DUDLEY, Mass. -- Ad, mailing against override angers firefighters
A full-page ad in a local newspaper and a mailing to Dudley (Mass.) residents urging them to vote no in the annual town election Monday on an override question has caused a firestorm of reaction.
The override question seeks to add seven EMT/firefighters at a cost of $530,000.
The ad, which ran in this week's edition of the Patriot newspaper, states it was a paid political advertisement by James H. Fissell, but does not list the address as required by state law. The mailing containing the same information and does not require a name and address, according to Town Clerk Ora Finn.
The committee in favor of adding the additional personnel, which would enable the town to provide 24-7 ambulance and fire protection, objected to the ad and mailing, which contain wrong facts and figures, according to Chet Moroz, a full-time EMT/firefighter who is a member of the Citizens for Paramedic Fire Coverage. That group recommended the Proposition 2-1/2 override question.
Mr. Moroz said, "People have to know the fiscal year 2008 budget is $694,647 and staffs the fire station for 84 of the 168 hours in a week for 50 percent coverage. The 18 hours of coverage on weekends was not in the 2008 budget, but thanks to a private donation of $15,000, have been in effect since January.
"The $530,000 increase will staff the station for the reminder of the 84 hours with paramedic/firefighters for ... full coverage," said Mr. Moroz. "At the present time we only have that coverage for 50 percent of the time at the intermediate level and with the seven new firefighters we would be getting paramedics 24-7."
The ad and mailed flier state the $530,000 would cover 38 hours now handled by on-call firefighters, which represents a 76 percent cost increase to cover 23 percent of the week. It also notes the seven firefighters would increase the department for 23 percent more service and would be in excess of $1.2 million.
Mr. Moroz said, "If approved, the budget would be $1,120,947 for 24-7 full-time coverage."
According to Ms. Finn, "There is no one in town by the name of James H. Fissell but there is a James H. Frissell of 43 Mill Road." She said she contacted Paul O'Donnell, owner of the Patriot newspaper, and cited Massachusetts General Laws, which state the name and address must be included in a paid political ad, and requested a copy of the paperwork, which a newspaper must keep on file for a year.
"The law states that information must be made available to anyone who requests it. He would not cooperate nor would he reveal who the person was who paid for the ad," she said.
Mr. O'Donnell said, "This is the first time in 35 years that I have been asked about an address being on an ad. I have nothing to say."
However, Mr. Moroz said, "I know James Frissell well and he admitted to me that he was the one who was involved in the ad and the mailing and I informed Ms. Finn of that and I am telling you the same thing."
However, two telephone calls to Mr. Frissell resulted in him denying he was involved.
"It's not me, but I will tell you the town spent all that money for the library to use that old town hall building when it should have committed the money to EMT/firefighters and police officers, which the town needs," he said.
In a second telephone call to Mr. Frissell informing him that Mr. Moroz said he had admitted being involved, Mr. Frissell said, "It's not me. I have known Mr. Moroz for a long time and I was pulling his leg."