City awaits third safety evaluation Shelton\u2019s Public Health and Safety Commission met earlier this month to get an update on the city\u2019s effort to improve the condition of the Echo Hose Volunteer Fire Department building located on Coram Avenue. The commission, composed of Aldermen Noreen McGorty, Jim Capra, and Jack Finn, met with the city\u2019s director of public safety and emergency management services and one of its volunteer fire captains on Feb. 1 to discuss some repairs that have yet to be completed at the Echo Hose facility. Fourth Ward Alderman Capra said his concerns stem from a visit he paid to the fire station in downtown Shelton last month, when an anonymous member of the company invited him to see the condition of the facility. Capra said that upon his arrival he was shown the cracked floor within the facility\u2019s bay where the department stores its emergency vehicles. He was also made aware of cracks in the ceiling of the building\u2019s basement located directly below the vehicles. He added that he perceived the damages to the floor and ceiling as not only extremely dangerous but also a form of disrespect to the members of the fire company. As a precaution and after Capra\u2019s visit to the firehouse, the city\u2019s director of public safety and emergency management services, Mike Maglione, said, two of the fire company\u2019s four emergency vehicles, including its ladder truck, were relocated from the company\u2019s bay to the Pine Rock Co. 4 and Fire Department maintenance facility located on Riverdale Avenue. The maintenance facility is located approximately a half mile from the Echo Hose fire station. The vehicles will remain in these temporary locations until a third study determines that the Echo Hose facility on Coram Avenue is safe, according to Shelton fire Chief Francis Jones. Mayor Mark Lauretti said the concerns about the floor have been voiced in the past, but after two studies were conducted by both an engineering company and the city\u2019s building maintenance director, it was determined by Szeker Engineering that no major threats were posed to the members of the Echo Hose Fire Department. Issues resurfaced The cracks in the department\u2019s floor and ceiling constitute one of several existing issues that Capra shared during the Feb. 1 meeting. Capra said another concern was that the company\u2019s broken exhaust fan, which is designed to keep the volunteers from breathing diesel fumes, hadn\u2019t been replaced in years. He also claimed that when he walked upstairs to the Echo Hose hall, he smelled gas. Alderman Finn said these issues have existed for nearly 10 years and were reported to the city prior to Capra\u2019s inquiry. Capra also said the fire department\u2019s desk chairs were in bad shape. He\u00a0offered the captain of the Echo Hose Fire Department, Joe Clark, his own chair that he uses at aldermen meetings in exchange for one of the old chairs currently in the station to show his appreciation for the department. \u201cThat should make a statement,\u201d said Capra. \u201cBut seriously, you can take my chair and I will sit on one of the office chairs.\u201d Clark said the list of repairs yet to be fixed also includes several drains inside the Echo Hose facility that have been clogged for several years. Clark said these issues have already been reported to the city. Lauretti has directed the head of building maintenance, Chris Potucek, to bring in Szeker Engineering to investigate the condition of the apparatus floor at the Echo Hose fire station. This is the same company that did the last two investigations, in 2005 and 2008, according to Maglione. He said the past two studies that were conducted didn\u2019t reveal any threat to the members of the fire company, but that preventative action was recommended. It was recommended that the cracks in the floor\/ceiling be sealed, but no action was taken after either study, said Maglione. Capra said he assumed the condition of the floor could only have worsened after nine years since the last study, considering its history. He also said he\u2019s not confident, but hopes the repairs will be made in the near future. Aldermen upset over lack of communication Capra said he personally invited Shelton fire Chief Francis Jones, the city\u2019s building official, Joe Ballero, and the mayor\u2019s administrative assistant, Jack Bashar, but received no response from any of them. Capra said their choice not to respond to his invitation to the meeting to discuss the issues with the Echo Hose fire station shows \u201cblatant disrespect to the Board of Aldermen and the city of Shelton.\u201d \u201cThis is a big deal what we\u2019re here to discuss tonight, and for these people not to show up is disgusting and disrespectful, not only to the city of Shelton but to the Echo Hose Fire Department,\u201d said Capra. \u201cShame on them.\u201d On Monday, Feb. 13, Jones said he was unable to attend the meeting because of a \u201cpersonal matter\u201d but that he takes matters at all four\u00a0local fire companies very seriously. \u201cI try to make every meeting I can, but sometimes we just can\u2019t make it. There was no ill intentions,\u201d said Jones. The Shelton Herald reached out to Bashar, Ballaro, and Potucek but hadn\u2019t gotten a response back as of Tuesday, Feb. 14. A matter of safety and respect Capra said the purpose of asking for an update on the repairs to the firehouse was to see how the Public Health and Safety Commission could help move the process along, because currently he doesn\u2019t feel the volunteers are treated with respect. \u201cWhen people tell me that we\u2019re treating our fire department with respect and dignity,\u201d said Capra pointing at a photo of chairs the firefighters have in their fire station, \u201cI say this is total disrespect. You\u2019re volunteer firefighters and you don\u2019t even have chairs, no proper chairs to sit in. I guess that\u2019s the littlest thing on my list, but it\u2019s just a sign that things are not going well.\u201d What\u2019s the holdup? Maglione said Potucek called Szeker Engineering on Feb. 1 but the engineer was out of his office so no one has been able to conduct the evaluation of the company\u2019s bay. When Capra asked why he waited until the day of the meeting to contact the engineer, Maglione said the delay in calling the engineer was a result of Potucek having to get the weights of the emergency vehicles that were parked in the bays where the cracks in the floor are located. Finn said although the delay technically is Potucek\u2019s responsibility, he is conscious of his work conditions. \u201cChris is overworked and understaffed,\u201d said Finn. \u201cHe\u2019s got part-time employees and he\u2019s doing the best he can with what he has.\u201d Taking a toll on volunteers When asked by Alderman McGorty, Clark said the removal of the two emergency vehicles has also affected the morale of its volunteers. \u201cWe had that fire on Hull Street and they had to take the Expedition to bring additional people over there,\u201d said Clark. \u201cIt\u2019s their truck and they understand why it\u2019s not there. It\u2019s their baby per se, and it just bothers some of them that we have two fire trucks in there instead of four or five.\u201d Maglione clarified that in the instance of the Hull Street fire that Clark referenced, having to drive one half of a mile to pick up the ladder truck was merely \u201cshuffling of bodies,\u201d and although an inconvenience, it didn\u2019t affect the company\u2019s ability to respond to the fire. Finn said he has seen the needs of the fire companies in Shelton pushed off for years and he understands the effect on volunteers\u2019 morale. He also said he would like a portion of the city\u2019s $12 million dollar surplus to be used to address all of the fire company\u2019s needed repairs. \u201cWe can\u2019t keep putting it off year after year after year. \u2026 We need to be proactive, not retroactive,\u201d said Finn. Capra said he would like the Public Health and Safety Commission to meet with presidents, captains, fire marshals, and the chief to take tours of all four\u00a0departments. \u201cThey\u2019re volunteers who are giving their lives to this,\u201d said Capra. \u201cAnd this is what they\u2019re getting? Somewhere along the way we missed something, and we have to come back and realize that this is a problem and then get it fixed.\u201d What\u2019s next? The hope is to have an update and the study done by the commission\u2019s meeting in March, according to Capra.The commission asked that building director Joe Ballaro write a letter stating whether or not the Echo Hose fire department is safe enough for the volunteer firefighters to use. Ballaro\u2019s letter will ultimately determine the next steps in the safety procedure.