Personnel Cuts Protested
Fire Chief Sidney F. Lawson, of Montpelier, Vt., protested vigorously an economy measure, so called, of this city council, which would force him to remove a fire inspector and further deplete his already understaffed force. In his efforts he was backed by some 476 citizens who signed a petition protesting the move.
Despite the objections, the city council was adamant although it voted a delay of one month to permit a reexamination of the need of a full-time inspector, and to reopen a study of an injury that partially disabled the inspector due for dismissal, a few years ago.
Presentation of the petition was but one feature of the debate on the fire department issue, which was waged in the council.
Supporters of the protest and petition pointed out that much commercial property in the city is in very poor condition, with many fire traps; a condition that demanded frequent and thorough inspection of fire hazards. Proponents of the economy cut, which also involved reduction in police personnel as well, claimed that the majority of Vermont’s communities do not employ inspectors. However, to emphasize the wisdom of retention of the inspector, it was pointed out that in a four-year period before the appointment of a full-time inspector the Montpelier department responded to 822 calls, involving a property loss of $243,356. This was compared with a similar four-year period with a full time inspector, which showed the department responded to 587 calls, with a property loss of $127,817.
Notwithstanding protest also of the rating bureau, which indicated that a reduction in personnel would adversely affect the efficiency rating of the department, the council voted for the “economy” measure.
Under the present platoon system, the on-duty crew consists of five regulars and an assistant chief. The total force consists of the chief and 15 full-time paid firemen and 20 enrolled volunteers. The Underwriters’ standards for such a community call for 18 regulars and a 33 call-men force.