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Volunteers withhold Bradford equipment

WESTERLY — Members of the Bradford Volunteer Fire Company are refusing to turn over some of the department’s equipment, including a truck used to fight brush fires, to the Dunn’s Corners Fire Department despite a vote of Bradford residents to pursue a contract for fire protection with Dunn’s Corners.

The Bradford firefighters have retained possession of the brush truck, an antique firetruck, a pickup truck, pagers and radios, according to Frank Manfredi, Bradford Fire District moderator. Two pumper trucks and an all terrain vehicle have been moved from Bradford to Dunn’s Corners.

Manfredi said Jon Lallo, Bradford Fire District solicitor, is researching the fire company’s claim that it owns the equipment, based on an assertion that the equipment was acquired through grant funding. The fire company is a distinct nonprofit domestic corporation, incorporated in 1940. The Bradford Fire District was incorporated as a domestic nonprofit corporation in 1937.

Jay Sullivan, a former Bradford Volunteer Fire Company chief, declined to comment and refused to say where the equipment is currently located.

Bradford Fire District voters, at their Sept. 10 annual meeting, authorized negotiations with the Dunn’s Corners Fire District. Dunn’s Corners is currently providing fire protection services to Bradford under an interim agreement. The Bradford Fire District is expected to conduct a special meeting on Nov. 14 to present the proposed contract, a proposed budget, and proposed bylaw changes to the voters.

Sullivan and two other members of the Bradford Fire District Board of Engineers submitted letters of resignation during the week of Sept. 9. A letter read during the Sept. 10 meeting said that members of the Bradford Volunteer Fire Company would not work with the Dunn’s Corners department.

Thomas Algiere Jr., Dunn’s Corners Fire Department third deputy chief, said during the Sept. 10 meeting that Dunn’s Corners would need Bradford’s equipment as some of it is specifically geared toward the Bradford area. He also encouraged Bradford volunteers to join the Dunn’s Corners Department.

As the Nov. 14 meeting approaches, officials are also studying the decades-old practice of exempting the owners of the former Bradford Dyeing Association (BDA) property from having to pay fire district taxes. Manfredi said the practice appears to have developed because BDA was at one time the local area’s largest employer, and because the company permitted fire department equipment to be stored on company property.

The BDA site was most recently operated as Bradford Printing and Finishing. Last month, some of the department’s equipment was still being kept on the former BDA property, which is now owned by BPF Realty LLC. But Manfredi said the fire equipment is no longer kept on the 61-acre property at 460 Bradford Road.

Manfredi said he favored making the property owned by BPF Realty LLC a part of the Bradford Fire District and therefore subject to district taxes. Matthew Thomsen, Dunn’s Corners Fire District moderator, said his district is researching the status of the former BDA property.

The old mill has been the site of two serious fires since 2007. In September, Nick Griseto, owner of Bradford Printing and Finishing LLC, was charged with not testing/operating fire alarm equipment and with having no evidence of fire alarm testing. He pleaded not guilty and, according to his lawyer, was engaged in talks with a 4th Division District Court judge and the State Fire Marshal’s office to resolve the case and bring the plant into compliance with state fire regulations.

Bradford Printing and Finishing was placed into receivership, a form of bankruptcy protection, last year.

In June, during an Economic Development Commission tour of the property, Griseto said he had begun finding tenants to lease space in the old mill and was seeking additional tenants. Griseto could not be reached for comment for this article.

William Nardone, who, along with Lallo, is serving as solicitor for the Bradford Fire District, said that making the mill property subject to district taxes would require approval of a bill by the General Assembly because the district’s original charter did not specify that the property was part of the district.

The Dunn’s Corners Fire District Operating Committee is scheduled to meet Monday at 7 p.m. at Station 1, 1 Langworthy Road, to discuss the interim agreement with Bradford Fire District. Thomsen said Dunn’s Corners Fire District voters would eventually be asked to approve a contract with the Bradford Fire District.

Lallo did not respond to messages left by telephone and email. Dunn’s Corners Fire Department Chief Michael Fink could not be reached for comment.

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