OGDENSBURG — Just hours before the City Council’s raucous meeting on Monday night, when Stephen P. Jellie was voted in as permanent city manager, members of the Ogdensburg firefighters’ union gathered in front City Hall to express their dissent.
Local union president Jason Bouchard spoke before about 100 people saying the City Council lacks vision and is practicing scorched earth politics in their attempts to reduce the size of the fire department. Sam Fresina, state president of the professional firefighters’ association, said the city manager is not qualified and does not care about the residents of the city.
City officials and the fire department have been at odds since Mr. Jellie sent a memo on Sept. 6, barring fire department personnel, on or off duty, from speaking with the media about department business. The memo has resulted in Ogdensburg Firefighters International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1799 members filing an improper practice charge against the city with the state Public Employment Relations Board on Sept. 17.
Earlier in the day Monday, Mr. Jellie said the city cannot sustain the level of services it provides now and that he’s been asking the fire union to negotiate a way to make some reductions.
“The City of Ogdensburg is doing everything possible to lay out the facts and only the facts; the city’s economic condition is dire and we will be forced into financial ruin if we don’t act now. From my view, the personal attacks on the Mayor, members of council and myself are just the latest tactic to avoid the real topics and delay until another election takes place,” Mr. Jellie said in an email.
“I reaffirm my position, the firefighter’s union continues to assert that their needs are greater than that of the city as a whole and they will continue to assert that position regardless of how it impacts the city and the tax paying residents including support for the deliberately false and deceptive information provided to the public by one of their members last week,” he added.
Mr. Bouchard said firefighters are not ignorant to the financial struggle of the city, but the safety of Ogdensburg is their paramount concern.