Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian said Monday he was "disappointed" that the East Greenwich Fire District terminated dispatch merger talks.
"I am disappointed that the Fire District voted to stop the discussion about dispatch but I certainly understand and apologize to Chief Henricksen and the Board for the length of time that it has taken," Avedisian said in an email.
East Greenwich Fire Commissioners voted to end dispatch consolidation talks with Warwick at their meeting on Jan. 24, after three years of effort and $162,000 in EGFD money spent on equipment for both towns.
There was no written agreement between Warwick and EGFD.
According to EG Fire Chief Peter Henrikson, of the $162,000 spent, about $15,000 was spent on East Greenwich infrastructure needed regardless of consolidation. The rest was spent on a variety of technical equipment and infrastructure specific to the Warwick-EG dispatch consolidation effort.
Among the items purchased were two digital decoders, which will leave EG with a spare. According to a story by NBC 10's Jim Taricani, East Greenwich had purchased and installed two microwave dishes at a cost of $54,000 that would have been used as a backup system had the regionalization plan gone forward. Henrikson said they will try to sell them.
"The idea of Warwick doing dispatch for the East Greenwich Fire District began several years ago," said Avedisian. "At that time I was told that it would be an easy issue to resolve and that it would just take some upgrades to the existing technology. In hindsight, we should have commissioned a study to look at all the issues surrounding the combination of the two dispatch areas."
He continued, "I learned that it really was not just the flip of a switch that I had been led to believe. East Greenwich needed to make upgrades and Warwick needed to make upgrades."
Meanwhile, however, the Warwick Fire Chief retired. The new chief, Edmund Armstrong, asked Avedisian for time to review the department's relationship with the EGFD. Warwick pays EGFD $320,000 a year for fire and rescue in the Potowomut and Bay Ridge areas of the city of Warwick and there's been talk for many years about Warwick building a fire station in that area.
"I agreed to give him time to complete that analysis," Avedisian said.
EG officials say the original idea to merge the dispatch units came from former Fire Commissioner Christine Mattos. Combining dispatch with Warwick would free up fire fighters to cover Station 2, the logic went.
However, the urgency to merge dispatch with Warwick evaporated when the district and the fire fighters union worked out an agreement so that dispatch was no longer part of the fire fighters' assigned duty. That freed up the district to add a fire fighter to help cover Station 2, which had been a goal since the beginning of the dispatch talks with Warwick.
Meanwhile, there's room at the EG police station for a second dispatcher and the East Greenwich Town Council in the process of drafting legislation to merge the Fire District into the town following voters' 2-1 approval of a nonbinding referendum last November on that issue.