More than 60 people turned out for the East Greenwich Fire District's annual meeting Tuesday night – 55 of them registered voters. That was a feat in itself considering two years ago people at the meeting were making phone calls to their neighbors to get the 30 voters needed to field a quorum.
The Fire District's proposed budget of $5.5 million passed with a vote of a show of hands, with only one dissenter.
Before the vote, one concern raised by voters was health care co-pays. Voters were told union members will be required to pay $3,000 toward a family plan in the next fiscal year.
The other hot-button topic was the proposal – not part of next year's budget – to consider buying the parcel at Post Road and Cedar Avenue in order . Concerns were voiced about the need for such a station.
Fire Chief Peter Henrikson said they were still talking to the state about the property, with is owned by the state. The district wants to have preferred bidder status since, Henrikson said, its resources are finite. He reiterated this could be the last piece of property available on Post Road that could accommodate a fire station.
Because of the recent property revaluation, the 2013 budget represents an 18 percent increase over year ago. But that's deceptive – since housing values are lower, the tax rate percentage had to go up just to stay even. In real terms, according to Fire District Treasurer Kevin Hundley, the increase is about 3 percent over 2012.
In other action, residents voted in three fire commissioners, going with the recommendations made by the nominating committee. Stephen Bartlett won re-election to a three-year term and newcomer Phillip Higgins won election to a three-year term.
Mark Schwager won re-election to a one-year term. Schwager was elected for a one-year term because he is still fulfilling the seat of James Harris, who resigned last year. Schwager was appointed by the Commissioners to fill Harris's seat and in accordance with the Charter he could only fill the term until this June. The voters then elect him to finish the term of Commissioner Harris which is next June.
A fourth candidate, Steven Brouillard, was nominated from the floor but failed to get enough votes to earn a spot on the commission.