This story was updated at 1 p.m., Jan. 11.
The East Greenwich Fire District is close to throwing in the towel on a plan to consolidate dispatch services with Warwick following three years of effort, numerous meetings, and $200,000 spent on equipment for both towns.
The idea to consolidate dispatch with Warwick came from former Fire District Commissioner Christine Mattos. According to Fire Chief Peter Henrikson, it made sense because East Greenwich already covers the Potowomut section of Warwick as first responder.
Warwick fire officials signed on to the plan, but no contract was ever signed. Henrikson said that was because they wanted to make sure the arrangement could be worked out.
"The draft agreement was prepared. The contract wasn’t going to be signed until it was up and running and we knew it was going to work," Henrikson said. "This isn’t something, especially in Rhode Island, that’s ever been done."
Fire District lawyer Scott Spear said the decision should not reflect negatively on Warwick.
"As the process went along, there was a change of chief in Warwick. That required us getting the new chief up to speed. That took some time. Then [Warwick] ran into some contract negotiation issues," Spear explained. "It was a very complicated process. I don’t think anyone expected it to take as long as it did and be as complicated as it’s been.... It’s been a lot of good faith effort on both sides."
That said, the EGFD spent money on equipment for both East Greenwich and Warwick.
"We needed to buy some of that stuff to get it in there to see if it was going to work," Henrikson said. He said the plan was unclear for getting the Warwick equipment back or getting reimbursed for it.
Going forward, Henrikson said he'd like to explore sharing dispatch duties with the EG police.
"We’d really like to look at the opportunity to work with the town," he said. "At the police station, there’s another console where a fire dispatcher could sit. The main cable that links the two stations runs right up First Avenue. It would be a matter of splicing into that line … it would be simple."