Dunn’s Corners approves fire contract with Bradford

Dunn’s Corners approves fire contract with Bradford

The Westerly Sun

WESTERLY — Dunn’s Corners Fire District voters unanimously approved a two-year contract with the Bradford Fire District for fire protection services, along with a $896,347 budget for 2014-15, at the district’s annual meeting Wednesday night.

The contract, approved by Bradford Fire District residents in June, will require Bradford residents to pay the same tax rate as Westerly residents in the Dunn’s Corners district, which charges separate rates for its Charlestown and Westerly taxpayers. Currently, Westerly residents pay 38 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, while the Charlestown rate is 44 cents.

Under a motion approved by the 30 taxpayers present at the annual meeting, however, the district will begin taxing all of its contracting districts at the same rate. Treasurer Bob Delaney estimated the rate to be between 42 and 45 cents with the new budget, though he said the exact figure cannot be determined until Westerly completes its property evaluations.

“I believe it’s still the lowest rate in this area, and possibly the lowest priced in the state,” Delaney said of the new tax rate.

Bradford Printing & Finishing, on the former Bradford Dyeing Association property, will not be subject to these taxes because Bradford taxpayers voted down a request by the Dunn’s Corners Fire District Operating Committee and plant owner to include the plant in the Bradford Fire District.

Dunn’s Corners Fire Chief Michael Frink said that the district will continue to pursue the $15,000 that plant owner Nick Griseto owes for alarm responses at the property since September. Frink also noted that the Ashaway Fire District is considering including the plant in its fire district, and has listed the issue as an agenda item for its annual meeting.

Meeting attendees in Dunn’s Corners offered little comment on the status of the plant or the tax rate, but raised concern about the section of the contract in which Bradford Fire District agreed to lease all of its equipment to Dunn’s Corners. Several pieces of Bradford’s equipment, along with a brush truck and a pickup truck, went missing in September when department firefighters resigned. Consequently, Dunn’s Corners has not received the equipment.

“If we were promised that equipment by the district, that the district has not furnished us, that is an issue,” Delaney said. He proposed that Dunn’s Corners set a date by which Bradford must supply the missing equipment. “We need something to finalize it so it’s put to rest.”

Dunn’s Corners Capt. Dan Schilke questioned whether the vehicles and ancillary equipment were even in operating condition, since no one has seen the equipment since September.

“From my perspective, we signed a lease on vehicles we don’t even know the condition of,” he said.

Bradford Fire District Moderator Frank Manfredi, who was present at the meeting, responded that Dunn’s Corners should expect to receive the missing equipment “very soon,” noting that state police are currently investigating, and have located the two trucks.

The 2014-15 budget is $108,767 higher than the current budget, with additional expenses stemming from a $30,000 increase in the collective salary of the three deputy chiefs and the creation of a daytime firefighter and facilities manager position, budgeted for $60,000.

Chief Frink noted that with many of the volunteer firefighters unavailable to respond to daytime calls because they are working other jobs, he is often the sole responder.

“If I’m in a meeting, or on vacation, we might not have anybody to go,” he said. “We really need that coverage. It’s an issue that I see as growing, and I see it as a need for the district. I don’t think any of us want to do this, but it’s a necessary evil.”

Ed Schilke, former chairman of the district’s budget and finance board, questioned if having a daytime firefighter might make volunteers even less likely to respond to those calls.

“Take it from me, I’ve experienced this, and I can guarantee you that he’ll be the only one there, because you’re not going to have people willing to go,” Schilke said. “Instead of having more coverage, you’re probably going to have less coverage.”

Frink noted that with modern technology and transmitters, the daytime firefighter can easily communicate to fellow firefighters if the situation is severe enough to merit backup.

Deputy Chief Carl Johnson, one of two firefighters who Frink noted have enough flexibility in their jobs to respond to daytime calls, affirmed that the new position would not deter him from continuing to do so.

“Maybe I won’t respond to one or two of those box alarms, but 98 percent of calls I’m still going to respond to,” he said.

Two at-large board members, Jonathan Schreier and Bob Delaney, were also re-elected at the meeting without opposition from new candidates.

The Dunn’s Corners Fire District has 38 members, and responded to 662 calls this year, along with 39 in Bradford Fire District since a short-term contract began in September.



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