bring the 23-member department up to 25, was passed as part of the annual budget approved by councilors in June.

The new hires are expected to help save funds spent for mutual aid from neighboring fire departments – and cut down the time spent waiting for personnel during an emergency.

“We all heard horror stories of people waiting forever,” said Town Council President John Beauregard, who first brought the idea of staff increases to budget discussions in June. “That was the impetus of us wanting to do this.”

The approved hires – expected to cost the town $216,000 annually for the next three years – come just as North Smithfield prepares to finalize a new contract with the privately-run department.

Chartier told NRI NOW this week that he’s also filled a vacancy, and plans to send three trainees to the fire academy for the next training session, which begins Monday, August 29.

But the chief told councilors it is just the start of what’s needed to bring the small department up to speed.

“That leaves nights and weekends in the same position that we’re in right now,” he told the board Monday.

Tentatively, town officials have said they’d like to see two additional staff members added to NSFD in 2023, and a final two in the third year budget cycle, for a total of six. Final decisions on future increases, however, could be dictated by the changes that come with elections the chief pointed out, asking current members to sign a memorandum stating, “We all agree that we are going to continue to focus on this every year.”

“The only thing that would commit the town to is: we have to sit down and look at it,” Chartier said.

The chief had support among all who spoke on Monday, August 1.

“I won’t be sitting here, but we need to continue to review it,” said Councilor Paul Vadenais, who is not seeking reelection this year. “I hope people realize: this is not the answer to all of it.”

With waits for fire and rescue services in North Smithfield that often far exceed the national average, the chief noted the hires mark a move in the right direction.

“It’s a monumental step that the town is taking,” Chartier said. “Hopefully we’re going to see some impact, a little bit at a time.”

Councilors briefly discussed adding the new personnel via an addendum to the fire services agreement, rather than in the contract itself, but ultimately pointed again to concerns over the changing politics that come with each election.

“Who knows who will be sitting here next year?” said Councilor Kim Alves. “They need to go into the contract so we’re not knocked back down to 23 people.”

“We’ve got to take steps forward. I don’t think we should take that chance,” Alves added.

“I think it’s important that we lock at least those two people in,” Chartier said, with others also in agreement.

“I don’t want to be dramatic, but it could be a matter of life and death,” said Beauregard.

“It’s not a luxury. It’s a necessity,” added Councilor Claire O’Hara.

Beauregard said a final draft of the new agreement will be ready for vote at the council’s next meeting Monday, August 15.  

Chartier thanked the group, but noted that if the votes takes longer, new staff will miss the deadline to begin training at the end of the month.

“They’re ready to go,” he said.

Beauregard reassured the chief.

“It’s going to happen,” he said.  

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  1. As the wife of an NSDPW Foreman I take offense @concerned taxpayer. We have lived in NS our entire lives, born and raised, and now raising our family here as well. Quick ? How about you…are you actually a true townie?? My husband has busted his ass since 1994 for this town as a town worker and also on his family’s farm and continues to do so without a single complaint…note to self @concerned taxpayer…be more like my husband!

  2. “The tendency to whining and complaining may be taken as the surest sign symptom of little souls and inferior intellects.” ― Lord Jeffrey

    “Stop complaining”

  3. Ray M “Beware the beast Union, for the union is the Devil’s pawn. Alone among God’s primates, the union takes for sport or lust or greed. Let the union not breed in great numbers, for the union will make a desert of his home and yours. Shun the union; drive him back into his jungle lair, for the union is the harbinger of death.” Just look at all the empty union mills in northern RI all dead. Let’s not forget Town Hall closing at noon today. No business would survive when not open.

  4. Concerned Taxpayer-Ineffective union employees? All you do is bash the municipal employees and the town. Are you someone who didn’t get a town job at some point and are just bitter? You are just a miserable person who will complain and whine about anything and everything. However, you don’t seem to be volunteering or running for office.

  5. Eric first the money is not being allocated it is an increase in spending and thus taxes. Second the school spending is out of control and the results are poor. I would be ok with spending if it was effectively spent. But every day I witness inefficiency, waste, and ineffective union employees demanding large annual increases for less working hours and poor quality. We need to practice fiscal responsibility and be creative in stretching dollars to get the best bang for buck. Until I see money be spent wisely I will continue to fly the flag of discontent. Always remember never trust a politician to tell the truth.

  6. I like to know how we where able to run all the prior years with less staff and now we need to add 6 additional employees. I really don’t trust that we are getting the real story. I am sure if we thought about the situation we could come up with some creative ideas and not to just add staff and cost. I love when you have a union person making decisions and saying it’s going to happen. This is spoken like a true union leader with zero respect for the taxpayers. In a real business you would have to cut cost in another area to balance the spending. Just remember most union companies in northern RI went out of business and cities and towns may be next. Also note that state pension cost will need to be increased significantly next year when the stock market return is negative this year and the state plans on a ridiculous 9% return each year. Hold onto your wallets with this group or maybe we can make some changes in November to slow spending. Let’s just do it and get a new group on the council.

    • @Concerned Taxpayer — you have a gripe whenever money is allocated anywhere in the town. Schools & emergency services are two of the top priorities for any town, yet you always have an opposing stance. Where would it make you happy to see your tax dollars spent?

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