Chelmsford Town Meeting Funds Atty Barrault's Safer Staffing Award and Keeps All Fire Stations Open

April 29, 2018

A neutral arbitration panel issued a historic decision that requires Town of Chelmsford to increase staffing on fire calls recently at one of its five fire stations. Attorney Leah Barrault represented Chelmsford Fire Fighters, Local 1839 IAFF at the hearing, and introduced evidence demonstrating the safety risk posed to residents and firefighters by the Town's practice on responding to fire calls. Arbitration awards that increase fire station staffing are few and far between. Chelmsford represents the second time in less than five years that Attorney Barrault has persuaded arbitration panels to increase staffing - the only such decisions on record in this time period.

But, in Massachusetts, persuading a neutral arbitration panel to make staffing safer for residents and firefighters is not enough. Town Meeting officials have the final say on whether to fund an award.

At Monday night's Town Meeting, residents overwhelmingly supported its fire fighters and rejected the threats of Fire Chief and Town Manager. The Town Manager and Fire Chief had conducted a not-so-subtle campaign against the Award, arguing that the Town will be forced to close a fire station. They also argued, somewhat ineffectively, that the Fire Department was not the only Town Department underfunded and underresourced, despite the Town having considerable monies in reserve. Local 1839, aided by Attorneys Barrault and Mark Macchi, calmly reached out to voters and town officials to explain the importance of safer staffing. They also demonstrated how the closure of a fire station, which the Town has been debating for years, was not necessary. Local 1839 identified additional monies that could be used to improve staffing and maintain all five fire stations.

Thankfully, the Town Meeting listened to the facts and disregarded threats and rhetoric. Town residents voted overwhelmingly to appropriate enough money to fire fighters to fund the award and to maintain all five fire stations.