WESTFIELD - Morale has declined among members of the Westfield Volunteer Fire Department during the past several months, Westfield Fire Chief Steve Pacanowski told the village's Board of Fire Commissioners at its Tuesday, Sept. 4 meeting.
"What's the public thinking of us now," the chief asked.
Pacanowski said department spirit has been sinking for several months, but pointed in particular to two recent events affecting volunteers.
Photo by Dave O’Connor
Volunteer fireman Jim Pacanowski, foreground, answers questions posed by the Westfield Board of Fire Commissioners at the commission’s Tuesday, Sept. 4 meeting about next summers’ regional volunteer firemen’s convention to be hosted by the Westfield Fire Department. Board members, pictured left to right, are John Belcher, Jack Rabb, Chairman Barry Underwood, Dave Spann and Rick Raynor.
The first was a state comptroller's audit critical of the department's financial practices
The second was a letter written by Village of Westfield Mayor David Carr published last month in this and another local newspaper praising the findings of the audit and reiterating the mayor's concerns about the ties between the department and its fraternal Westfield Firemen's Exempt Association.
"I think they (the public) think things are turning around," Commission Chairman Barry Underwood told Pacanowski.
"When somebody dials the phone you show up," Commissioner David Spann said. "That's all that matters."
Underwood further noted the state comptroller's office has accepted the fire department's plan to correct deficiencies outlined in the audit.
Chief Pacanowski also asked why mail sent to the department is being opened before it is passed on. He gave as an example a letter with a donation from Cummins Engine employees addressed to the department's Cascade Hose Company which, Pacanowski said, was opened at the village offices.
"Did you receive the check," village deputy treasurer Kyle Sunday asked.
"Yes," Pacanowski said.
"People are reassured that the mail is going to Eason Hall," Chairman Underwood said.
Pacanowski said the opening of fire department mail by village employees, "just adds to the questions."
In other matters, fire department treasurer Jud Storms told commissioners the department's accounts at Key Bank will be "electronic henceforth."
"This is all happening as we speak," Storms said and he estimated the department will save about $400 a year because of the change.
Also, according to Underwood, "I ain't gonna let this go another month," didn't mean Jim Pacanowski was no longer in charge of the department's website, but rather that Pacanowski had a month to improve the site. Underwood complained the report published in this newspaper's Thursday, Aug. 16 edition was in error about Pacanowski's tenure.
During the August meeting, Underwood pointed out the fire commission's meeting agendas and minutes are not posted. He renewed his criticism during the September meeting, this time citing the "fdwny" web address. Underwood believes the current web address is not easily remembered.
Pacanowski countered everyone knows "FDNY," the New York City Fire Department's initials, and the local department just adds a "w."
Underwood did express satisfaction with Pacanowski's recent work on the website.
"He's doing a great job," the chairman said.
Commissioners approved department membership for Kimberly Baker, who is returning to the fire hall for the second time.
Clergy membership in the department for certain duties will not require fire training as the result of the commissioners' unanimous approval of the new policy.