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More Support for the Morris Volunteer Fire Department
9/7/2017 10:32:00 PM

Bob and Gail Kluge, residents of East Shore Road, have put up a sign on his property expressing support for the Morris Volunteer Fire Department (MVFD).

“We support the MVFD,” it says simply—though there’s a lot behind that simple declaration.

“We support the MVFD because of the volunteers who provide safety and emergency services in any type of situation,” they say. “When the ‘siren goes off,’ you know these people are prepared if necessary to put their own lives on the line in order to protect each and every resident.”

Bob and Gail Kluge are concerned about the ongoing difficulties between the MVFD and the First Selectmen over issues related to ambulance and EMS service in town.

For many years the fire department’s trained EMS providers handled ambulance and emergency response calls from 6 p.m. overnight to 6 a.m., and paid providers handled the daytime shift because MVFD volunteers have full-time jobs and can’t staff the ambulance around the clock.

As part of the system, the MVFD would give the town almost all the revenue received from ambulance call billing, as a way of offsetting the cost of the paid daytime staff. When the legal agreement on billing revenue ended in May 2016 and a new one could not be negotiated easily with the First Selectmen, tensions began.

In the spring, when the underfunded budget for the additional daytime manpower ran out, the MVFD gave up the PSA for the Town of Morris. A PSA is essentially the formal authorization and responsibility for providing emergency services—in this case ambulance and EMS—in in a particular geographic area of Connecticut.

These days, ambulance service is being provided by Litchfield Ambulance, a situation the MVFD sees as detrimental in many ways.

The MVFD is in the process of filing an application with the state Office of Emergency Management Services (OEMS), asking that the MVFD get the PSA back.

The First Selectmen says he has done what’s necessary to support that, but Litchfield Ambulance must also formally support it. Also, no agreement has yet been signed to cover ambulance billing revenue going forward and how the Town and MVFD will work together.

“To our knowledge, the Town of Morris has never had a problem agreeing to a contract with the MVFD,” Bob and Gail Kluge say. “This did not become a problem until the current administration took office.”

It is the administration, they say, that is responsible for ambulance service being taken out of town to Litchfield, and he questions the Town’s actions concerning the ambulance itself, calling it inappropriate that “the Morris ambulance was taken from the MVFD building without the volunteers’ knowledge, damaged and put into hiding. … The ambulance belongs to all of the taxpayers in Morris for the benefit of everyone’s safety.”

As a member of the Economic Development Commission, Bob Kluge says he is also very concerned about how the Town’s actions may impact people and businesses thinking about relocating to Morris. “It will certainly affect how they view our town,” he says.

The Kluges also fault the Board of Finance, aligned with the First Selectmen, for ensuring the MVFD only has a bare bones budget, while other town departments are not subjected to the same austerity.

Instead, the First Selectmen and finance board should work constructively with the fire department, he says, provide sufficient resources and encourage an environment that would attract new volunteers.

“We support the MVFD members for the rigorous training they go through, as well as the ongoing certification and training throughout their service years,” the Kluges say. “Additionally, the fact that they are volunteers and give of their time and service selflessly speaks volumes about their dedication to the town. We urge all residents to support the MVFD—it may be a matter of life and death.”

Anyone who wants to talk to Bob Kluge about his views may call him at 860-567-4128.

MVFD Chief Joel Skilton may be reached by email at chief@morrisfiredept.org, and Deputy Chief Ken Cast may be reached at deputychief@morrisfiredept.org.

Signs of Support for the MVFD Sprouting Around Town
8/23/2017 9:43:31 PM

We’ve been noticing homemade signs showing support for the Morris Volunteer Fire Department (MVFD) being posted by residents on their property.

One of the signs showed up a couple of weeks ago on Todd Hill Road, the work of Kevin Curley, who lives on the corner of Todd Hill and Kenyon Road with his wife and three children.

“We Support MVFD,” the sign declares simply.

“It’s our family’s belief that first responders are a backbone of our community,” Kevin Curley says. “In Morris, they’re not only the people who come and help us in a time of need but they’re also our neighbors and friends.”

Kevin says his family is concerned about the tensions between the MVFD and the Town Hall administration, and uncomfortable with the fire department being “seen as some sort of enemy to the town because of a disagreement on financial matters.”

The tensions are the result of a complex situation concerning ambulance and EMS service in Morris. For many years the fire department’s trained EMS providers handled ambulance and emergency response calls from 6 p.m. overnight to 6 a.m., and paid providers handled the daytime shift because MVFD volunteers have full-time jobs and can’t staff the ambulance around the clock.

As part of the system, the MVFD would give the town almost all the revenue received from ambulance call billing, as a way of offsetting the cost of the paid daytime staff. When the legal agreement on billing revenue ended in May 2016 and a new one could not be negotiated easily with the First Selectmen, tensions began.

All the fire department has ever wanted in return for the dedication, time, effort, training and on-call status of its volunteers is for the town to use ambulance billing revenue for taking care of the emergency response equipment and providing training.

These days, ambulance service is being provided by Litchfield Ambulance from its base in Litchfield, a situation the MVFD sees as detrimental in many ways.

The MVFD is in the process of filing an application with the state Office of Emergency Management Services (OEMS), asking that the MVFD once again be given what’s called the PSA for the Town of Morris. A PSA is essentially the formal authorization and responsibility for providing emergency services—in this case ambulance and EMS—in in a particular geographic area of Connecticut.

We sent certified letters to the First Selectman and the Chief of Litchfield Ambulance, stating that we need signed letters of support for the MVFD to submit the application. The Morris First Selectman has signed the application, and at this point we are still working to obtain the required letters of support in the proper form in order to make the PSA application complete.

Additionally, and importantly, MVFD officers continue to diligently negotiate with town officials to implement a comprehensive service level agreement between the town and the fire department, which will address the issues that have been on the table and hopefully bring about a more professional working relationship.

Meanwhile, it’s heartening to see the Curley family and others publicly expressing support for the MVFD, as well having an accurate understanding of the situation.

“We support our first responders and we want our town to do whatever is necessary for our first responders to be ready and capable,” Kevin Curley says. “You need take care of the people who come to your house when it’s on fire, your child has been injured or your elderly family member has issues.”

In terms of supporting the MVFD, he adds, “This is not an area where we should be extremely frugal. If you don’t support them, eventually the community hurts and that is unacceptable to us.”

To discuss this issue, email MVFD Chief Joel Skilton at chief@morrisfiredept.org or call 860-567-7441. And ask him about becoming a member and joining a terrific “family” of volunteers who happily donate their time, energy and training to make sure everyone in our wonderful small town is safe and secure.

Meet Our MVFD Volunteers: Mark Silver
8/7/2017 12:49:27 PM

In photo below, Morris Volunteer Fire Department Member Mark Silver stands in front of Engine 3, the 30-year-old tanker that needs to be replaced.

Meet Our MVFD Volunteers: Mark Silver

(MVFD Officers’ note: This is the second in a series of posts introducing and showing appreciation for the dedicated men and women who volunteer their time, sweat, and passion as members of the Morris Volunteer Fire Department (MVFD) and Morris EMS. If you see one of the fine folks featured here around town, say hello—and we’re sure they’d appreciate a “thank you” also.)

Mark Silver joined the MVFD in 2011, but his inspiration to volunteer goes all the way back to a childhood experience.
His stepmother, Charlotte Silver, was a fire department member many years ago, when Mark was a boy, and it was then he got his first taste of what going on a call was like.
“One of the nights she was babysitting me, she went out on a call and I went with her,” Mark remembered of an incident in which a mini bulldozer had hit a telephone pole and the driver of the heavy equipment had gone through the windshield. Alcohol was involved.
Mark recalls sitting in his stepmother’s car and being fascinated by the firefighters and the State Police officers, dressed in fine uniforms and calmly dealing with a situation that resulted in the accident victim—not badly injured—being escorted to the police cruiser, and passing close enough by Mark that he could see shards of glass in the accident victim’s hair.
“That was quite inspiring,” Mark said of the incident—so much so that he would later study law enforcement in college. At the moment, he’s in the landscaping business.
“After college I thought it was a good thing to do, helping the town out a bit,” Mark said of volunteering for the MVFD. “I’ve always enjoyed helping people.”
In addition to having some training as a firefighter, Mark is an EMR (Emergency Medical Responder), and he plans to become an EMT. His shift on the Morris Volunteer Ambulance was on Sunday evenings.
As part of a disagreement between the MVFD and the First Selectmen over details surrounding local EMS service, there’s no ambulance in the Morris Firehouse at the moment. Service is being provided by Litchfield Ambulance.
“Some people don’t realize how much the ambulance does around here. It’s a very important thing,” said Mark, who lives on Deer Island on Bantam Lake and recalls Life Star Helicopter needing to be called for a number of lake incidents.
Not just Morris residents are implicated by the local ambulance service being undermined, Mark said. Referencing a mutual aide situation, he explained, “If Bethlehem needed help, they would have to wait for Litchfield.”
In addition to his role as a firefigh
ter and EMR, Mark has a leadership position on the MVFD Nominating Committee. “If you want to be a member of the fire department, you have to go through me,” said Mark, who has been on the three-member committee for four years.
“We’re always looking for more members,” he added, mentioning a new volunteer who joined in part to be a member of the Dive Team. “You give what time you have,” Mark said.

We’re always looking for more volunteers like Mark. To join our “family,” email MVFD President Kevin DeRoehn at president@morrisfiredept.org or call 860-567-7441 to learn more about becoming a member.

Meet Our MVFD Volunteers: Katelyn Shemms
7/27/2017 11:25:47 AM

(MVFD Officers’ note: This is the first in a series of posts introducing and showing appreciation for the dedicated men and women who volunteer their time, sweat, and passion as members of the Morris Volunteer Fire Department and Morris EMS. If you see one of the fine folks featured here around town, say hello—and we’re sure they’d appreciate a “thank you” also.)

Katelyn Shemms is a MVFD all-star.
A member for approximately 5 years, she’s a full-time nursing student at Porter & Chester Institute, she has two jobs, helps care for family members—and is one of our most dedicated volunteers.
“Helping people is my thing,” says Katelyn, a certified EMR (Emergency Medical Responder) who is trained in CPR and First-Aid. Her mother, grandmother and an aunt are all nurses, so helping people runs in the family.
On the EMS side of the MVFD, Katelyn had regular shifts driving the ambulance during the Monday and Wednesday 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. shifts. Even when she wasn’t on the schedule, she’s the kind of volunteer who would happily get out of bed in the middle of the night to respond to even a minor situation.
A true team player, who helps Fire Chief Joel Skilton and other officers with presentations on fire prevention and public safety, Katelyn has done National Incident Management System (NIMS) training and she has the Q endorsement on her Connecticut license, which means she’s qualified to operate fire apparatus.
“I like driving big trucks,” she says. (Who doesn’t?)
She hasn’t been driving the ambulance lately, however, and that troubles her on multiple levels. As part of a disagreement between the MVFD and the First Selectmen over details surrounding local EMS service, there’s no ambulance in the Morris Firehouse at the moment. Service is being provided by Litchfield Ambulance.
“I feel lost without the ambulance,” says Katelyn, who is concerned about the public safety aspects of not having an ambulance in town, especially in the summer when activity at Bantam Lake reaches its annual peak, and when there are three active camps in town, one offered by Morris Beach & Recreation, and Camp Awosting and Camp Washington.
Sooner than many families might want, the new school year will start, and while James Morris School is adjacent to the firehouse, ambulance and EMS service for students and staff is much farther away than it used to be—and farther away than it should be, says Katelyn, who expresses hope the MVFD and town leadership will work out their issues and bring back local EMS and ambulance service. 
“This is my second home,” Katelyn says of the MVFD. We truly value that level of dedication, and we hope it’s also valued by residents of Morris and visitors, who are safer and more secure because of the service provided by Katelyn and all of our volunteers.
We’re always looking for more volunteers like Katelyn. To join our “family,” email MVFD President Kevin DeRoehn at president@morrisfiredept.org or call 860-567-7441 to learn more about becoming a member.

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