ATTLEBORO, Mass. (WPRI) — The Attleboro Firefighter’s Union and Mayor Paul Heroux are at odds over when to make several big purchases for the city’s fire department.
During an Attleboro City Council meeting last week, Heroux asked the council for $22,500 to buy a new gear extractor (washing machine and dryer) for the city’s fire department. The council granted the mayor that money, ensuring the fire department will have one new extractor.
But Attleboro Firefighters Union Local 848 President Paul Jacques said the department needs two new extractors, not one.
“We just want to have the tools we need to protect our members so we can protect the communities,” Jacques said.
Jacques said his grandfather, a former firefighter, died of occupational cancer. In his almost 25 years as a firefighter in Attleboro, Jacques said five firefighters have shared the same fate as his grandfather.
“We need the tools to prevent that,” he explained. “That’s what the gear extractors, drying cabinets, and second set of gear would do, allow us to put a decontamination procedure together within the department.”
Jacques said the firefighters are asking for two new extractors designed to remove carcinogenic chemicals and materials. He also said the fire chief has listed a second set of gear for 36 of the city’s 100 firefighters as “urgent” in the city’s Capital Improvements Plan.
Heroux said he is trying to help the department, hence why he asked the city council for the $22,500 in funding for a new washing machine and dryer. But, he said plans to buy a second machine will have to wait at least 90 days until the new fiscal year begins July 1.
“If we spend money on products, like goods and services, even if they are needed… We are not going to have enough money to get us through the end of the year when we have to fill in for overtime,” Heroux explained. “That would likely result in layoffs.”
Jacques said this new equipment and gear should not be about money, but about saving lives. He said the only gear extractor in the city right now is almost 25 years old -labeling it “ineffective.”
The mayor said buying a second new gear extractor will happen, but it is just an issue of timing at this point. Jacques said he is not convinced.
“You see politicians all the time promise the world,” he said. “And then July comes, and how do we know the money is going to be there?”
Heroux said as far as the second set of gear is concerned, he plans to also secure funding for that when the new fiscal year begins in July. Jacques said that gear, for 36 firefighters in the department, could run the city between $65,000 and $80,000.