After 75-plus years, volunteer fire dept. stops serving CT town

Morris Volunteer Fire Dept. (Morris Volunteer Fire Department Facebook page)

After serving its town for more than 75 years, a local volunteer fire department has ceased operations.

On Monday night, members of the Morris Volunteer Fire Department Inc. voted to cease providing fire, rescue, and EMS services for the town.

The volunteer fire department posted the news on its Facebook page on Tuesday, saying the decision didn't come lightly, but comes "after several years of trying to forge a reasonable working relationship with the town administrators.”

At the same meeting, the post said members voted to establish an "irrevocable trust" to benefit the residents of Morris.

The Facebook post went on to say the department has been providing fire, rescue, and EMS services in town for 75 years.

“We have risked our lives and livelihoods, as well as devoted countless hours to helping our fellow citizens in times of need. Never in our history have we encountered such a toxic working relationship with our Town officials and so little respect for the immeasurable VOLUNTEER work performed," the Facebook post said.

The members say they hope more citizens will take an interest "in holding our Town officials accountable for this unfortunate outcome.”

Joel Skilton has led the firefighters for seven years.

"When you make life difficult, then they may choose to not volunteer," said Skilton.

The volunteers said the problems started when Tom Weik became the first selectman three years ago.

Previously, they said the town gave the fire department a budget and didn't question how the money was spent.

Now, they say, a purchase order needs to be submitted for anything that costs more than $200. That included physicals for 11 members of the department and Skilton said the town refused to sign off on it.

"It's all about control, he thinks he's in charges," Skilton said.

The volunteers said they're tired of the town having the finals say over how things are spent.

"We answer to the town, we answer to the Board of Finance, but I think he's way out of line and you are not going to be straightening this out," said Skilton.

First Selectman Weik spoke to Channel 3 over the phone and he said he was expecting the volunteers to walk at some point, he just didn't know when. He said new volunteers have been recruited and they could outnumber the current staff.

"Nothing will change except we'll probably have increased daytime service from the Morris Fire Department. We have a number of people that live in town that will be available in the day," said Weik.

Weik says the volunteers will be ready to start the moment the current volunteers depart.

As for the allegations of micromanaging the finances, Weik says it's his style.

"I'm concerned for how our money is spent and every department gets treated the same. Whether it's the highway department, the fire department, or beach and rec. I don't see any problems with any of the other department," Weik said.

There are no plans for last minute negotiations between either side.

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