The court receiver made two attempts to get a budget passed by the voters and failed. Finally the court receiver, and union president, met with the RI State Director of Revenue for guidance and they came up with a “standard plan” to resolve the problem:
1. Force a hefty tax levy. 36%
2. Negotiate some union concessions.
3. Convince the voters that the problem is fixed.
4. Encourage the voters to accept these higher taxes and move forward.
The previous Board of Directors and Court Master did not have credibility to accomplish this.
A new Board of Directors was elected and the task at hand was to find if the present Central Coventry Fire District could run as a viable operation or should it be closed. The board would not tell the voters the district was fixed if they were not convinced.
After assessing the overall financial conditions and engaging the union in concession discussions it was determined that the district was not going to succeed. Based on the court’s order, the new board recommended closure. The court and all involved parties were aware that neither the current approved budget nor the House Bill #H6101 Budget (the infamous Guthrie/Tomasso Bill to force higher taxes) would assure the districts viability, given the Union concessions being offered. In other words, even higher taxes to deceive the taxpayers and hide the incompetence of the previous board was not going to achieve the long term viability of CCFD.
Many people kept asking us about attempting further “negotiations” with the union. Previous negotiations for concessions by even the court receiver only resulted in later law suits filed by the Union against CCFD that demanded repayment for any previous agreed upon concessions (deferred debt). No permanent Contract changes were ever achieved. Negotiations take time and require a professional negotiator. Not this BOD nor any other local political entity should be negotiating with these professional unions. The local elected “nice person” is no match for the union’s expertise. That is what led to this expensive, big city contract being jammed down the throats of local taxpayers. The Anthony Fire District also has this same contract in place.
From the beginning of the receivership, the court knew that it would be very difficult if not impossible for the district to survive. The newly elected Board of Directors provided a last ditch effort to save it. This board was charged with providing the people’s input. The court could have easily ordered the Tower ladder truck be returned or after reviewing the debt of CCFD, the judge could have ordered the district closed. However, by having the new Board vote to return the truck and having the new Board vote to liquidate, it made these decisions the “will of the people”.
Without a long term plan to show the district’s viability the court was going to be forced to close and liquidate CCFD. The January court session sent a loud and clear message that the court was working on the legal basis for which to close the district.
CCFD Board of directors submitted their contingency plan of private rescue and purchase Fire Services from the neighboring Fire Districts. Private Ambulance companies submitted letters indicating that they would be willing to provide their services if the court ordered closure. They all stressed, however, that they were not soliciting the business while a union was in place when replying to our RFI’s. The CCFD Board was not given authority by the court to implement any alternate plan. We also knew from meeting with the Town Emergency Management committee that they had a plan to divide up the district.
Sadly, this entire time, the union members felt that this board was their enemy even though it was pointed out at the September meeting that the enemy was “time” and TIME RAN OUT.
To wrap it up we met with the town to let them know that the end of the district was coming.
While it will cost money to shut down the district, trying to keep it open was costing the tax payers much more.
At this point it was neither the IAFF’s fault nor the fault of current Board of Directors.
The CCFD Fire Chief’s report to the court in January sealed the districts fate. The equipment was held together by band aids, he said, and the Fire Fighters were becoming worn out.
The next chapter for this fire district could be the most important for the Town of Coventry. This is the perfect opportunity to seek input from the taxpayers as to what they would like the future of THEIR Fire and Rescue services to look like.
1. One Town, One Fire and Rescue Department
2. Privatize the Rescue Services and organize a Municipal Fire Department.
3. Consolidate into 2 Main Fire Districts, leaving Western Coventry as is.
Contact your Town Council person, or email the Board using the "Contact the Board" Tab at the top of this website.
The Town people know that the Anthony Fire district has previously overspent their budgets and have a high interest expense which increased substantially in 2013, on their outstanding loans. It is why they have the highest Fire tax rate in the state. Giving them a part of the CCFD district will only mask their debt problem and is not fair to the taxpayers. The Anthony Fire District, with the same debt and same Union Contract does not give it a promising future. People may say these comments are anti-union. Well what does anti-union mean when the “Union Friendly Management” pushes through a contract that taxpayers cannot afford and which takes away all management rights. History has proven that this “Friendly management” actually causes union member to lose their jobs.
To the firefighters and employees of the CCFD, I want to send our many thanks to you all. While we certainly had our differences in the political arena, you were always professional in your responses to the needs of the citizens when they called.
Fred P. Gralinski President - Central Coventry Board Of Directors
Marie Baker Vice President - Central Coventry Board of Directors
Bob Hadley Director - Central Coventry Board
Cindy Fagan Perry Director- Central Coventry Board
Helen Quinn Director- Central Coventry Board
Dan Lantz Director- Central Coventry Board
Maureen Jendzejec Director- Central Coventry Board