At $477K, Is Watertown's Firefighter Dispute Worth It?

At $477K, Is Watertown's Firefighter Dispute Worth It?

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The grand total so far is $477,000 as the city of Watertown pays a Long Island attorney to battle the firefighters union on a long overdue contract.

That's up more than $100,000 in the last six months or so.

"For roughly half a million dollars they have nothing to show for it. This is a clear example of how the city's trying to break the union through fiscal irresponsibility," Dan Daugherty, president of the firefighters union.

But city leaders hope their high stakes gamble will pay off by getting minimum manning out of the firefighters contract. Then  city hall could cut the number of firefighters.

"If, in fact, they did that and then that occurs, then in the long run the savings will far exceed the one-shot expenses of these legal battles we're having now," said attorney Terry O'Neil, who represents the city.

The union disagrees.

"The amount that they're saving is not there, especially by the amount of money that they're throwing away by hiring Mr. O'Neil," said Daugherty.

"We're hopeful that, in the end, it is worthwhile and the city is free to run the department based on what they consider to be firemanic issues and not a collective bargaining agreement with the union," said O'Neil

Who will win and when? Both sides are awaiting a key decision from the Public Employment Relations Board on whether minimum manning can be included in arbitration.

Meanwhile, the union wins what could be considered a skirmish in the larger battle - a court has ruled that the city's demotion of eight fire captains last year is subject to arbitration.

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