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 email@example.com, and Deputy Chief Ken Cast may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.