Councilman Cory O’Brien said the Town of Hamden is running out of money to keep the fire station next to town hall running.
O’Brien, the 6th District Councilman, said, “If we run out of funds early next week, we may have to close down the fire station and not have a fire truck on the road.”
O’Brien added, “We are to the point where sometime next week, we are going to run out of money in our account that pays our fire fighters to be out there protecting Hamden to be able to fight fire.”
But Mayor Curt Leng said the town doesn’t have a cash problem.
Mayor Curt Leng told News 8, “Our fire department is sound. Our overall budget’s sound. We don’t have a bill problem. We do not have an expense problem and we’re in a pretty good shape.”
Leng added, “The town is not running out of cash, Hamden has a good cash position and a sound position for the overall fiscal budget we are in.”
Brad MacDowall, the 9th District Councilman, said, “The mayor is requesting $300,000 to pay for utilities that haven’t been paid for in months for firefighter salaries.”
Councilman O’Brien said the town has a stack of overdue utilities bills that haven’t been paid in weeks, and the water and electric could be shut off any day.
O’Brien added, “We did not know. We’re not notified at all of the urgency of the past due bills until Tuesday morning.”
Leng stated, ” The Town has one shut-off notice for the Town’s Splash Pad Park meter, which isn’t turned on annually until May. The Town is actually inquiring about the bill for accuracy and it wasn’t received until mid-April.”
Council members we talked to said in order to come up with the money to keep the fire department running, they have to vote on whether or not to withhold payment to the pension fund.
MacDowall added, “We’ve been given the option to pull the money we need out of the pension or we vote no. If we vote no, we are leaving people like our fire chief the option to violate the charter and go into the red in order to pay his people and keep the town safe.”
Leng said, “The Town is not allowed to ever dip into our Pension Fund for anything beyond pension costs. The Town has already met its State obligation for pension funding for this fiscal year. A portion of the excess funds in the Pension line, is being recommended for use to offset variances in a small number of Department line-items. All municipal budgets have line items that fluctuate, with many coming in with less spent and some requiring more funds as the year goes on.”
Leng stated, “Responsible governments are about making choices and making sure your services are there, and choices have to be made and votes have to be taken.”
Leng added, “Even with this transfer, should it be approved, the Town will have deposited nearly $16 million into the Pension Fund this year, with money invested earlier than usual to help the fund. This is one of the highest contributions ever made to the fund.”
At the town counsel meeting on Thursday evening, the fire department transfer of $108,000 from pension was approved with a 10-3 vote. Utilities were tabled and not voted on.
Cory O’Brien said, “On May 6, there will be another vote to underfund the pension by over $2 million “