Volunteer firefighters quit in dispute with Town of Morris

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MORRIS -

A simmering relationship between the Town of Morris and its fire department will end with volunteer firefighters walking away.

Residents say First Selectman Tom Weik has a personal vendetta against the fire department. Weik is blaming town policy for the dispute.

Both sides say heightened tensions began a few years ago, but the conflict boiled over in April when the town agreed to pay for only some of the 20 state-mandated physicals for volunteer firefighters.

The town had previously lost its ambulance service. Now the 75-year-old fire department -- the only one the town has ever known -- will go too.

"I'm devastated by this whole thing," says Maryann Orzell, who's lived in Morris for 38 years.

Other town residents had harsher criticism for the situation -- and the first selectman.

"He has destroyed this town," Joann Battistoni says of Weik. 

Battistoni was a member of the volunteer fire department for 16 years.

"He just has constantly harassed this fire department until they can't function anymore," she says. "They can't cover their OSHA standards, because he will not release the money that was voted on by this town to pay for these things."

For his part, Weik says the conflict has been going on for years.

"There were some issues early on," he says. "When I came in, I did bring in a purchase order policy for the town, and apparently that did not go over well with the fire department."

The volunteers will leave the department at the end of the month. Weik says he is reaching out to neighboring communities to try and form a new one.

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