AGAWAM, Mass. (WWLP) – Members of the Agawam Fire Department union will be picketing for a new contract on Thursday.

The Agawam Firefighters Local 1973 Union announced on their social media the picket is taking place at the Agawam Municipal Golf Course at 3:30 p.m. during a town employee holiday party that Mayor William Sapelli will be attending.

22News spoke with Agawam Fire Department Union President Mark Theroux and he said the firefighters in Agawam have been without a contract for six months. Currently, the department is in mediation with the city but he thinks arbitration might be next.

The union is asking for a wage increase, and Theroux said the department has done information gathering to determine the compensation of surrounding departments as compared with Agawam. He said in his view the compensation for Agawam comes up short. The union is also asking for no limits on residency requirements. Currently, there is no restrictions on how far away firefighters can live from Agawam. Theroux said the city is trying to impose limits, which he thinks would restrict new hires into the department.

Mayor Sapelli told 22News that the residency restriction he proposed is 40 miles from the city line.

“I totally respect and honor the men and women in our fire department. They do an outstanding job,” Sapelli said.

The three-year contract that was proposed does include yearly wage increases that Sapelli said are equitable according to surrounding communities. But for Sapelli, the contract negotiation is also about a balance between the taxpayers, which he doesn’t want to overextend, and the demands of the fire department. He also added that the firefighters in Agawam have received an extra holiday, Juneteenth, and more cancer screenings.

“We’re a family. We should have mutual respect for each other. Once the attorneys leave the table we have to live with each other,” said Sapelli.

The negotiations between the Agawam Fire Department and the city are ongoing and the next meeting will likely take place in February of 2023.