HARTFORD – State Representatives Jason Perillo and Ben McGorty called out Gov. Malloy and Democrats for bonding money for splash pads but refusing to make good on the planned Valley Regional Fire School in Beacon Falls, a critically needed public safety project that has languished for years.
“Building the new fire training school has been something that we have been working on for years,” said Rep. Perillo. “The money is there for the school to be built and Governor Dan Malloy not approving the funding at the last Bond Commission is unacceptable. We need to get shovels in the ground, and waiting longer is putting firefighters at risk on injury.”
Rep. McGorty, a longtime volunteer firefighter and Deputy Fire Marshal and Fire Commissioner in Shelton, added, “The Governor and Democrats on the Bond Commission need to stop playing games with the funding of the new fire training school in Beacon Falls. It’s a shame that the Governor is continuing to withhold these fund from being released. As you know, I will not back down and will continue to fight to get this money so firefighters can have a new and safe facility.”
Recently, Valley lawmakers representing some of the 22 towns within the Valley Region met with Department of Administrative Services officials to update the status of the school. They were shocked to learn from DAS that the governor’s budget office will not provide funding to construct the $14 million facility. More than 650,000 people reside in the 22 Valley Region towns.
Chuck Stankye, past president of the Connecticut State Firefighter Association (CSFA) said it is vitally important that the Valley Fire School be built. “Firefighters need this facility to help them protect the public. When that bell goes off, we are there to save lives and property,’’ he said. Stankye was dismayed following the meeting with DAS but vowed to push the issue.
The fire schools are critical for firefighters to train and maintain certification. The Valley firefighters have to travel around the state for training where operating hours are limited at various firehouses.
The legislature has actually authorized $26 million for fire schools and lawmakers called for the Bond Commission to allocate the needed $14 million from that pool of money. Because the project has languished, the approved 2016 bid for has since expired and it will have to be re-bid. Construction was supposed to be completed by January of 2018 but has never begun.
The fire school plans date to 2002 when the CSFA and the Commission on Fire Prevention and Control created a priority list for construction of new schools. The Valley Fire School was scheduled to be the first one on the list to be built. The Beacon Falls site is shovel ready, Klarides pointed out.
The CSFA and the CFPC on Sept. 14 passed a resolution reaffirming its duties to administer the fire schools and to adhere to the construction schedule. The Valley Fire School is still slated to receive the next round.