City officials, firefighters at odds over Ogdensburg’s new dispatch policy

WWNY City officials, firefighters at odds over Ogdensburg’s new dispatch policy

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - Ogdensburg City Hall and public safety officials say a new fire dispatch policy won’t endanger the public. Firefighters beg to differ.

It’s just a line. On one side is Ogdensburg fire territory and on the other is Heuvelton’s. It runs near the intersection of Routes 68 and 37.

Until this week, Ogdensburg firefighters never hesitated to cross over the line when needed.

Public safety officials say that’s still the case.

“Everybody will respond to every incident just like they normally have and ask for help from the neighboring department just like they always have in the past,” said Matthew Denner, St. Lawrence County director of emergency services.

But that’s not what a veteran Ogdensburg fire captain said on Facebook Monday. Gerald Mack’s post read in part, “Unfortunately we have been ordered to delay response which in the past has proven to make a difference.”

Mack maintained Ogdensburg was now only a mutual aid responder for businesses on the border. That means Heuvelton would have to ask for their aid.

“That’s absolutely false,” said Stephen Jellie, Ogdensburg city manager and interim fire chief. “The business locations that are right here…have always been first response for Ogdensburg, always dispatched by St. Lawrence County and will continue. There’s no change to that.”

Mack’s Facebook post was in response to a memo from Jellie (see memo below). It told Ogdensburg firefighters to go only if dispatched by county 911 – no more going if not directed to by 911.

Firefighters say that new policy endangers people.

“To stop us from rolling out the door and getting moving that way, when we hear the same dispatch information, is only costing seconds and minutes which are more valuable than can be calculated,” said Jason Bouchard, Ogdensburg Professional Firefighters Local 1799 president.

Denner backed up Jellie. He said the Ogdensburg Fire Department is still the first responder for businesses like Burger King and Seaway Shopping Center in the border area.

In addition to the 911 dispatch memo, there’s a second one that’s creating a dust up.

That’s a memo from Jellie telling firefighters they can’t talk to the media about fire department business without clearance from the city manager.

Mack said because of that directive, he could not speak to the media about his Facebook post.

Jellie said Mack’s Facebook post shows exactly why his memo was needed.

Memo concerning fire dispatch policy
Memo concerning fire dispatch policy (Source: WWNY)

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