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CCFD Fire Tax Meeting Ends Prematurely Due to Charter Discrepancies

Motions from members of the public shaped the outcome of Monday night's meeting.

By simply taking a look at the parking lot of the shortly before 7 p.m. on Monday, it was apparent that it was not going to be a normal meeting. Hundreds of citizens that reside within the Central Coventry Fire District showed up at this year's annual to vote on an increase in fire taxes.

The meeting that was scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. did not start until after 8:00 due to the largely unexpected number of voters that had to sign in in order to have their votes counted. Despite the rainy evening, the line of residents wrapped partially around the building for the better part of an hour, making for a near-capacity audience.

In order to quell some of the major questions and concerns that many of the attendees had, the Board decided to hold an informational section before discussing agenda items. About a dozen members of the community shared their concerns with the Board, speaking out against their tax rates and how they are calculated, showing concern for how District's money is spent and several residents suggesting that the town merge all its fire districts into one.

CCFD Chief Bob Seltzer and Board President Girard Bouchard Jr. attempted to answer each of the questions, explaining points like how the new tax rate would be calculated using the most recent property revaluation figures, and therefore would vary from resident to resident. Seltzer also explained the District's need for its most recently purchased ladder truck that several residents spoke out against, as well as expressing his advocation for having one fire district for the entire town.

In a packet handed out to voters as they arrived, the Tax Rate Resolution stated "a tax of not more than $4.45 for commerican and industrial properties and not more than $2.55 for residential properties, on each $1,000 of ratable real estate, be levied and assesed...residential property on leased land will be taxed at the residential rate (including mobile homes)..." Last year's residential fire tax rate in the district was $1.82 per $1,000.

After several residents expressed the fact that members of the Town simply do not have enough money to pay higher taxes, Seltzer reminded them of their right to vote for or against the proposed budget.

"We were very sensitive to that when we came up with the budget," he said. "If you want to vote it down, you can. If the audience wants to propose a different rate or budget, we are open to that. We have a very open Board of Directors that meet every month, and quite frankly, no one comes to our meetings. We always welcome input and my door is always open."

After the informational section of the meeting came to a close at 8:45 p.m., the Board began making its way through the agenda, with the voters passing motions to accept the minutes from last year's meeting as well as the tax collector, treasurer and chief's reports.

Agenda item number nine, if passed, would have elected two new members to the Board of Directors. A fierce discussion between Board members and the voters began when resident Leo Blais moved to elect officials after the budget discussion, bringing the meeting's progression to a screeching halt. Blais and resident Conrad Burns then brought to the attention of everyone present, discrepancies in the language of the Town Charter that would essentially yield any and all decisions made at the meeting void.

Chief Seltzer later explained that when the charter was changed in 2007, residents had voted in favor of changing the annual meeting from September to the first Monday in October. He went on to explain that at some point between the voters' decision and the General Assembly, the decision was never passed.

"In the past, if it is a 'meeting of the people', like tonight's meeting was, the Attorney General usually sides with what the people want," Seltzer said. "Rulings in the past have shown that annual meetings do not have to follow Open Meetings Laws, so no one saw a problem with holding this or any past meetings. It is all being changed and corrected based on the will of the people. It was nobody's mistake - it happened during the process and nobody did it on purpose. We did our best to stay with what the people want."

Blais suggested to the Board that it allow the two current members to continue holding their positions until their replacements have been elected at a special election meeting six months from now. Coventry resident and owner of several mobile home parks, John Assalone, also put forward for consideration that the Board adjourn Monday's meeting and vigorously attempt to collect the $859,000 in unpaid taxes from the prior year in lieu of another tax increase.

"I suggest no tax increase for at least six months, so you can get your house in order and get an attorney that is going to deal with the people that haven't paid their share - another $800,000 in hand is going to solve most of your problems," said Assalone. "Get that money in here, get your new members, postpone the meeting for six months and move forward."

Before adjourning the meeting, the Board of Directors explained that the tax bill being sent out this year will contain the same rate as the 2010 bill, which includes calculations based on the 2009 evaluation, not the in which property values were significantly decreased.

The rescheduled CCFD tax meeting and board member election will take place on Monday, April 2, 2012.







coventry voter-Jay October 04, 2011 at 03:51 PM
I seem to remember at several meetings prior to the "Great Merger" Bob Seltzer and the other chiefs were asked if he was sure the merger was going to "SAVE" the taxpayers $$. He assured us all it would even though the majority of the voters in the room disagreed with the merger. The fear was that Coventry Fire would turn into Cranston Fire............ Well folks.........Welcome to Cranston ….AKA Central Coventry Fire Dept. We did away with volunteers, made minimum manning a policy, and purchased a bunch of new trucks that cant be justified or pay for. Now to prove to the taxpayer how busy we are. We roll every vehicle in the barn for a cat up tree. “Look at our run numbers” Here’s a question, How much does it cost to send a fire truck to stop and shop to pick up stuff for dinner? We all got to eat, I like it more than most, but bring a lunch to work, I don’t jump in the company car do my shopping then go back to work and cook it. How much does it cost to have 4 firefighters sitting on lawn chairs watching the traffic go by at Anthony Station? Hey we know you are in between runs but don’t throw it in our faces by lounging around in the truck bay where we can all see you…Enough is enough
GARY B OBERG October 04, 2011 at 05:53 PM
Hay why not send someone once a week to do the shopping for all the stations . Plan your meals fore a week in advance and who pays when you pick up dinner at the old theater your always in there. How about all the wear and tear you put on our trucks and don't forget the fuel. Remember we pay for that equipment not you. We have good equipment for you to use not to abuse! Fast service is very important to all of us and we can't get it up here if your hanging around Washington all the time. You need to log your millage on each call, starting and ending. With the price of fuel at $4.00 a gallon. We don't need to spend $7.00 or $8.00 on fuel so you can eat thats like $2,500.00 a year.......................
coventry taxpayer 2 October 04, 2011 at 10:21 PM
Don't hide behind a screen name!! Shows some guts and put your real name!!!
coventry taxpayer 2 October 05, 2011 at 02:46 AM
By the way "he who has no guts to show his name" What "bunch of new trucks where bought"??? A ladder truck!! All you spew are none facts about cat's in trees and whatever you sad little mind can think up!! You don't have the guts to put your name behind this factless dribble, you are a coward!!!
coventry voter-Jay October 05, 2011 at 01:01 PM
Question: Where did all the money GO? Dont give the BS answer "Its the economy" We had 1 trop. storm and an average winter. The economy has been flat since 06. Why is to OT Budget so high? So we borrowed from one bank to pay off another bank and now want to use TAN's to finiance the OT? Post the truth if you know it Again....WHERE WAS THE MONEY SPENT? Post it if you know This never happens right?...I'll book off today so you can work OT, next week you book off so I can work OT. I also think we need semi annual fitness tests and weigh-ins. Other fire dept's do it as well as the police and military. Leading cause of FF death in the country is Heart attack Reason: Poor physical health due to lack of activity. If you say its all about "Providing Fast Quality Service" You cant provide it if you are winded after one flight of stairs.
coventry taxpayer 2 October 05, 2011 at 11:30 PM
You are a sad sorry little man behind a screen name , No I am not a Coventry Firefighter. But I have the guts to post my name , How about it ! Have you got sack to do it!! post your name
coventry voter-Jay October 06, 2011 at 11:49 AM
Joe, This is an open forum for comment. I have not attacked you or any individual. I disagree with you and your opinion on how the CCFD is managed. We all know you were not a Cov FF. My opinions have been formed by working for many years as a worker and manager in the private sector. Maybe you formed yours in another town, but more likely a city. We disagree, I respect your opinion, but disagree with it. Because I choose not to use my name, does not make your opinion any more valid than mine. When I go back and read what you have posted, the only comments I find are digs at others, for posting their opinion about the artical. Stop being a hater Joe, and post your solution to the CCFD budget crisis.
coventry taxpayer 2 October 06, 2011 at 01:21 PM
Your the hater here as most of your kind is, Hide behind your screen name if you will. But for open forum on this you have to man up and show your face!!
coventry voter-Jay October 06, 2011 at 02:45 PM
“My Kind” Joe that sounds a little derogatory used in your statement, but I will tell you a little about “My Kind” Joe, “my kind” is a father, a husband, an unaffiliated voter and R or a D and a Coventry Taxpayer. We work hard trying to make ends meet, while keeping a warm dry roof over our heads. We cut our own grass on the weekend in between coaching soccer and football. We love our families, and respect our parents. We have faith in a higher being, and believe in being honest and true to yourself and your morals. We cringe when we see people taking advantage and putting their own special interest above the needs of the many. We also cringe when self appointed leaders squander our hard earned tax dollars while coming back to well for another scoop. We cry foul when leaders circumvent the rules and the will of the people to pander to the organized few. So don’t demand I post my name or show my face Joe. I the guy next door, I’m the guy down the street. I’m the guy not sitting home collecting a check.
Bill Marzahn October 06, 2011 at 03:06 PM
I would invite Mr. Bonn to read the acceptable use policy and to stop using the agressive tone and language when addressing those with whom you disagree. Argument is the lifebeat of our political system. However, please keep in mind that to be useful--that is to move the discussion forward--it needs to be civil. Please think of me as another coventry voter, Bill
Lauren Costa (Editor) October 06, 2011 at 03:23 PM
I appreciate the conversation, and Bill is right, just keep it civil.
coventry taxpayer 2 October 06, 2011 at 09:25 PM
At least Bill uses his name here , Thanks Bill. Funny I coach too and I must know you "voter". you have no right to bash the hard working people on the board and the Chief. We do not "sqander" the tax payers money if you took time to read the budget you would know that. But please don't act like you are the only one who lives buy such a "code". Most of the good people of Coventry do!!!!
JoeyStock October 07, 2011 at 03:32 AM
Leave the firefighters alone. You all have it backwards. I want them shopping, sitting in chairs, watching TV, doing NOTHING. Why??????? Because when they are working someone is in distress, a car accident, a home fire, a rescue run to save someone or patch someone up, etc.... Same with Police. Wake up people, have some compassion. Give the ones here signed in with their own names some credit, I don't have the intestinal fortitude to, but the ones who have, God Speed........
Lori J October 08, 2011 at 04:41 PM
The Central Coventry Fire Department needs to set up a website accessible to anyone , anytime where all information is fully transparent. These should include treasurer and tax collector reports and a complete breakdown of all expenditures presented in sufficient time BEFORE any meetings take place. Most businesses are capable of scanning any information through a copy machine which then can be presented in PDF form. Examples ( receipts, repairs, salaries, bonuses,OT etc.....) By showing full transparency the townspeople will have an easier time justifying neccessary tax increases.
Henry October 10, 2011 at 02:52 PM
Lori, Nicely put! I see other fire departments post their budget on their webpage. However the Central Coventry Fire District seems to not want anybody to see theirs, or at least jump through hoops to get it. How about just posting the date of the meeting on the website for a start! Of course you could go to the website of the union, however the last meeting was stated to be at the station on Arnold road. However as we know this meeting was held at the Coventry Town Hall Annex. Oh! the deception.
Jaydenleigh October 10, 2011 at 04:40 PM
The Tax Anticipation Notes resolution should never be allowed. This is the same as saying "give me a blank check so I can spend with no consequences". Nice!! This is how they were able to fund the sewer system in Coventry without the people's vote and cetain tax payer's have paid dearly for this!! Bill Hall and his cronies were behind the scenes creating that enterprise, and obviously now here he is creating another enterprise which we cannot afford!!
Jaydenleigh October 10, 2011 at 05:02 PM
Tax Anticipation Notes is a program created to borrow money and raise taxes later to pay for it. This should be never allowed!!! These types of programs need to be abolished immediately. Are friend's at CCFD were hoping to get this resolution passed without the tax payer's true understanding of how these programs work. This is another one of those "loopholes" for which "we the people" PAY DEARLY!!! Be aware voter's!! We need to watch our money more carefully as some people seem to have always had unlimited funds at their disposal and don't realise how the average person has had to sacrifice to survive.
coventry voter-Jay October 11, 2011 at 11:29 AM
Well said Jay and Lori, TAN’s should never be used for normal expenses. Using TANS’s to finance the payroll is like taking a second mortgage on your house to pay your electric bill or purchase a car. It’s meant for long term debt to finance a capitol project. The problem is the money runs out or is used and before you pay it back, and there is another Bill in the mailbox. If you take a second mortgage on your home to purchase a car or go on a vacation, a few years from now, you will need another car, and your trip will be over BUT your debt will still be there lurking every month in the mailbox. Long term debt to solve short term needs never has a positive outcome. Good luck getting CCFD to post their books on line
Bill Marzahn October 11, 2011 at 03:14 PM
Here’s the point I would like to make. When I see any public employee—who is on the job—sitting in a lawn chair or I see one person manning a shovel and two others doing the “heavy looking on;” I am offended. It feels to me like those who are not doing their fair share are thumbing their nose at me personally, wasting my tax dollars, and showing a lack of sensitivity for those who are unemployed. This is not “bashing” the hard working for no reason. I have been a union man in the constructions trades for much of my life. I rose through the ranks as a union organizer, business agent, and finally business manager. So I am not, by any means, anti-union. But in my capacity as business agent, I did from time to time council members to refrain from activity that would bring discredit to our union. Here’s something I learned soon after I moved from the ranks of the hourly wage earners to taking a salary for my work. It is simply: “Your perception is my reality.” I find that most people want to be both employed and productive. Those that sit or watch while their co-workers work needlessly risk the ire of those that pay them. And I do not believe that this “ire” is misplaced. I'm Bill, a Coventry tax payer for the last 39 years.
LifelongCoventryResident March 29, 2012 at 06:26 PM
Hi All....this is so funny because one person is "coventry taxpayer 2" and the other is "coventry voter". Talk about calling the kettle black. "coventry taxpayer 2" did not leave their name neither. Anyhow, if you want to argue and dispute this, go to the meeting at 7PM on April 2, 2012 at the Coventry High School, 40 Reservoir Road. They will give us the biggest tax increase ever....if you do not show up. Didn't you hear that we (taxpayers) have to cut back to be to able to eat but the government officials keeps right on spending. Where does all the town, state & federal money come from....you and me that always has to cut back. I am sick of it....don't know about you all. People are out of jobs and the foreclosures are up like crazy...have't you heard.
LifelongCoventryResident March 29, 2012 at 06:30 PM
Let's work on composing all to one district for Coventry. We should be a team and share equipment and everything. Not try to out do...one district to another.

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