The East Greenwich Fire Commissioners voted 4-1 last Thursday to spend up to $2,000 to send a postcard mailer to every household in the district about why the EG Fire District should remain autonomous.
Commissioner Mark Gee – who has said he will vote yes on the ballot question, "Should the Fire District be merged with the Town of East Greenwich?" – cast the only dissenting vote.
According to Bill Daly, chairman of the Board of Fire Commissioners, the postcard mailing is informational, not political, and will cite five reasons for the Fire District to remain its own municipal entity.
Daly said the postcard will outline the Fire District's strong, open and transparent governance; a low tax rate; no debt; state-of-the-art equipment and training; and a singular focus on fire and rescue.
Town Councilman Jeff Cianciolo was the one to recommend placing a question on the ballot asking voters whether or not the Fire District should be merged with the town. Right now, the EG Fire District exists independently of the Town of East Greenwich. It has its own taxing authority and is governed by five commissioners.
Cianciolo has argued the Fire District's governance is guarded – commissioners are voted into office at the EGFD's annual meeting in June with no more than a few dozen people present – and that it brings unnecessary additional bureaucracy.
A forum was held in October for both the Town Council and the Fire District to discuss the ballot question before voters.
"The meeting was fine but there were just 40, 50 people there," said Daly, referring to the forum. "We just want to put this out to everyone and hopefully get the message out."
Daly continued, "Everybody tells us we’re doing a great job.... the fire fighters are great but, they say, 'We want to change.' What is the point? It’s kind of frustrating to us."
The mailing will cost about $1,700 in printing and postage costs, Daly said. The vote to spend Fire District money on the mailing was made at the meeting Oct. 25. According to Daly, although Fire District lawyer Scott Spear was not present for the meeting due to illness, he had told officials a vote on the $1,700 expenditure was legal under the open meetings law because discussion of the non-binding referendum was on the agenda.