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 firstname.lastname@example.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.