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Massena board approves two fire contract amendments connected to code enforcement duties


MASSENA - Village board members approved two addendums to its contract with its paid firefighters Wednesday night that will pave the way for the department to permanently take over the village’s code enforcement duties.

While contract additions were approved, Trustee Francis J. Carvel voted no in both instances.

“This is going to be added to their contract,” he said. “It’s very easy to put in, but almost impossible to take out.”

The first amendment added language to the department’s management contract that will allow the village to appoint the department’s foreman as code enforcement officer, noting the foreman, currently Ken McGowan, must first be trained as a New York state code enforcement official.

“The Massena Fire Department foreman will be responsible for all aspects of code enforcement within the village boundaries including, but not limited to, commercial fire inspections, new construction inspections, consumer complaints, tenant and landlord complaints, other enforcement disputes, etc.,” states the agreement, which also noted the foreman could assist the town’s code enforcement officer with “commercial fire inspections and other code enforcement issues on an emergency basis, as long as an agreement exists between the village and town of Massena.”

Mr. Carvel suggested including the amendment in a policy manual versus a labor contract.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen in 2020 or 2015, even a month from now,” he said. “If you put it in there (policy manual), it will be easy to change.”

Mr. Hidy said though, similar language is already included in the management contract, noting that it was added to allow the department to fill in in the absence of a code enforcement officer.

“It’s already in there,” he said.

Trustee Patricia Wilson said code enforcement is something the village needs to have, and she considers this a good way to do it.“We need this service and this is an ideal way to get it,” she said.

The second contract addition called for the village’s permanent firefighters to receive code enforcement training in order to serve as assistant code enforcement officers.

Mr. Carvel again voted no on this resolution, noting he doesn’t feel like a labor contract is the proper place for this issue to be addressed, and Mr. Hidy again noted that similar language already exists in the contract.

According to Mr. Hidy, the current contract calls for a minimum of two and maximum of four permanent fire fighters to be trained as code enforcement officers.

The proposal originally before the board Wednesday night called for that language to be changed to a minimum of six and a maximum of eight, but Trustee Albert C. “Herb” Deshaies questioned why there was a need for so many code enforcement officers.

“Why do we need so many of them?” he asked. “Why don’t we go with the bare minimum and then add to it as necessary? I would rather go with that until we know how much it’s going to cost us.”

While the required training is offered at no charge, the village does pay mileage and lodging to those attending the training, which is held at various locations across the state.

Although Mr. Deshaies suggested changing the language to simply say five code enforcement officials, he did vote yes on the resolution after it was changed to a minimum of five and a maximum of eight.

Mr. McGowan suggested keeping the maximum number at eight in case the training was ever held locally, noting that would allow all of the department’s drivers to become certified.

Mr. McGowan noted that in order to become a certified code enforcement officer, trainees must complete six, three-day classes.

“Are they things that could be done online?” Mr. Hidy asked.

Mr. McGowan said online code enforcement classes are not yet offered, but could be in the future.

“That’s something they’re looking at,” he said.

Regardless of the number, Ms. Wilson said she feels like the village is getting a good deal.

“I still think this is a good deal,” she said. “We’re ahead of the game. This is less than we would be paying a single guy.”

Former Massena Mayor Charles R. Boots asked how much the firefighters are being paid for taking on these additional duties.

“How are they compensated?” he asked, to which Ms. Wilson replied, “They are not getting paid extra. They are already getting paid for being at the fire hall.”

The agreement approved Wednesday night calls for certified members of the department to perform code enforcement duties from the hours of 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, “except in life saving situations.”

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