EAST GREENWICH — The process of altering a form of town government that has been in place since John Adams was president took its first step to possibly becoming a reality Tuesday night.
By an overwhelming majority, Question 8, a non-binding referendum which asked residents if they want the East Greenwich Fire District to merge with the Town, passed with 65.3 percent of the vote.
Back in the late summer months, Town Councilman Jeffrey Cianciolo originally proposed the question and it has sparked debate between the town and the Fire District regarding if consolidation would save the town a considerable amount of money. With the referendum passing Tuesday night, the discussions between both governing sanctions are slated to continue for the foreseeable future.
“The voters have spoken. Are the Fire Commissioners going to listen,” said Cianciolo, who earned another term with the Town Council in his own election Tuesday evening. “If they are, they’ll work with us and cooperate to fulfill what the voters want and I’ll be disappointed if they don’t. We’ll have to see.”
Even with the ink on the final vote sheet still wet, some local officials with close ties with the East Greenwich Fire District feel in their own opinion that there won’t be any action on the District’s part to change the way the current government works in town.
“It seems that they’re (the Fire District) pretty well satisfied with the way things are,” said Mark Gee, a fellow Town Council member of Cianciolo who also serves on the Board of Fire Commissioners. “There’s no incentive for them to change.”
“I’m disappointed,” said William Daly, the chairman of the Board of Fire Commissioners regarding the vote. “We felt that there’s no real benefit to the town to do this.”
Daly added that if the discussions proceed and the merger becomes legal, he clarified that the Fire District will abide to the new government.
Gee added that the upcoming discussions with the town will be a long, drawn-out process. Cianciolo said that he hopes marathon talks won’t take place and questioning who the Fire District is representing if it’s going to take that hard stance of not changing.
“Do they (the District) represent the voters and taxpayers of this town or do they represent themselves,” Cianciolo said. “I would like to give them a chance to see what they do before I characterize what it will be like.”