Fire District Steps Back From Straight Opposition To Merger
They table a motion that would have out and out opposed merging with the Town – instead, they will wait until after a meeting Feb. 4 with the Town Council.
Fire District Commissioner Steve Bartlett likened it to a train that's left the station and is bearing down on them – the sense that the Town Council has the Fire District in its sights and "it's looking to sweep away the Fire District as we know it."
That was the sense of at least some on the Fire District Thursday night, when they discussed the referendum – which passed 2-to-1 in November in favor of merging the District with the Town – and what to do next.
Fire Commissioner Bill Daly put forth a motion "to oppose the merger of the East Greenwich Fire District into the Town of East Greenwich" and then he listed eight reasons, including the apparent lack of any "meaningful" increase in savings.
Mark Schwager and Mark Gee both spoke against such a motion, which they both said would only make the process more difficult.
The Town Council last week approved a motion to begin discussions between the District and the Town by having lawyers for both and the Fire Chief and Town Manager meet to discuss the situation.
The two boards are to meet next on Feb. 4 and Schwager urged his fellow commissioners to wait until after that meeting to pass any motions such as the one Daly put forth.
Steve Bartlett wondered aloud what any middle road could be. Fire District lawyer Scott Spear laid out some scenarios.
"You could agree to a merger, but you could do it in such a way that you could try to salvage certain oversight – the fire district could operate differently than other town departments," Spear said. He also said the District could oppose the merger but address some of the governance and electoral issues raised by Councilman Jeff Cianciolo.
Spear also said the District could "put the decision back to the voters," especially since the November vote was nonbinding.
After much discussion, the commissioners opted to table Daly's motion and meet with the Council on Feb. 4.