The dispute between the city administration and city firefighters heated to the boiling point and again dominated City Council proceedings Monday.
In a 6-1 vote, the Council refused to approve Mayor James C. Galie's choice of consultants to study the city's firefighting needs. The Council then narrowly approved Councilman John G. Accardo's alternative suggestion that the Council be given the opportunity to interview the three lowest bidders for the fire study.
Galie wanted the Council to remove from the table and approve his choice of David W. Griffith Associates of Northbrook, Ill. The Council tabled the contract in April after the city's two fire unions objected to Griffith. Galie withdrew the request in June and then reinstituted it two weeks ago. Galie said he wouldn't back down again and promised to keep putting the contract on the agenda until the Council approved it.
Only Councilman Ralph F. Aversa voted in favor of removing the Griffith contract from the table.
Later, Councilmen Vincent R. Morello and Guy T. Sottile joined Aversa in voting against Accardo's resolution. Morello and Sottile agreed with City Administrator Anthony J. Restaino, who last week said the resolution overstepped the Council's authority. Restaino said the Council may only ratify contracts presented by the mayor and may not participate in the selection or negotiation process.
But, Morello and Sottile joined most Council members in calling on the Galie administration to at least work with the fire unions to settle on a consultant that both sides could live with. The unions and some Council members believe the Griffith firm was selected to reduce the department's work force.
Councilwoman Connie M. Lozinsky said enough doubt had been raised about the firm that a study conducted by Griffith would be a waste of money.
Galie last week said he backed down on the Griffith contract in part because he didn't have the Council votes to approve it and in part to calm troubled waters between his administration and the fire unions. But, he said hostilities have only escalated.
Accardo said it's time for both sides to end the feud, put down their swords and do what's best for the city.
The dispute started last year when Galie proposed eliminating 27 Fire Department positions from this year's budget and has deteriorated since as the sides disagree on whether manning levels in the department are adequate.
Accardo said everyone agrees a study should be conducted. They just don't agree on who should conduct it.
The debate heated up further when the Council considered Galie's request to create one lieutenant's and two captain's positions in the Police Department. The Council approved the request, but many members asked why similar action wasn't being taken in the Fire Department.
Both the police and fire unions filed and won lawsuits against the city over the administration's repeated use of lower ranking personnel as acting supervisors.
The Police Department asked for the three new positions to reduce overtime costs, which have resulted from the court decision. Council Chairman Vince V. Anello said increasing the ranks of supervisory personnel in the Police Department was only taking care of half of the problem.
Anello called the situation a family fight and said in family fights there are no winners.