April 11, 2013

Open Thread: Crisis in Central Coventry

Carroll Andrew Morse

Senators Lou Raptakis and Nick Kettle submitted a pair of bills to the General Assembly today concerning the Central Coventry Fire District. The first bill describes new outlines for the Coventry, Western Coventry, and Hopkins Hill Road fire districts, which I assume would cover all of the town of Coventry between them; the last two sections of the bill read...

SECTION 4. This act should not be construed to mean, under any circumstances, that the Coventry fire district, Western Coventry Fire District, Hopkins Hill Road Fire District shall assume any of the Central Coventry Fire District's debts and liabilities.

SECTION 5. This act shall take effect upon the approval by a majority 1 of each district's members voting on the district expansion question at all three (3) of the fire districts: Coventry, Western Coventry, and Hopkins Hill Road.

The other bill would retroactively set a budget for the CCFD this year...
Effective September 1, 2012, if the Central Coventry fire district fails to approve an annual appropriation authorization, the same amounts appropriated in the prior fiscal year shall be available; provided, that such appropriation shall be increased by such amount as is necessary for the payment of existing bonded indebtedness of the Central Coventry fire district and 1 interest thereon.
...and includes this interesting kicker at the end...
This act shall take effect upon passage and shall apply retroactively to September 1, 2012 and shall be repealed on September 1, 2013.
Is the object here to have the CCFD make one more payment towards their debts this year, before being dissolved?

This is just one of many possible methods for dealing with the bankruptcy of the Central Coventry Fire District. Consider this as an open-thread for discussing other possible solutions, be they obvious, creative or both.

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

At the moment, I just want to know how the "fire district" - an entity that possesses taxing authority but is not accountable to voter/taxpayers - ever came into legal existence.

This is a combination of power and non-accountability that needs to be abolished.

Posted by: Monique at April 11, 2013 6:42 PM

It may be too late to do the Central Coventry Fire District (and its taxpayers) much good, but it would seem to make sense to include fire districts in the Budget Commission law (Chapter 45-9) that has been used to help sort out matters in Central Falls, East Providence, and Woonsocket. That law has its problems and can be heavy-handed, but it is a means of avoiding bankruptcy and total collapse before a alternative solutions can be implemented. As I recall, the law was amended to retroactively address some of Central Falls's issues. Perhaps the same could be done with regard to CCFD.

Posted by: Larry at April 12, 2013 12:50 PM

Fire districts are created by charter through the General Assembly and are accountable to taxpayers. There had to be some taxpayer approval for the merger of the five smaller districts into the Central district. In many fire districts taxpayers do not pay attention and those with the purse are happy about that. The taxpayers do not attend fire district meetings; have no idea who "their" elected officials are; don't look at or question the annual budgets (or even know if there is a budget); don't demand annual audits; etc etc. How CC fire district got to the point where their expenses are $100,000 a week, when not that long ago the district was volunteer, is that taxpayers let it happen.

Posted by: riborn at April 12, 2013 7:13 PM

" How CC fire district got to the point where their expenses are $100,000 a week, when not that long ago the district was volunteer, is that taxpayers let it happen. "

Come on man... you're blaming the taxpayers for being taken advantage of, this isn't business we're talking about here, but rather public "service".

NOT "fleece the suckers"

But that's exactly what happened here and you know it.

Posted by: StuckHereInRI at April 15, 2013 11:27 AM
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