Commission looks to settle suit with Pascoag firefighters for $279K; Voters to weigh in

The Pascoag Fire District Board of Fire Commissioners listened to residents during a meeting in January.

Editor’s note: The special meeting where residents will have the chance to vote on the proposals described below has been cancelled. NRI NOW will publish information on the new date once it is available.

BURRILLVILLE – The Pascoag Board of Fire Commissioners has reached a tentative settlement of the lawsuit brought by 14 firefighters over pay for volunteer shifts, and will need voter approval for a proposed payout of $279,597.

The suit, filed last September, alleged that the district was violating the Fair Labor Standards Act by having those who serve as paid per diem firefighters volunteer to perform the same type of services.

The commission has been in negotiations with the firefighters in the months since, and voted to approve terms of a potential settlement earlier this month, for damages alleged through April 8. According to the terms of the agreement, going forward, the district would retain the right to implement a written procedure to delineate per diem and volunteer employees.

And no changes will be made to the rank structure. The suit was filed last September, and in December, the 14 firefighters received a letter from Pascoag Fire Chief Michael Dexter informing them that they were no longer eligible to volunteer or attend training sessions unless requested, and that going forward, officer positions would be reserved exclusively for volunteer firefighters.

The change was reversed two weeks later following discussions with the attorney representing the firefighters, Richard Sinapi of Providence-based Sinapi Law Associates.

To help fund the settlement, the commission has proposed selling up to $200,000 in district assets. Chairman Christopher Toti told NRI NOW this week that no decisions have yet been made regarding which district assets could be sold.

First, both the settlement and the planned means to defray costs from the dispute will need approval by a two thirds majority of district voters. The issue will be addressed at a special meeting scheduled for Monday, May 22 to be held at the fire station at 141 Howard Ave. starting at 7 p.m. All taxable inhabitants and other residents in the Pascoag Fire District are eligible to vote.

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  1. I am still confused as to whether or not the firemen now getting paid this settlement were “forced to volunteer” or if this is an glitch that someone stumbled onto and is now using to get paid for work that they “volunteered for”? I remember a prior board member once stating that Pascoag needed the volunteers in order to stay afloat. Look how that worked out for the taxpayers.

  2. Please come and vote ‘NO’- you cannot give a blanket permission to the Board to sell what they deem appropriate, without knowing what they want to sell- AND – how their decision might impact your insurance rates!!! They have not gotten outside evaluations, they have not consulted with the Fire Chief- they must have their own agenda- and that is dangerous, and possibly very expensive to the taxpayers and residents of Pascoag.

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