Mills Firefighters Plan Injuntion; Town Will Enter Mediation
The Mills Town Council voted unanimously -- after banning any public comment -- on Wednesday to enter a mediation with three firefighters organizations after they expressed an intent to file an injunction to block the town from laying off its firefighters at the end of June.
Late Tuesday afternoon, the council called the "special town council meeting" for 9 a.m. Wednesday, and the agenda did not include a public comment period.
The resolution granted Mayor Seth Coleman the authority to represent the town and to bind the town to a "settlement agreement" at the mediation.
It also gave Coleman the authority to accept or reject any offers made at the mediation. and if an offer is rejected it means any litigation would continue, according to the resolution.
The council also unanimously passed -- council member Ronald Wales was excused absent -- to grant Coleman the authority to contract with private or public organizations to provide ambulance services and to hire a fire chief.
Last month, the town canceled its contract with the International the International Association of Fire Fighters, 9th District, the Federated Firefighters of Wyoming and the Mills Professional Firefighters Local 4961.
Coleman said the cancelation was the result of longrunning budget problems that required an approximately $1 million subsidy to the department.
The union said it was retaliation for the breakdown of of contract negotiations.
It also said the action ignores public safety.
That would have meant other fire departments, especially in Natrona County and probably Casper, would have to cover for emergencies.
The announcement caught other fire departments and the Mills firefighters by surprise.
After the meeting, Mills firefighter and Mills Professional Firefighters representative Tyler Houser said he didn't know the status of filing an injunction, and intends to enter a mediation and find a common agreement.
Contrary to the resolution, however, the Mills Professional Firefighters is not interested in a "settlement agreement," Houser said. "We take our citizens' safety a little more serious than that, and to keep the department open."
Before the council met to discuss and approve the resolutions, it recessed for two separate executive sessions -- one for personnel and one for a legal matter.
Residents including some firefighters packed the town hall for the meeting, and they weren't happy after waiting an hour for the executive sessions to end
Several people including Mills resident Alvin Gruver referred to the mayor as "Comrade Coleman," and he rose at one point to try to make a comment.
Coleman stopped him, saying the discussion of the resolutions was for the council only.
After the meeting, Gruver said Coleman asked for a discussion. "I thought that this is a council meeting and these citizens from Mills are here that we could have a little discussion, not run over by these papers [resolutions] for Comrade Coleman."