Merrick Fire Department leaders and Town of Hempstead officials said on July 9 that they had reached an agreement on a new three-year contract for the department’s fire protection services beginning in 2014. The contract will increase the amount of funding that the volunteer department receives from the town, according to department Chief Michael Gargan.
The department last received a funding increase in 2008. The new contract has not been written, but the fire department received a “letter of commitment” from town attorney Joseph Ra agreeing to the three-year deal and funding increase, according to Ron Luparello, a department spokesman and former chief. He and Gargan said that the amount of the increase remains to be “worked out.”
The agreement in principle came about at the Town Board’s meeting on Tuesday, July 9. Fifteen Merrick firefighters came to the meeting, all of them attired in dress uniform. Luparello said in a Herald article the prior week that the firefighters planned to speak at the meeting to call for greater funding. Minutes before the meeting began, Luparello said the firefighters had been “bombarded” by requests from town officials not to protest the department’s funding publicly, and he was no longer sure that the firefighters would make statements.
When the meeting got under way at 10:30 a.m., Luparello and a handful of the department’s other leaders could be seen conferring outside the Town Board’s meeting room. They returned at 10:50 a.m. and signaled to the department members in the audience that they could leave. The firefighters then filed out of the room.
It quickly became clear that the town and the department’s leaders had negotiated a deal in private.
Speaking to a group Merrick firefighters on the sidewalk outside Town Hall, Nassau County Legislator Dave Denenberg, of Merrick, congratulated them on their “victory.”
Luparello and Gargan remained behind. Luparello was the only Merrick firefighter to speak at the meeting. He thanked Town Supervisor Kate Murray, Ra and the Town Board members “for their cooperation regarding the agreement we made today.”
“Your continued support of us is much appreciated,” Luparello said.
“We look forward from today to continue to work with you for the same common goal of serving and protecting the residents of Merrick.”
Murray responded by thanking Luparello and his fellow firefighters for the life-saving services they provide. “We are very, very happy to have come to a resolution,” she said.