More grim news for financially troubled fire district - ABC6 - Providence, RI and New Bedford, MA News, Weather


More grim news for financially troubled fire district

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by ABC6 Chief Political Reporter Mark Curtis

It could be "last call" for the Central Coventry Fire Department.

In court Tuesday, a grim picture was painted of the Fire District's finances.

It's estimated the department will need 7 million dollars to operate next year, but may only collect 5–point–5 million in taxes.

"We're probably running off, a million dollars total, to pay the debt," said Fred Gralinski, Chairman of the Central Coventry Fire District Board of Directors.

ABC6 Reporter Mark Curtis asked, "Is this department going to be able to survive?"

Chairman Gralinski responded, "It may not! It may not."

ABC6 Chief Political Reporter Mark Curtis said, "Right now the Central Coventry Fire District has a little over a half–million dollars in the bank; that's only enough to keep the department open, another five weeks."

The Judge told the firefighters union and the district they need to seriously negotiate.

"With the current contracts, agreements and long term debt, there is not enough money to sustain the district," said Superior Court Judge Brian Stern.

Complicating the situation, firefighters came to court seeking a half–million dollars in back pay and benefits they are owed from previous concessions.

"The firefighters claim we are owed that money. It was an agreement; we shook hands on it; the paper was inked; and we believe we are still owed that money," said Captain David Gorman of the Firefighters Union.

But the Judge declined to order that payback, just yet.

"Well if we paid them today, it would effectively shut down the district. The amount of money they are seeking is approximately what we have the bank," said Fire District Special Master Richard Land.

A new financial analysis - obtained by ABC6 News -shows unless there is a combination of big taxes increases, and major union concessions, the department won't survive.


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