One frustrated volunteer firefighter from Newington believes Hartford is missing out on quality applicants who don't meet residency requirements.
“Volunteering is great, but when you have a passion for it, you want to do it as a career, I want to make a career of firefighting,” Lt. Scott Whalen said.
The 23-year-old has been a volunteer fireman in Newington for six years and last fall he applied to be a paid firefighter in the city of Hartford.
“It’s been a dream of mine," Whalen added
When he went to the human resources office to turn in his application, he didn’t get very far.
“My application was denied, because I didn't have residency. On the application, it says you have to be a city resident, by the time of application."
Whalen said it doesn't make sense; pointing out that once someone gets the job, the union contract states there is no residential requirement.
NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters have learned 40 percent or 116 of 293 current Hartford Firefighters live in the city.
Whalen calls the application rules outdated and unfair.
“I believe everyone should be given an equal shot," Whalen added.
“That’s our policy and we're not changing our policy and as harsh as it may sound if anyone would like to become a Hartford firefighter, then they would have to become a bona fide city of Hartford resident."
City council president T.J. Clarke is co-chair of the public safety and quality of life committee.
He said the city received more than 600 qualified applicants, and the applicants all check out with their residential requirements.
Clarke and Councilwoman RJo Winch adding it's also the city's focus to get Hartford residents employed.
“At the rate Hartford residents are unemployed. I also share sentiments of council president; at the immediate time we're not going to change the policy. But i do think in the future maybe there will be a different type of system. Maybe we have some other application that Hartford residents get some points rather than excluding other cities and towns from applying. But at this time in this position, its Hartford residents."
Both Clarke and Winch said the rules have been this way as long as they can remember.
“It was some arguments at some earlier date that some individual had the same concern that maybe Hartford residents weren't getting priority to come in and it was changed," Winch added.
Whalen says he's willing to move into the city, but didn't have enough time and now the application process is closed.
“There’s something we can actually explore. Whether we want to go about this route of a person applying to be a Hartford FF to have six months to move into the city."
Fire Chief Reggie Freeman said, "It's a new era for the Hartford Fire Department and the things of the old that were counterproductive to our success, are no more. We are being proactive in ever regard, within every division. We're excited about and focusing on our future."
Meanwhile, the city council president wants to get in touch with Whalen, and NBC Connecticut will connect the two.