NORWICH, Conn. (WTNH) — Norwich voters took to the polls Wednesday to strike down a plan about if the city should implement a new strategy about responding to fire calls.
An ordinance recently passed by the city council put in place automatic aid, which means that both the city’s paid and volunteer firefighters would respond to serious calls such as structure fires.
Volunteer fire chiefs had agreed to look at the proposal as a six-month study, but said they were blindsided when council members voted to make it an ordinance before the study was finished.
“They feel like they were blindsided by the ordinance,” said Joseph DeLucia, the president pro tempore of the Norwich City Council. “They really shouldn’t have been. I was very clear that I anticipated it being an ordinance from at least a year back. It’s why it was on our agendas at the public safety meeting.”
But Mayor Pete Nystrom said that the intent was to wait until the six months were over before writing the law.
“Joe just jumped the gun, forced it down everybody’s throats, and when you do things like that, people get upset, and they feel they’re left out,” Nystrom said.
DeLucia said the ordinance was about response times, and said it will not increase taxes.
Volunteer fire chiefs and supporters were able to force a special election and place it in voters’ hands. Wednesday night, DeLucia confirmed that the plan had lost, with 676 votes for it, and 2,357 votes against it.
“I would like to express my gratitude to all the people who stood with me in support of the Automatic-Aid ordinance, and in support of our efforts to make the city a little safer,” he said in a written statement to News 8. “It is disappointing that the ordinance did not withstand the vote. It is my sincere hope that the opponents of the ordinance will keep their word to you, the citizens, that Automatic-Aid will permanently remain the policy of the Norwich Fire Service, and to work with the City Manager to craft an ordinance of their own.”
While the polls were open, voters voiced their support and opposition for the plan.
“The Norwich Fire Department should probably be the lead in coverage, and God bless the volunteers,” said Don Boisvert, who supported the ordinance.
Others disagreed with the new approach.
“I vote no because we have a lovely volunteer department,” Mary Lunt said.