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Changes made to merger legislation draft

March 1, 2013

Bill Daly, the chairman for the East Greenwich Board of Fire Commissioners, addresses the Town Council Monday evening. (Photo: James Bessette)

EAST GREENWICH — It’s not quite dotting the ‘I’s’ and crossing the ‘T’s’ just yet. But a few changes in the language in the proposed legislation signal another step toward a possible change in how government is in the Town of East Greenwich.

Members of the Town Council reviewed and discussed the latest draft proposed by Town Solicitor Peter Clarkin Monday evening at Town Hall regarding the potential merger of the East Greenwich Fire District into one municipal body if approved by the Rhode Island General Assembly.
The changes were suggested following the EGFD’s special meeting earlier this month, just a few days after being formally presented the draft by the Town Council, and each of the Fire Commissioners – including Chairman Bill Daly, who was present at Monday’s meeting – received recommendations from Scott Spears, the Fire District’s legal counsel, as to what should be added into the draft to clarify every point possible.
The latest nine-section-long document states in the opening
paragraph that after the acquisition of the Fire District by the Town, based upon the General Assembly’s approval, the Fire District can still be known as such.
In the second section, Clarkin added in the element that retiree benefits will also fall under the umbrella of responsibilities, which include all debts, litigation, grievances, arbitrations, liabilities and obligations the Town would assume from the Fire District. In the initial draft, retiree benefits weren’t part of the equation and the addition was strongly recommended by the EGFD to be included in the legislation.
According to Section 7 of the draft, the Town of East Greenwich shall “indemnify,” or guarantee, defend and hold harmless after the passage of the bill “each of the former Fire Commissioners, employees, treasurers, clerks and assessors of the East Greenwich Fire District for any and all costs, amounts, payments…suffered by any of the foregoing with respect to…or in connection with any actions or inactions relating to the operation of the EGFD.”
The eighth section of the bill clarifies that the Town would have to abide by the state’s impact fee law, stating that all impact fees that were collected by the Fire District must be used under the restrictions set in place by order of the state.
Town Council President Michael Isaacs also proposed an ordinance to implement a Fire District Advisory Board once, or if, the merger takes place. The Advisory Board, according to the draft, will guide the Town Council and Town Manager William Sequino with regard on handling matters of the EGFD, such as the budget, capital expenditures and other issues concerning the operations of the Fire District.
The draft also states the Advisory Board will comprise of the current members of the Board of Fire Commissioners – Daly, Stephen Bartlett, Philip Higgins, Mark Gee and Mark Schwager – and will hold those positions for one year of the date in which the legislation becomes active. Once the year has finished, the draft says the Advisory Board “shall cease to exist unless reestablished by the Town Council.”
Daly thanked the members of the Town Council for adding in the Fire District’s recommended changes, however he still inquired as to why the notion that the referendum being “non-binding” wasn’t mentioned in the latest proposal by the Council. Isaacs responded that it was a referendum “as people voted” and it was non-binding “in the sense that, by explanation that an act of legislature was required.”
Daly added that he plans on taking the latest draft to his fellow Fire Commissioners for the EGFD’s regularly-scheduled monthly meeting at Town Hall Thursday evening and the matter will also be discussed with the Town Council this coming Monday at Swift Community Center.

Southern Rhode Island Newspapers
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