Central Coventry may owe millions for firefighter pensions - ABC6 - Providence, RI and New Bedford, MA News, Weather

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Central Coventry may owe millions for firefighter pensions

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by ABC6 News Chief Political Reporter Mark Curtis

mcurtis@abc6.com

Make no mistake about it the doors could be closing for good on the Central Coventry Fire Department.

Many residents, especially on fixed incomes, are saying no to a fire department bailout.

"Well I mean it make it more difficult for everybody, if the taxes keep going up and everything," said Coventry resident Dorothy Olivieri.

But taxes could still go up even if the fire department closes.

A judge ruled today Central Coventry taxpayers may have to pay $6 million dollars in fire fighter pension funds.

"The Court can order it to pay those debts, by raising additional money," said Superior Court Judge Brian Stern.

ABC6 Chief Political Reporter Mark Curtis said, "Even if taxpayers reject the district budget, the fire department will not be shut down right away, but it will be on life support."

Eventually though, the judge may grant the wishes of taxpayers, if they want the department liquidated, and all firefighters would be laid off.

"We average about 10 to 15 calls daily. Who is going to respond if there is no one there to respond? People will die, and it's not a scare tactic. I've been accused of scare tactics. It's common sense," said Captain David Gorman of the Firefighters Union.

But others say neighboring fire departments could be paid to cover Central Coventry, and a private ambulance service could be hired.

"I think it's a more affordable alternative. There's many, many towns in Massachusetts that have used private ambulance service to keep their people safe," said State Rep. Patricia Morgan (R-West Warwick-Coventry).

Central Coventry's fire territory covers 25 square miles.

Monday night's fire district annual meeting, and taxpayer budget vote is still on at 7 O'clock.

 

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