Letter Details Lawsuit and Disagreement in Salem

We are dedicated and passionate volunteers, who are here to serve the community of Salem, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. We respond to all calls. We are your friends, your neighbors, your co-workers, your family. We put in hundreds of hours of training. We spend a lot of time together, and we do not always get along, just like family.  But at the end of the day, we are here for one reason, to save your life.

We are also here to fight fires, to aid in vehicle accidents, or other types of accidents, rescue horses, rescue kayakers, boaters, swimmers, you name it. We host dinners, Halloween parties, and we do our best to support our community. Now, we need your help.

We want to provide you with some information and to ask for your help.

  • If you call 911 for Emergency Ambulance Services, we will respond with the Ambulance.
  • If you call 911 for Emergency Ambulance Services after July 1, 2021, we will respond, with the Ambulance.
  • If you call 911 for an Emergency that requires the use of other apparatus besides the Ambulance after July 1, 2021, we will respond.

We are in fact suing the Town of Salem for funds owed to the Gardner Lake Volunteer Fire Company, Inc., that YOU the town taxpayer have appropriated for our use, but the Town has refused to pay. This lawsuit was filed in April of 2020, after repeated requests and attempts to meet with the Town of Salem  regarding the  nominal fee/stipend system that pays volunteers for  covering shifts that are NOT covered by paid staff.  There is more information on this, and the lawsuit attached, and on the state judicial website.

In September of 2020, with no explanation, the Town of Salem Board of Selectman voted to cancel the Emergency Services Agreement with Gardner Lake Volunteer Fire Company Inc., effective June 30, 2021. The last paragraph of this Agreement involves the return of all Town of Salem assets housed at our fire station. While we own the fire house located at 429 Old Colchester Road, and we own the Ambulance, we do not own the fire fighting and rescue apparatus, which are in the name of the Town of Salem. There had been no communications received from the Town of Salem regarding negotiation  of a new contract, or about the  return of the equipment during the ten months since the notice of cancellation of the contract, until Monday, June 14, 2021 after the publication of the article in the CT Examiner  Online Newspaper on June 12, 2021, and many Facebook posts.

Neither the minutes of the September 1, 2020, Board of Selectman meeting where the vote occurred to cancel the contract nor the letter notifying us of the cancellation indicate why the contract was canceled. Our repeated requests for  this information remain unanswered as of this writing.

We have received communication from a member of the Board of Selectman requesting that we drop the lawsuit filed in April of 2020, however, the lawsuit does not prevent  a negotiation of a new contract or stipend/nominal fee agreement.

The termination of this agreement, for unknown reasons, could potentially affect our ability to respond to emergencies (fire} and could potentially affect the Town of Salem’s liability insurance, vehicle insurance, worker’s comp insurance, etc., for the paid staff and the volunteers, as well as impact taxpayer’s liability, homeowners, and vehicle insurances. Business owner liability insurance  and operating costs would significantly increase should the Town not be able to meet its statutory requirement to provide ambulance and fire protection services.

The state statutes require the town provide emergency and fire protection services. Both services are currently being provided by Gardner Lake Volunteer Fire Company, Inc., one volunteer agency which the Town of Salem has attempted to defund, has canceled their agreement with, and has failed to cooperate with. The members of the Gardner Lake Volunteer Fire Company, Inc., feel it is in the best interests of the members, and in the best interest of the taxpayers, for fi re and ambulance protection, to resolve this issue in a timely manner.

The lack of agreement creates a massive liability and public safety risk for th e Town of Salem.

The members of th e Board of Selectman have knowingly put the town, and subsequently, the taxpayers in this position, by canceling the agreement without cause, and failing to negotiate a new agreement. When you buy homeowners insurance, they ask you where the nearest fire station is, where the nearest fire hydrant is, etc.

The Board of Selectman had done nothing and had been unwilling to meet to resolve this issue, until Tuesday, June 15, 2021, when they held a Special Meeting, in an Executive Session, blocking our members and the taxpayers from hearing the discussions about public safety. The first selectman has agreed NOT to request the return of any motor vehicles, trucks, trailers, or watercraft on June 30th, and that we will have access to the funds approved for our use by the taxpayers.

He mentioned, as he has in the past, that the 2003 and 2006 agreement need to be updated, however, he again fails to state why or what needs to be changed in either agreement, or why the 2006 agreement was canceled. We are very concerned about the lack of effort to resolve this in a timely manner over the last ten months.

The Gardner Lake Volunteer Fire Company, Inc., will continue to protect the health and safety of the Citizens of the Town of Salem by continuing to respond to the best of our ability.

Please reach out to the Board of Selectman and ask that they cooperate with the Gardner Lake Volunteer Fire Company in the resolution of the contract, resolution of stipend/nominal fee contract and payments, and the lawsuit. Encourage them to sit down with us and prioritize reaching an agreement to continue services to protect the health and safety of the Citizens of the Town of Salem, and its visitors.

For more information, please view the documents on our website under “Public Information”, www.gardnerlakevolunteerfirecom pany.com.

Pete Silva, Chief
Gardner Lake Volunteer Fire Company

Cheryl Philopena, President
Gardner Lake Volunteer Fire Company


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