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Fire Commissioners Vote 4-1 To Send Mailer On Merger Ballot Question

The postcard will outline why the EGFD should remain autonomous.


The East Greenwich Fire Commissioners voted 4-1 last Thursday to spend up to $2,000 to send a postcard mailer to every household in the district about why the EG Fire District should remain autonomous.

Commissioner Mark Gee – who has said he will vote yes on the ballot question, "Should the Fire District be merged with the Town of East Greenwich?" – cast the only dissenting vote.

According to Bill Daly, chairman of the Board of Fire Commissioners, the postcard mailing is informational, not political, and will cite five reasons for the Fire District to remain its own municipal entity.

Daly said the postcard will outline the Fire District's strong, open and transparent governance; a low tax rate; no debt; state-of-the-art equipment and training; and a singular focus on fire and rescue.

Town Councilman Jeff Cianciolo was the one to recommend placing a question on the ballot asking voters whether or not the Fire District should be merged with the town. Right now, the EG Fire District exists independently of the Town of East Greenwich. It has its own taxing authority and is governed by five commissioners. 

Cianciolo has argued the Fire District's governance is guarded – commissioners are voted into office at the EGFD's annual meeting in June with no more than a few dozen people present – and that it brings unnecessary additional bureaucracy. 

A forum was held in October for both the Town Council and the Fire District to discuss the ballot question before voters. 

"The meeting was fine but there were just 40, 50 people there," said Daly, referring to the forum. "We just want to put this out to everyone and hopefully get the message out."

Daly continued, "Everybody tells us we’re doing a great job.... the fire fighters are great but, they say, 'We want to change.' What is the point? It’s kind of frustrating to us."

The mailing will cost about $1,700 in printing and postage costs, Daly said. The vote to spend Fire District money on the mailing was made at the meeting Oct. 25. According to Daly, although Fire District lawyer Scott Spear was not present for the meeting due to illness, he had told officials a vote on the $1,700 expenditure was legal under the open meetings law because discussion of the non-binding referendum was on the agenda.

Stephen Bartlett November 01, 2012 at 06:42 PM
Here is another reason for East Greenwich Taxpayers to want to keep a separate Fire District from the Town government.One of my neighbors, a single woman living by herself, had a tree blown down in the recent hurricane. She called the East Greenwich Emergency Management Department and asked if the Town could cut and move the part of the tree blocking her driveway so she could get out or an emergency vehicle could get in if she had an emergency. She was told that the Town insurance regulations do not permit the Town to cut the downed tree unless it is within 10 feet of the road. However, if she had an emergency, the Town would then come out and open up a path to her house. She then called the Fire District and was told that a couple of fire fighters would be right out to cut the tree away from her driveway Chief Henrickson said,"we'd rather open the driveway before an emergency rather than wait until one occurs and then have to take the time that could be better used assisting the resident." This common sense, no nonsense approach to solving the problem is what residence deserve, not bureaucracy. The Fire District gets dozens of calls during a severe weather event like this one to pump out cellars, help elderly residents or others in need and they always respond. Steve Bartlett
Chuck Newton November 01, 2012 at 11:37 PM
Steve, with all due respect, situations such as that you describe is what fire and safety organizations are SUPPOSED to be dealing with. And one anecdote does not a rationale for keeping the FD independent make. How does this change - for better or worse - if fire & safety responsibilities are, like the police department, part of town government? I suspect Bill Sequino, if asked who his ultimate constituency is, would reply 'East Greenwich taxpayers." When I asked that question of the FD Commissioners at the recent forum on the issue, NOT ONE OF THE COMMISSIONERS would answer the question - I had to ask it twice before getting even a mumble. That's just not right. I probably entered that meeting quite open to an independent fire district; I left astounded at the arrogance of the organization, and convinced that taxpayers would be better served with Town government in control.
Bob Plain November 02, 2012 at 08:45 AM
"with all due respect" = http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Do_not_say_%22With_all_due_respect%22 I'm sure that's not what you meant, Chuck. But I think a lot of folks interpret that phrase that way (I've learned the hard way!!) I disagree that Bill's or the town's or the fire department's "ultimate constituency" are, or should be, taxpayers. I believe the "ultimate constituency" would be residents. After all, renters deserve a municipal government and emergency services too!
Chuck Newton November 02, 2012 at 12:52 PM
Absolutely, Bob. Renters implicitly pay taxes, and do get the benefit of municipal services even if they don't physically get a tax bill. As for 'due respect,' Steve and I play golf from time to time, and I hope that will continue. With all due respect.
Bob Plain November 02, 2012 at 01:46 PM
I'm not sure they do implicitly pay taxes ... I think that's up to the landlord. ...And now that I think about it, resident isn't really perfect either, given that some voters and taxpayers aren't residents!! But I tend to think calling government constituents "taxpayers" is one of those dog whistle Republican terms meant to invoke the notion that cutting costs is more important than providing services!

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