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Volunteer firefighters in Massena unhappy with mayor’s insistence on sending McGowan to inspect new truck

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MASSENA - Later this month representatives from Massena’s fire department are planning to travel to South Dakota to get a preview of a new fire truck they have ordered from a company there.

The pumper truck, which is being paid for by the village, is being manufactured by Spartan ERV, Brandon, S.D.

“The company wants people to come down and inspect it while they’re building it,” Massena Volunteer Fire Department Chief Ted Krywanczyk said. “Part of the contract calls for them to pay room and board for four, but they would like to split it and have two guys comes down at the mid-point and two guys come down at the end.”

And that’s where the problems for Mr. Krywanczyk began.

Massena Mayor James F. Hidy, who noted the village is paying nearly $475,000 for the truck, said he would like one of the department’s paid firefighters to attend the inspections, as a representative of the village.

Most likely the paid driver who would attend would be Foreman Ken McGowan, but Mr. Hidy said it’s up to Mr. McGowan to send who he wants.

“Being that it’s a village-owned apparatus, on behalf of the village’s concerns, we are going to send Ken McGowan, who is the fire department’s supervisor,” Mr. Hidy said. “I’ve also invited Chief Krywanczyk to attend the inspection. However because of previous obligations he is unable to attend, so I gave him the opportunity to select a member from the volunteers. Whoever he selects is up to him.”

Mr. Krywanczyk said he would like to send long-time volunteer David Sedlock, however Mr. Sedlock and Mr. McGowan don’t get along with each other, he said.

“David will not go if Ken goes, so you’re taking the very best qualified guy out of the picture,” Mr. Krywanczyk said. “David Sedlock knows trucks inside and out. He’s inspected and worked on every truck we have down there.”

Mr. Krywanczyk said he attempted to discuss the issue with Mr. Hidy earlier this week, but that conversation ended up “getting heated” and ended with him being asked to leave the mayor’s office.

“He said he wants to send Ken to represent the village, but I said, ‘Don’t you want to send the two most qualified people?’ and he said, ‘I’m sending Ken, period.’ He didn’t want to talk about it.”

Mr. Hidy said that while Mr. McGowan’s name was the name used during the conversation the department’s foreman of the paid firefighters could select another one of the village’s employees at the fire department to attend the inspection, if he sees fit.

“It’s up to him to send whoever he wants. He could go or he could select another one of the paid guys,” Mr. Hidy said.

When asked if any of the volunteers would go should Mr. McGowan end up representing the village on the trip, Mr. Krywanczyk said he wasn’t sure, noting that he feels its in the best interests of the department for Mr. Sedlock and another volunteer to go.

“The volunteers are more than capable of inspecting this truck and making sure the specs are correct,” he said. “Everyone knows Dave should go. Every time we get a new truck and he goes to one of those inspections, they ask him why he doesn’t work for a fire truck company.”

Mr. Krywanczyk said in his opinion sending volunteers isn’t only in the best interest of the fire department, but also in the best interest of the taxpayers who would be paying Mr. McGowan’s salary while he was in South Dakota.

“Ken is paid staff, and they (the village) would be paying him to go,” Mr. Krywanczyk said. “If he was here in the village, he would be getting other work done.”

When asked how the inspections were handled the last time a truck was purchased, Mr. Krywanczyk said a paid firefighter did go on the trip, along with three of the department’s volunteers. Mr. Krywanczyk said he was unsure when the previous truck, a ladder truck, was purchased, but he did say it was prior to Mr. Hidy becoming mayor.

“Things are different now,” Mr. Krywanczyk said. “There seems to be a lot of animosity in the department since Jim Hidy has became mayor. He seems to have something against the volunteers. He works with the paid staff better and everyone can see it.”

Mr. Krywanczyk said he voiced his concerns with other village board members, who told him to simply wait until December.

“It’s horrible that whenever there is a problem the trustees just say, ‘We just need to get to the next election,’” Mr. Krywanczyk said, adding he was not impressed with the answer. “What does that mean? What happens if he gets re-elected? That’s a terrible way to run the village government.”

Both Mr. Hidy and Mr. Krywanczyk said they have the best interests of the village in mind.

“I’m just looking out for Massena and the fire department. I’ve been in the fire department for going on 23 years, and I know Dave is the main guy. If he doesn’t go, there isn’t any point in sending anyone,” Mr. Krywanczyk said. “I’m not saying that Ken isn’t capable, but there isn’t anyone in Massena who knows more about fire trucks than Dave. I don’t want to create problems, but he (Mr. Hidy) doesn’t want to talk and I don’t think that’s a good way to run the village.”

Mr. Hidy said he has nothing against the volunteers, and he only wants to do what is best for the village and its taxpayers.

“We are all working toward the same goal and that’s providing the village of Massena with the best fire protection possible,” he said.

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