(YAPHANK, N.Y. May 6, 2014) – Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, Legislator Kate Browning, members of the Suffolk County Vocational Education and Extension Board (“VEEB”) and member of the Suffolk County Fire & EMS Joint Council announced agreement today on a new, three-year contract that will provide extra training for volunteer firefighters, reduce administrative costs and allow greater county oversight of operations at the Suffolk County Fire Academy.
The three-year deal is believed to be the first multi-year contract between the County and the VEEB, which have traditionally entered into one-year agreements, since the 1950s.
“I am pleased that we have been able to work together to provide our 12,500 volunteer firefighters in Suffolk County the benefit of increased training and expansion of training opportunities,” said County Executive Bellone. “I thank the VEEB administration and board for their willingness to work collaboratively with the County. Our volunteer fire personnel put their lives on the line to protect the public safety of all of our residents. Providing more opportunities for trainings will allow them to continue to provide their outstanding service and ensure that they receive the must up to date trainings.”
Currently, there are about 12,500 volunteer firefighters in Suffolk County who stand to benefit from the increased training. The increases mean that each of Suffolk County’s 109 volunteer fire departments will be offered 7 field training courses per year, an increase from the previous total of an offer of 5 field training courses per year.
“After many decades of providing the best training in the Country, I have great confidence that the Suffolk County Fire Academy will continue to provide superior services to our firefighters,” stated Legislator Kate Browning. “I applaud Commissioner Joe Williams, Executive Director Robert Holley and the members of VEEB for coming to the table and negotiating a contract that is good for our taxpayers and most importantly our volunteers.”
“This agreement is a victory for the volunteer firefighters of Suffolk County, who will receive additional state-of-the-art training that will also include online classes,” said Joseph F. Williams, Commissioner of Suffolk County’s Department of Fire, Rescue and Emergency Services. “After 70 years of one-year contracts, this three-year agreement will provide unprecedented continuity and uninterrupted training for the dedicated members of our county’s fire service.”
“As with every contract, there needs to be some give and take and I am glad that ultimately everyone came to the table and agreed that the training of our volunteers in this County is and will always be the paramount issue,” stated Jay Egan, Chairman, Suffolk County FRES Commission.
“This agreement is the right thing for our volunteer firefighters, said Dr. Alan Groveman, member of the VEEB Board. “The expansion of online training is right in line with advanced technology that gives our fire personnel the flexibility to take training courses at their leisure.”
Leaders of the fire service in Suffolk County had approached the Bellone Administration beginning in 2012, asking for previous reductions in fire training to be reversed and for training to increase. Negotiations on the topic then began between the County and the VEEB, which has operated the Fire Academy under contract for more than 50 years.
In the three year agreement:
- the VEEB agrees to reduce administrative costs by 5 percent per year during the three years of the contract, and an aggregate of more than 14 percent during that time, with those savings being re-invested into classroom and field training;
- the VEEB will work to provide college credits for some of its course work to volunteer firefighters who successfully complete those courses;
- the County and the VEEB will work on expanding training to include more online education, to provide greater flexibility to volunteers;
- the County will work to assist the VEEB in meeting administrative cost reduction goals;
- the VEEB will be free to pursue other funding sources for training and education beyond Suffolk County and New York State grants.
The contract is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2014 and will run through Dec. 31, 2016.