Richard Beardslee found out recently he’s on the chopping block at the Poquonnock Bridge Fire Department. The firefighter father of two will be jobless by the end of the month.
“Just constantly thinking about how we’re going to handle this. You know, financially,” said Beardslee on how the last few weeks have been.
He received the news at a meeting with the Fire District Board in June. He and eight other men will be laid off from the department on July 25.
According to Union president Kale Kiely, board members said the cuts stem from a $700,000 drop in their budget.
The layoffs sparked a rally by firefighters, their families and community members on Thursday.
“It’s almost 40 percent of our force between the nine firefighters, and we have some vacancies that they didn’t fill. So, you’re pretty much cutting the department in half,” said Kiely.
Firefighters say that’s a safety issue.
“It’s a tough job to do with just five or six guys, but we make it work. Going down to three or four guys — it’s just not safe. I mean, technically, we’re really not supposed to go into a building unless there’s two guys outside and two guys inside. If you have three guys, you can’t do that,” said Damien Speranza, who is also going to be laid off.
Fox CT reached out to the district board president and vice president, leaving messages by phone and at their homes. Neither offered any comment nor did they show up to Thursday night’s scheduled board meeting. The meeting was canceled Thursday afternoon, Kiely said, because the board president told him not enough members could make it.
“Well, if there had been a meeting, I would’ve liked to have been able to say, ‘This is unsafe!’ ” said Esther Pendola, a Groton mother of three.
She said she’s willing to cough up more cash to save the firemen’s jobs.
“Absolutely. I mean, it’s without question. A supplemental tax? To make sure my house is safe? Absolutely,” said Pendola.
With the next fire district board meeting not scheduled until after pink slips go into effect, Beardslee said he is reluctantly looking into moving on.
“I’ve been here for three years and it’s someplace when I got the job, I looked forward to retiring here,” Beardslee said.