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Norwood fire department cracks down in response to workers’ compensation claim


NORWOOD — A workers’ compensation claim has led to new rules and regulations at the Norwood Fire Department, which some firefighters say are too strict and may put the future of the organization in jeopardy.

Department members will soon carry ID cards listing their qualifications, and the department’s fire hall will be off-limits to all non-active members. Village trustees voted in favor of the new regulations last month.

According to Mayor James H. McFaddin, the changes are necessary because of an accident at the fire hall that led to a workers’ compensation claim against the village. Norwood expects to pay over $114,000 in workers’ compensation expenses next year, more than half of which is the result of this accident.

Mr. McFaddin and fire department personnel would not disclose the specifics of the incident because of confidentiality restrictions.

The new regulations will reduce risk of future incidents, Mr. McFaddin said.

“We’re trying to protect ourselves as best we can,” he said.

Some fire department officials see the crackdown as draconian.

“We’re not optimistic. Most of the people who have been here for 20 years plus are ready to walk,” said Timothy F. Donahue, department treasurer and former chief.

The department is currently renegotiating its contract, as it does every year, and it may be limited to having only 45 active members instead of the usual 60, he said.

Most galling, he said, is the restriction on who is allowed in the fire hall. Retired members often visit to have a cup of coffee and chat with the firefighters, an option that may no longer be available, he said.

“It’s just cruel, and I don’t know why he would do such a thing,” he said.

Assistant Chief Tina Garrow painted the situation in a better light, saying the restrictions have been blown out of proportion.

“Right now, we are working things out with the village of Norwood. We had a meeting on Sunday, and everything is really good,” she said.

“We are not kicking our members out; we are not being dissolved.”

These reassurances mean little to Mr. Donahue, who said he and other department members will soon seek legal action against the mayor and the village.

“He’s making things awfully difficult for the fire department,” Mr. Donahue said.

Mr. McFaddin said the cost of future accidents would be too much for the village’s meager budget to sustain. The department is in no immediate danger, he said, but without cutting costs it may not have a long future.

The village supports 80 percent of the department’s budget, but only 30 percent of calls to which the department responds are inside the village, he said.

“Long-term it may not be possible to sustain a village fire department,” he said.

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