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CCFD Voters Reject Budget, Special Master Requests Authorization to Liquidate

An emergency hearing for Feb. 14 has been scheduled following the voter rejection of a proposed budget and tax levy.

 

At Monday night's special meeting of the Central Coventry Fire District, taxpayers of the district rejected a 2012-2013 budget that would have allowed for the continuation of fire and emergency services, but at a substantial tax increase. A final tally showed 228 against the proposed budget and 204 in favor of and as a result of this decision, the district now faces a significant possibility of being liquidated.

Before the vote, hundreds of taxpayers gathered in the Coventry High School auditorium to view a presentation by Special Master Richard Land regarding the at-risk fire district's ongoing financial problems. The presentation outlined the progress made in recent months to shed light on how a $1.5 million deficit came about as well as Land's plan to keep CCFD operational while addressing a multitude of money issues and inaccuracies.

The proposed budget called for a 42% tax increase, bringing the old rate of $1.82 per thousand to $3.15.

According to Land's presentation (attached), had the budget been approved, the firefighters' union was willing to make modifications to its collective bargaining agreement (CBA) including a 3-year salary freeze, increased health insurance deductibles, reduced longevity pay, a post-employment health care reduction/freeze and set maximums for sick-leave, buy back and comp time. The concessions would have resulted in an estimated $885,000 savings over a 3-year period, with additional savings possible if long-term changes were made to the CBA.

Since being appointed by the court in October, Land had made significant progress for the district apart from contract negotiations, including the arrangement of tax sales to recoup some of the $300,00 in past due taxes from approximately 2008-2010. As part of an ongoing process, Land also collected nearly $73,000 in back taxes without tax sales. In addition, he held four meetings with legislators to discuss proposed changes including the ability to implement a supplemental tax, an annual audit mandate and the allowance of a tiered tax rate for the district (prior tiered taxation was found impermissible by law).

According to Land's presentation, his future goals were to implement a 5-year plan to pay back the district's debt, adhere to the court's desire to start fresh with a new board of directors and work to phase out the need for a Special Master.

After much discussion and commentary from those in attendance, registered taxpayers were given the opportunity to vote in favor of or against the proposed budget and tax levy, ultimately rejecting them by 24 votes. 

Land met with Judge Brian Stern on Tuesday morning to weigh the short list of options available to the district; a shutdown or liquidation. After stressing to the public that voiding the firefighters' collective bargaining agreement is not an option, nor is filing for bankruptcy, Land submitted an Emergency Petition to Authorize Liquidation. 

A hearing on Land's petition will be held on Thursday, Feb. 14 at 2 p.m., before the Out County Business Calendar, Courtroom 4D at Kent County Superior Court, 222 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886. 

If liquidation is granted, it is unclear how fire and emergency services within the Central Coventry district would be provided to residents.

Click here to view the Superior Court notice regarding Special Master Richard Land's Emergency Petition to Authorize Liquidation.

Realistic voter February 14, 2013 at 02:34 AM
Me...If you are going to make accusations please have some facts instead of mindless dribble! Bounce it off your friends.. me, myself and I
Old But Informed February 14, 2013 at 02:41 AM
It's preferable to having a small group of connected insiders perpetrate a massive fraud upon the ratepayers of the CCFD! They made a 200 million dollar assessment "mistake" THREE YEARS IN A ROW!!! We need a grand jury convened and members of the CCFD leadership and firefighters union doing the "perp walk" before we ever get the TRUTH about this calculated SCAM!
Notfromhere February 14, 2013 at 03:13 AM
Sad that only 432 registered voters turned out for this "important" vote.... although realizing that some of those voters were unable to attend as they had to work to support their family...
Scott February 14, 2013 at 03:19 AM
I am NOT a coventry firefighter, nor am I a Central Coventry Fire district resident. With this said the district has a huge problem, pay and increase tax to keep your Fire and Rescue personnel who respond to 3200 + runs a year (last years numbers) or dissolve it and face increased insurance premiums for both residential and commercial properties and when there is an emergency hope someone is available to respond. I saw a bumper sticker on line which states "what is someone called 911 and no one came?".
Scott February 14, 2013 at 03:24 AM
This IS a possibility here with this vote taken. I live in the neighboring district, people are saying that the resources I pay for are now going to be needed to cover your district ..... Is that fair to me? I pay $2.80 per on thousand dollars, you guys are complaining at increasing a rate of $1.82 per one thousand. You have 40-50 employees at that rate, we have 10. The Other districts in town pay between $1.42 and 1.74 and have far fewer employees than you and are only paying a few cents less. Now your ISO (Insurance Services Office) classification rate will go from a 5 to a 10, which will increase your property insurance $300 - $500 a year. As collateral damage because I am a neighboring district and the district use each other for mutual/ automatic aid; my ISO rate is going up from a 6 to a 9, increasing my rates and I can not do anything about it. I could not speak at your meeting, nor vote against it. So what is your plan if Judge Stern okays the plan to liquidate, use my services? What if my neighbor or I need them? I do not blame the firefighters, they are a captive group being abused by some taxpayers here, your problem is with their management. Where are those people, call them out! These employees are no different than firefighters accross this country, they work very hard and I appreciate what they do! You need to sit down calmly, rationally, and work to solve this problem without lossing services or burdening districts and communities.
Notfromhere February 14, 2013 at 03:49 AM
2-3 fire's (its fires not fire's) per year? Do you realize that not only do they fight fires but also respond to motor vehicle accidents in their district (and assist other towns as well), malfunctioning CO detector alarms, false fire alarms for both businesses and residential, gas/propane leaks, electrical/power/telephone poles down..... perhaps you should stop by CCFD and check the fire logs for the year 2012... you'd be amazed what firefighters do besides fight 2-3 fires per year!
pat mcguire February 14, 2013 at 12:04 PM
Hey Ben Dover Bend over one more time and get your head out of your ass
pat mcguire February 14, 2013 at 12:11 PM
me... if wishes and hopes were real threats, I'm sure you would have been dead years ago. Go cry to your mom, the police won't want to hear how pathetic you are.
CoventryForward13 February 14, 2013 at 01:22 PM
This is a description of the Central Coventry Fire District straight from their website. The Central Coventry Fire District is a quasi-governmental entity created by legislation to provide for the fire protection, suppression and emergency medical services for all properties that are located within the geographical boundaries of the Central Coventry Fire District. The Central Coventry Fire District is an entirely separate entity from the Town of Coventry, we are completely autonomous. The Fire district is governed by a seven member Board of Directors whom is elected annually by the people that reside within the district. In order to be able to provide such essential services, the district is enabled by Rhode Island General Law to levy a separate tax which is called a "Fire Tax". This fire tax is used 100% to operate the fire district and to provide the essential services to the public. Along with the emergency services provided, the Fire District is also required to provide, maintain, and pay for the street lighting within the Central Coventry District, as well as pay for the rental and usage of fire hydrants from the Kent County Water Authority. The Central Coventry Fire District is the largest & busiest Fire District in the Town of Coventry and in the State of Rhode Island, we employee 52 full-time employees, working out of five fire stations. Our emergency response area spans out over 26 square miles of land.
dr February 14, 2013 at 02:11 PM
I had a fire in my home before the departments merged. Called 911 and then my husband. Both were 1.5 miles from my house. My husband arrive first, (volunteer from another town) had the fire out and house ventilated before the trucks even left the station. Also if we are paying our taxes why do we still need to pay for ems transport to the hospital? Isn't this what our taxes are supposed to pay for? I do feel bad about the fireman losing there jobs because a few are frienda of mine. But the men that are running the show need to figure something out.... Like possibly taxing on what our homes are really valued at not over $200,000 more than they are worth.
CoventryForward13 February 14, 2013 at 03:29 PM
Mr. Mott, the more you speak, the more you show your complete ignorance. Constructive criticism is welcome, but until you know the facts please don't waste our time. Does the council get a piece of the pie? What?
Coventry Watchdog February 14, 2013 at 08:20 PM
If they can could have told us what they spent the extra revenue on that they did not have and eliminate those expenses I think that would have been a step in the right direction.
Ralph Boonerboone4@hotmail.com February 14, 2013 at 10:23 PM
From a outsider listening and read about what is going on. I know that test of the people in the town are going to pay for CCFD problems, but it appears shutting it down is the only choice left. Some want to find out who is to blame for the problem instead of correcting the problem and then finding out is to blame. It like locking the barn door after the horse is stolen.
BostonBruins17 February 14, 2013 at 11:21 PM
Can someone tell me why Volunteers were no longer accepted at CCFD? To me... this seem kind of stupid to get rid of the people that are volunteering. Also... can someone tell me why we needed a brand new 100" Tower Ladder in Central Coventry when we already have/had 3 in town that function just fine for the very few times they were used anyways?
BostonBruins17 February 14, 2013 at 11:22 PM
3 ladders that is...NOT tower ladders... Didnt want to get yelled at for being misinformed.
LifelongCoventryResident February 14, 2013 at 11:48 PM
Dear "Just Me". I'm a normal working person and I only wish I receive a $26,000 pension when I have to retire. My company eliminated it and now I have to rely on only social security. Get with the times. Also, when I have a deductible on my insurance, I have to pay it. I do not get reimbused like I heard at the meeting.
Just Me February 15, 2013 at 02:23 AM
You are misinformed Boston, there were 3 ladders including the one that Tower 3 replaced.... The ladder that was at the washington station was considered unsafe due to the fact it was 30 yrs old and therefore was replaced with the Tower. The Tower was purchased as a demo and was actually going to save the town money in the long run Prior to the error ( 2.4 Million dollars )... Had the Tower not been replaced the ISO ratings for the CCFD district would have changed and your insurance rates would have gone up... As far as the Volunteers go they all had the opportunity to test and get on the dep't. Some did, some chose to go to other districts, They were not run out. The majority of the firefighters in town now were once Volunteers themselves and chose to make this job a profession.
Just Me February 15, 2013 at 02:33 AM
I'm sorry to hear that Lifelong, but I earned every dollar of what I have worked for including my pension. I am with the times, its sad people including my family will be put at jeopardy when this shutdown occurs. As far as insurance and Social Security, my pension is my only avenue of revenue, so before you make accusations of how great I have it get your facts straight.
Just Me February 15, 2013 at 03:54 AM
Lifelong, I don't want to come off as cocky. I wish the economy was better and all could get better benefits. I do not hold grudges to those doing well, I try to help as many people I can when I have extra. But I don't think its fair for myself or any of these ff's to be catching the brunt of the attack for an error they did not commit.
BostonBruins17 February 15, 2013 at 03:54 AM
Just me... thanks for the Info. Wouldnt two ladders be enough to cover the town? West Warwick only uses 1 and they have far more calls? Second... Why did the volunteers have to test to get on the fire dept in the first place? Does not answer why they ever stopped the Volunteer program?
Just Me February 15, 2013 at 02:12 PM
Continuity in service, Guaranteed response with the knowledge that all ff's on the trucks were minimally qualified at an ALS level. It also take responsibility off the district if a volunteer gets hurt. There is an instance where the District in town ( not going to say which one ) had a ff fall off the truck doing routine fire duties. This cost the district tons of money,last I heard they also are now responsible for this individual and his medical bills indefinitely. So there is lodgic to why things happen. I would not want to be the Chief of a department where an 18 or 19 y/o volunteer loses his life doing a hobby. I respect the volunteers and know that probably 99% of them use this type of service to become full time. Just in modern times with all the law suits and new regulations as well as training, time, and other lifetime issues it really isn't feasible anymore. I would like to know what type of service I'm getting 24/7, not wondering is it a BLS or ALS, did they get the truck out or is it coming from another town, Fires double by the minute, and brain and Cardiac Cells by the second. I just don't want to take the chance to put my family at risk with those type of odds. I personally think one town wide department would be great. As far as the ladder is concerned as long as the departments remain separate the ISO and ins ratings will be reflected by individual departments, though consideration is made with outlying apparatus. Having the Tower helps lower ins rates.
Just Me February 15, 2013 at 02:19 PM
Sorry should have said Brain and Cardiac cells die by the second, my typo. I am not slamming volunteers either, I just think having a full time service benefits all and takes a major liability off the district of a person gets hurt.
CoventryForward13 February 15, 2013 at 03:04 PM
Just Me - I want to thank you and commend you for bringing the issues to the table and explaining the realities of running a fire district. Much of this information is not known by the general public - which leads to comments from people who do not take these things into consideration. These people need to know what their taxes pay for and how important it is to have these services we often take for granted. Thank you!
Cadre February 15, 2013 at 04:10 PM
Your husband is a Hero. you are lucky to have him. But why did you light your house on fire?
Justin Cider February 15, 2013 at 06:58 PM
Your a firefighter teabagger. Show some figures instead of just spouting jibberish nonsense.The only real figures you said right is that they are the busiest. Thats because they merged with 4 other districs. Blah, blah blah!!!!
Scott February 15, 2013 at 07:35 PM
@ Justin, FYI .... When talking about comparing volunteer vs. career firefighter deaths. In 2009 there were 41 vol compared to 31 career. In 2010, there was 45 vol deaths compared to 25 career. In 2011, there was 35 vol deaths compared to 21.( Per NFPA) Volunteer injury rates responding to, from, and on fire scene are higher also; again per NFPA website!
Justin Cider February 15, 2013 at 07:58 PM
Coventry is NOT a big city like NYC or Chicago. Those guys deserve everything they get. WE are talking about a town that has on average 7 housefire's a year.
Scott February 15, 2013 at 08:18 PM
Now I see where your ignorance is, the term "fire department" is a misnomer! Our fire departments are actually "All hazards response agencies", they respond to medical runs, fires, electrical and water emergencies, chemical leaks and spills, motor vehicle accidents, and whatever someone calls 911 for. That is why they have a call volume of 3200-3500 runs a year.
Ryan Bilodeau February 16, 2013 at 01:38 PM
3200 calls a year is a lot to ask from volunteers. I work at a combination fire department (volunteer and paid) where we only run 2500 a year at the bls level and we have a lot of trouble getting enough responders out of the station. Running at the Als level is very advanced and requires a lot if training. When you have a fire department based ambulance in a busy service area,I personally am not comfortable waiting for you to leave the grocery store to pick up the ambulance to come help me. I hope you guys an figure out how to save these very important jobs.
Notfromhere February 19, 2013 at 04:18 AM
Justin, you need to read up on facts before spouting off.... these firefighters respond to a plethora of calls, both emergency and non emergency but they treat every call professionally. Coventry covers a large area too.

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