Density, Historic House Still Problems for So. Pierce Condo Plan

The back of the house includes additions that are in particularly bad shape, according to an engineer working for the developer.

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

Developer Tom Primeau and his team were back before the Planning Board with a revised 14-unit condominium development for the McKenna property at 62 South Pierce Road. Originally, Primeau’s company – Philip Ryan Homes LLP – had proposed 22 units for the site. After initial negative feedback from the town, the developer came back in August dropping the number of condo units to 16.

“Right from the beginning, when this was the 21 units, my comments were it was too much,” said Planning Board Vice Chair Jason Gomez at the Planning Board meeting Dec. 6. “I think we’re going in the right direction.”

Other members agreed, but no one was willing to say they were ready to support the plan, citing both the density of the project and the demolition of the only house on the property, a farmhouse dating to 1705 that is in a serious state of disrepair.

The 14 units exceeds the 10 to 12 units Primeau would be eligible for if the plan were going through the regular review process. But Primeau has applied for a Comprehensive Permit, which is a fast-track for developers who include a higher percentage of affordable units*. Primeau is proposing 4 of the 14 units would be in the affordable category (10 percent affordable is the typical requirement). A Comprehensive Permit application bypasses the Zoning Board, the Town Council and, in this case, the Historic District Commission, with final approval coming from the Planning Board alone – but a Planning Board imbued with the powers of the other boards.

To say no to the proposal, however, is hard, since East Greenwich’s affordable housing percentage sits at 4.6, which would give the developer leverage on appeal.

As at the three previous public hearings on the plan, called Coggeshall Preserve, neighbors were out in force. Many continue to object to the scale of the buildings. In a neighborhood of largely modest, single-story houses, the development includes four new multi-unit buildings along with a plan to rebuild the historic house on the property, parcelling it up into three condominiums. Under the latest plan, three of the four affordable units would be located in the “new” old house, which could run afoul of the town’s Comprehensive Plan**, which calls for affordable units to be scattered not clustered.

The new plan does make some accommodations for neighbors in addition to the drop from 16 to 14 units. In particular, the three-unit building off Taylor Circle at the south end of the property has been moved farther back from the property line, which happens to sit uncomfortably close to one of the houses on Taylor Circle house.

While the new plan includes demolition of the McKenna house, which dates back to 1705, it calls stabilizing its architecturally significant chimney and building the new structure on the original footprint. The house has been neglected for years and the developer has argued that it is too far gone to be saved.

The Historic District Commission issued an advisory opinion at the request of the Planning Board earlier this fall. (In normal circumstances, the HDC would have jurisdiction but because of the Comprehensive Permit, it can only advise.) It said the house should not be torn down, noting that it was one of the oldest houses in this part of Rhode Island.

At its Dec. 6 meeting, the Planning Board decided to ask the HDC to weigh in the latest proposal, which it will do at its meeting Jan. 10.

Anyone who buys the property will need to deal with potentially extensive and expensive environmental mitigation. The McKennas, who still own the property, allowed a variety of dumping on the property over the years. At some point, the state Dept. of Environmental Management filed a notice of intent to enforce the regulations. That’s a step before filing a violation but it just sits there until the owner either cleans up the damage or sells the property.

“The DEM is excited for the opportunity to deal with past problems,” said Town Planner Lisa Bourbonnais Monday.

*By state law, municipalities are supposed to have 10 percent of their housing stock in the affordable category. East Greenwich’s affordable percentage is 4.6 percent. To reach 10 percent, East Greenwich would need to add 290 units, according to HousingWorksRI. (Affordable housing is not the same as low- to moderate-income housing. Rather, for home ownership, it is calculated to serve people who make less than 120 percent of the median income for, in this case, Kent County.) The state created the Comprehensive Permit application to help fast-track developments that include affordable housing units since so many communities fall short of the 10 percent goal.

** A lengthy document that outlines the town’s goals and aspirations in terms of development.

This Week in EG: Homework Forum, Christmas Concert

A weekly article that lists happenings in East Greenwich and nearby. If you have something you’d like to add, send your information to egreenwichnews@gmail.com.

Tuesday, Dec. 12

EG Chamber of Commerce Business After Hours – This month, Biz After Hours takes place at Atria Harborhill from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. 159 Division St. Members $5 and nonmembers $10.

Land Trust meeting – The panel meets in Council Chambers at Town Hall at 7 p.m.

EG Tree Council meeting – This volunteer group meets in the conference room across from Council Chambers at Town Hall at 7 p.m. New members are welcome. For more information, email emac6660@gmail.com.

Wednesday, Dec. 13

 

The Varnum House after the season’s first snow.

Lunch on the Hill – If you are looking for some good food and company, stop by the dining room at St. Luke’s Church on Peirce Street where you will find both. A free lunch is offered every week, sponsored by various local churches and restaurants – a different church-restaurant combination each week.From 11:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.

Board of Assessment Review meeting – At Town Hall at 6 p.m.

Public Forum on Homework – All are invited to attend this conversation about homework led by schools Supt. Victor Mercurio. There will be a second forum in January. In the library at Cole Middle School at 6:30 p.m.

Thursday, Dec. 14

EGSD Building Committee The School Committee building subcommittee meets in the Superintendent’s conference room, 111 Peirce St., at 7:30 a.m.

Sunday, Dec. 17

Christmas Concert – The choirs of St. Luke’s and the Jubilate Ringers will perform in a concert of holiday music starting at 4 p.m. Donations will be accepted. St. Luke’s Church, 99 Peirce St. Free, but donations are welcome.

OTHER ITEMS OF NOTE

Recycling is ON this week.

Register for email updates from the town – Sign up through the town’s Notify Me system and you can receive anything from a weekly email listing meetings and events to targeted emails about specific boards and commissions you are interested in. In addition, you will be notified in case of emergencies (i.e. parking bans, other important information). Click here to get started. And, for those who signed up before August, revisit the link if you have specific topics about which you’d like more information.

EGHS Chorus Fights to Be Heard

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

Members of the EGHS Chorus Club performing at the Cole Middle School December concert.

One of the casualties of the School Committee’s challenging budget decisions last June was the part-time choral instructor at East Greenwich High School. In recent years, chorus was offered as a class but with a paid teacher, most recently Jennifer Armstrong (who still teaches chorus at Cole Middle School). When choral students learned that chorus would not be offered at the high school earlier this fall, a few of them decided to form a chorus club.

They recently performed at the Cole Middle School December concert and the response from the audience was so positive that they’ve decided to publicize their plight.

“It was powerful to perform at the middle school concert because all of the eighth grade choral students won’t have a teacher next year,” said Abby White, an EGHS junior. White directs the chorus with help from seniors Lev Simon and Laura Murphy. They needed an adult advisor to form a chorus club, so they asked Bob Houghtaling, the town’s drug counselor. Houghtaling freely admits he is no singer, but he took on the post to support the students.

“It’s the easiest job I’ve ever had,” said Houghtaling. “It’s great being around determined and enthusiastic people. Basically, all I’m doing is giving them an opportunity.”

The group practices once a week for just an hour during the Wednesday Advisory period. Because of their limited practice time together, members must learn the music on their own. The group size has fluctuated between 10 and 15 students.

Ironically, they meet in the library, which also suffered during the June budget cuts. The EGHS librarian position was eliminated so the library is, essentially, just a meeting or study space.

For the December concert, the club performed two songs: “Child of Peace” by David Waggoner, and “Give Us Hope,” by Jim Papoulis.

“It’s about the power of music – it’s universal and a force that we all can participate in and enjoy together,” White said.

“Music is my way to express myself,” said member Kristen Choiniere.

“The chorus community is very supportive. Singing with great people boosts my confidence and also is a lot of fun,” said member Maaike Calvin.

The club has had the benefit of White’s extensive musical background, including a conducting class she took last summer at the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, N.J. White is also a member of both the Providence Singers and the Rhode Island Children’s Choir.

Before the group performed at the Cole concert last week, White told the audience how they had lost their instructor and had decided to keep singing anyway. After they finished, the audience rose to their feet, giving the singers a standing ovation. White said she was overcome with emotion.

“This is a victory for music programs everywhere,” said Chorus Club co-director Lev Simon. 

Their success at the concert however, did not deter the group from seeking restored funding for a chorus teacher.

“In terms of having a certified teacher to teach a class at the high school, it’s absolutely necessary for the choral program to survive,” White said. She said more students would participate if there was a teacher and they could receive course credit.

School Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Mark said she applauded the students’ initiative even as she acknowledged the financial challenges facing the district.

“I’m always thrilled when I see our kids stepping up and advocating on their behalf,” she said.

White has taken to Facebook to spread the word, since, she said, most people don’t even realize chorus was cut. In a recent post, she took aim at the Town Council, which is responsible for funding the schools (but not for deciding how that funding is spent) and gave the schools $700,000 less than it requested for the current fiscal year.

The chorus will get a chance to bring its message of music directly before the Town Council on Monday, Dec. 18, when they will perform for the panel (it’s a joint session with the School Committee). They are performing at Shoreside Apartments this week and may have an opportunity to sing this month at Barnes & Noble.

This Was the Town That Made America Famous, Part 1

By Bruce Mastracchio   

Yes, this was the Town that made America famous; the local Fire Department stocked with short-haired Volunteers, and on Saturday night when they showed movies, the lawyer and the youngest teens saw their dreams on the movie screen, BUT something’s burning somewhere. Does anybody care?
– Harry Chapin

It was back in that more innocent time I like to write about. Before accruing Washingtons and Lincolns and Grants became more of an agenda than paying attention to your fellow man.

The local Fire Department was stocked with short-haired volunteers, me and my buds among them. On hearing that song by Harry Chapin, I thought he might have had East Greenwich in mind when he wrote it.

The EG firemen marching down Division street during a parade.

Volunteer activity was heavy in those days and gave that group an elitist feeling. A good feeling. A different feeling. It hasn’t been felt in a long time. Getting paid for doing something doesn’t make something good necessarily.

For whatever the reason, many EG boys joined the EGFD at the age of 15 in the Juniors program. Some joined to help others. To do a good turn. Some joined for the excitement and adventure. Some had a goal of making firefighting an occupation. Maybe a combination of all of those reasons. Back then being an EGFD volunteer meant something.

In the early days the station on Main Street was unmanned. Calls came into the local telephone operator (my mother was one as were two of my aunts). She would then press a button that would activate the siren. The horn came later.

Volunteers would either rush to the station, or call the operator and she would give them the location of the fire. If a firefighter worked for a local business, or, was a Junior fireman going to school, he was allowed to leave to fight the fire under an agreement worked out between the business community, the school and the fire department.

Later on a system was developed that allowed the siren signal to go off followed by a series of blasts on a horn placed on the roof of Station 1 on Main Street, that gave the approximate location of the fire. Every firefighter had a book to refer to. Some had the system memorized. If the first blast was solitary it meant the fire was above Main Street. Two initial blasts meant below Main. Three was for Cowesett. Four was Frenchtown. Five for Potowomut.

For instance, 2-1-2-6 was a fire at the Italian-American Club on Duke Street. 1-2-4-2 was Eldredge School. 3-1-1 was Spencer Avenue. 4-1-1-2 was The Grange in Frenchtown. 5-2-2-1 was Rocky Hill School. On top of that there were special signals such as 2, which was the test blast every day a noon (Sundays at 1 p.m.); 4-4 was fresh water drowning; 5-5 meant a riot; 6-3 was Goddard Park; 7 was an out-of-district drowning.

The young volunteers took pride in their position, especially if it meant they got out of school to go fight a big brush fire. This happened a few times, both during the days of the old East Greenwich Academy and when EG High School was on Cedar Avenue (where Cole Middle School is now). Of course, being a Junior also meant a lot of training under the watchful and critical eyes of the older men, in particular George King and Joe Lawrence. They could be tough on you.

Some of the more memorable fires were the Pig Farm fire, which was lit by a man who murdered a whole family (read about the Dusza-Reynolds case here); the Main Street fire at Odd Fellows Hall; the Efco Manufacturing fire; the Benny’s fire (read about that here); the Bleachery fire; a couple of shanty town fires and plenty of woods fires. Of course, the older guys could go on for hours about their “fights,” but the above mentioned are ones that stick in my mind the most.

Being near Quonset Point, and in the path of leave and liberty weekends for the young sailors and marines stationed there, meant a lot of late night and weekend rescue calls. In those days there were a lot of accidents, some horrific, and as young teenagers we were exposed to blood, gore and death that some people had to go to war to see. Crushed cars, battered and bloody servicemen, even, one time, a headless Navy guy hit by a train – these were fairly routine sights for boys serving as volunteers for the EGFD. One time we even got to assist when Mr. King (who died in 2015 at age 92) delivered a baby. On a couple of other occasions we had to dive under water at Goddard and Sandy Point to recover drowning victims.

Almost every one of these escapades was captured on film and a journey through Charlie Booth’s photo album would be an eye opener to a lot of people. Mr. Booth was the unofficial-official photographer for the EGFD and he was always on hand. To me his photos deserved an award. They were on-the-scene records of fires, accidents, rescues, drownings and the like. No one who has seen them can ever forget his shots of the four North Kingstown football players who were chasing their girlfriends and got hit by a train at the Cowesett crossing (one of the reasons for the bridge you see there today).

It should be mandatory viewing for every prom going teenager. I used to use them when I taught school in California, Massachusetts and Rhode Island to show how a little “fooling around,” and a second’s wrong decision, can lead to death and destruction.

End of Part One. In Part Two, Bruce will talk about the Dunn Fire and Musters and thank the men who made EGFD the best volunteer company in the state.

 

Corrigan Changed Criteria for Additional Money, Says School Committee

From left, Lori McEwen, Mary Ellen Winters, Carolyn Mark (chair), Supt. Victor Mercurio, and Yan Sun, at the Dec. 5 School Committee meeting.

When the Town Council passed its budget for fiscal year 2018 last June, it underfunded the schools by $770,000, including a suggested cut by then-consultants (now town manager and finance director, respectively) Gayle Corrigan and Linda Dykeman to cut the special education budget by $380,000.

But the council held out the promise of supplemental appropriations if special education, in particular, and school expenses generally ended up costing more than was budgeted.

In fact, the Town Council voted to set aside $300,000 from the capital projects budget for just such expenses. If those expenses didn’t occur, the town would go ahead and use that money has it had been originally earmarked.

Nearing the end of the second quarter of the fiscal year, Town Manager Corrigan has laid out a tougher path to additional funding (Corrigan letter, Dec. 2017), including the requirement that the school department demonstrate what efforts it’s made to “remediate costs and operate in the most efficient and effective manner.”

The School Committee made one request already, in light of an additional pre-K classroom (cost $65,000) that was added over the summer because of increased special education enrollment. Corrigan and Council President Sue Cienki said they wanted to wait further into the year before considering such a request.

“It’s a very vague,” said School Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Mark at the the School Committee’s regular meeting Tuesday evening. “We were looking at criteria that was specific and we would be able to go around and document what our additional need is. And now there’s this amorphous sense of well, ‘If we think you’ll looked hard enough, then we’ll consider it.’”

Corrigan spells out four other criteria the schools must meet in order to obtain additional funds (see link to letter, above), including the current status of budget-to-actual expenditures. One of the actions taken by Corrigan shortly after she was named town manager was to appoint her colleague, Dykeman, to the role of finance director for the town. Not long before that, Dykeman had been hired temporarily to oversee school finances, which puts her in control of those numbers.

“I think we should make our request for the supplemental appropriation” at the joint Town Council–School Committee meeting Dec. 18, said Committeeman Jeff Dronzek.

“It’s not too early. The original confirmation was in the third quarter, which will start in January.” He added, “So, we basically said, we’re going to underfund our special education needs because you’re going to take care of them if the same thing happens that happens in any other year, where we end up with additional costs.”

“I was there at the meeting where there was a presentation to the Town Council,” said Committee member Matt Plain. “I don’t remember anything that resembles this. I don’t know that was the understanding of the Town Council and it certainly wasn’t the message at that time.”

Committeewoman Lori McEwen was concerned about Corrigan’s language about “unforeseen” needs.

“Indeed these needs were foreseeable. They were clearly foreseeable. They were discussed as foreseeable. The entire community understood that they were foreseeable,” McEwen said. “If there’s something in here that means, ‘Gee, it if was foreseeable, then that’s not really a demonstrated need,’ it reads funny to me.  I’d like to be generous of spirit here. But there’s a tone here that does not read that generously to us. So I’m concerned with the intent of it.”

Member Michael Fain said he was frustrated.

“We presented [our budget] to the Town Council. They brought in their experts to redo the entire budget and move these numbers around. And now, [they’re saying] ‘Take money away from certain budget, but now, here you go, now it’s your problem. Good luck.’ … Needless to say, I’m pretty frustrated that that is … the town manager’s response to this process.”

Chairwoman Mark said she was worried it would be hard to even get the Town Council to consider a supplemental request.

“She seems to be making clear that it will only be considered by the Town Council upon her recommendation,” Mark said of Corrigan’s letter. “I just want to make sure that the Town Council is afforded the opportunity to consider our supplemental budget request.”

Mark added, “I certainly would like to see this on the agenda for [Dec. 18]. It is a joint meeting. We will each be posting our own agenda. It would be nice if we had agreement about what is on that agenda.”

In terms of needs for this year, resident – and longtime EG elementary school teacher – Judy Stenberg asked in public comment about the possibility of hiring a retired librarian as a part-time long-term sub for the EGHS library, (which does not have a librarian this year).

And the hope of adding a curriculum director midyear also came up. Supt. Mercurio presented a job profile for the position, in the event the School Committee decided to try to fill that position this school year, despite a lack of funds. The panel decided to review the profile again in January, forestalling any possibility of hiring someone in time for the start of the second semester. Mark said it remained a possibility for a spring hire, if things were to fall into place.

The next School Committee meeting is the joint session with the Town Council on Monday, Dec. 18. The panel meets again Tuesday, Dec. 19, in regular session – its final meeting of 2017.

Introducing EG’s Newest Amenity: An Artfully Designed Bike Rack!

In September 2016, the East Greenwich Nature Trail, which was years in the making, finally opened to the public. The trail begins at the end of the access road that lines playing fields at East Greenwich High School and is used by the school for cross country training and meets as well as the public for general recreation.  

Work on the trail, funded by school bonds and town Recreation Department secured state DEM matching grants, began in February 2016 and the result was a beautiful 3.1 mile crushed stone and dirt path that opened last year. The trail was an immediate success with its beautiful views of beech trees and streams for all town residents to access and enjoy.  And now it has an added amenity – an artfully designed bike rack, meant to encourage bicycle commuting to school and athletic events and also meant to stimulate more interest in bicycling for general recreation.  

The bike rack was a gift to the town from The Steel Yard’s Public Projects department.  In January, The Steel Yard in Providence won a $10,000 grant from the PeopleForBikes Coalition for its Weld to Work Program. PeopleForBikes is a national bike advocacy organization and foundation that last year distributed more than $500,000 to nonprofits, community bicycle programs, and other advocacy organizations around the nation. The Steel Yard’s Weld to Work Program is a job readiness program designed to expand the employable skill set of participants, improving their odds of securing jobs in local industries. The PeopleForBikes Coalition grant enabled program participants to create bike hitches with multiple points of contact and gaps for locks to secure bikes. The racks are an amenity that encourages biking for both transportation and recreation and they also serve as a great learning project for beginning fabricators and welders.  

At the end of the year-long grant program, 32 custom bike hitches had been designed, built and installed free of charge in communities all around Rhode Island. East Greenwich’s Planning Director Lisa Bourbonnais jumped at the chance to acquire one, seizing upon the all-too-rare opportunity to provide something both functional and beautiful for the public.  As noted by The Steel Yard’s Jenny Sparks, “This project will both encourage bicycling as a viable mode of transportation and expose more people to public art.”  

East Greenwich’s bright green bike hitch was installed last week near the nature trail head and the town hopes it will see a lot of use.

 

 

Fire Service Is Earliest, Cheapest Insurance

My name is Tom Bailey and I proudly serve your community. I am a lieutenant on the rescue located at Station 1 on Main Street. I have worked here in East Greenwich for 15 years. I am writing today for several reasons but it should be clear I am speaking on my own behalf. I do not speak for the union that represents me and I am not speaking on behalf of my family at the station ( my fellow firefighters). The following are my independent thoughts.

I would like to address a few concerns that seem to be on going here in town. Mainly as it pertains to me as a firefighter and the costs associated. To keep things simple I’m not going to try and twist this into a political mudslinging rant. I’m also not going to give you some sob story as to why I matter or how what I do matters. It’s in the eye of the beholder on these points so there is no point in trying to argue.

What I will do is try to simplify the conversation to its most basic premise. I will attempt to do this with a few caveats. The first to be noted is I am not a math guru nor am I an accountant. Second is the equation I am about to present is purely for reference and I understand that it is not the actual formula for exact accounting.

So here is what we know: There are 13,146 residents (2010 census). The slated fire department budget for 2018 is $4.1 million (2018 EGFD budget which is just over 6 percent of the entire town budget). With these two numbers we know the cost per resident for fire and EMS services to be $311.88 per year ($4.1 million/13,146), or broken down to $0.85 per day per resident ($311.88/365 days). The above stated figures are just the fire department’s total operational budget and do not include retirement or health care costs. The town separates these costs into employee benefits as a line item. The retirement cost is $787,813 (2018 budget) and the cost for health care is an estimated $702,000. The number was derived by assuming every FD member has the family plan at the highest cost of $18,000 per plan, or 39 firefighters x $18,000 = $702,000). Adding these two figures into the equation brings the total budget to $5.6 million ($4.1 million + $1.5 million). This accounts for 9 percent of the entire town’s budget. Cost per resident per year $425.98 ($5.6 mill/13,146) or $1.16 per day per resident. These figures include the overtime as they budgeted for 2018 ($550,000).

Since some town officials have referred to overtime possibly reaching $1 million, I will go one step further and add an additional $1 million to the fire budget total bringing it to $6.6 million. This number is inflated, since it would cover $1.55 million in overtime costs, but I include it as an absolute worst-case scenario. That total of $6.6 million would bring the total annual cost per resident to  $502 ($6.6 mill/13,146) or $1.37 per day per resident ($502/365 days). This would account for 10.6 percent of the town’s total budget.

None of the above figures account for the $700,000 of revenue  (rescue billing 2018 budget) the fire department brings to the town. That $700,000 is positive cash flow. It does not go into the fire department budget however; it goes directly into the town’s general fund. So with all things being equal the new total for the 2018 actual budget  would be $5.9 million ($6.6 million minus $700,000), $448.80 per person per year or $1.23 per person per day. Accounting for 7 percent of the town’s total budget. Using the Town Council’s $6.6 million dollar amount the new total after deducting the $700,000 revenue the new total becomes $5.9 million. That’s $448.46 annually per person ($5.9 mill/13,146) or $1.22 per person per day. Accounting for 9.5 percent of the town’s total budget.  (Note: I understand each house has its own value for property and each property has a varying amount of people residing. The formula was simply used to put into perspective cost per person not actual accounting of what was paid per household.)

My hope here is to bring perspective to the conversation. I believe perspective can be found in other services that are similar in nature to the fire department. The fire department is an insurance policy in its simplest form. In fact, historically it’s the oldest insurance in the United States. Today the fire department is a 24-hour, 7-day-a-week immediate response for your home, property and life. We may not replace your property and we don’t cover the cost of your ailments. However we do stop further (in many cases prevent) damage to property (cars, boats, houses, sheds, businesses, etc.) and we provide advanced life support services to treat life threatening medical ailments. We provide a litany of other services and yes we will even get the occasional cat out of the tree.

With this in mind, let’s compare other insurance costs. The average cost of homeowners insurance in Rhode Island is $1,162 annually ($3.18 per day). With this insurance you may have coverage to replace what was lost after a deductible is met. This coverage may help you rebuild should disaster strike (Note: some things are not replaceable and the value is only truly known to the person affected). The average cost of health insurance is a tough number to pin down but for the sake of this discussion I will use the national average, which is $18,142 for a family plan with the worker’s cost average of this being $5,277 annually ($14.45 per day). Both home and health insurances cover expenses incurred after damage. Your fire service, which costs comparatively less, is the one insurance that responds immediately to help you as it is happening. Of all three insurances I have discussed, the fire department is the only one willing to put our own lives at risk to help you no matter what the situation or the time of day as it is happening.

So you may ask, what is my point? Well, there are several. First, each service in this community has a place. From parks and rec, to the schools, to the fire department, so on and so forth. Every service in this community has its own value to each resident. Every service makes up the overall value of this town and cumulatively these services give the community its allure and ultimately drive the demand of people wanting to move here, which in turn directly affects property values. Lately the town manager and some of the council have isolated some of these services as unsustainable. They have thrown around wild accusations and alarming numbers. They appear to want to pit the public and town departments against one another. I will not stoop to this level and accuse them as to what their intent is. So regardless if you agree with what they suggest or not, I want you to know that my one goal when I go to work each day is simply to do my best in helping you any way I can at all cost. Regardless of how you feel about the current political atmosphere, regardless of your view of my career, you need to know your fire department is always there with your safety at heart.

In conclusion, the fire department could make up as much as 10 percent of the overall town budget. I am not delusional in thinking that everyone is OK with this figure. I also realize that everyone wants the best bargain for their dollar. I’m also quite aware not many people move to a particular community for their fire department services. What I do know is when you have something of great value it is important to invest in its protection and insure its overall value. I don’t know the dollar value of every property in East Greenwich but I feel it’s fair to guess all property in total to be in the billions. I can however tell you every citizen’s life is priceless. To cut your fire service will have potential effects on the protection of both life and property. It would be the equivalent of buying a priceless art piece but not doing anything to keep it safe or insured. Rest assured no matter what they decide to cut I will guarantee each of your firefighters will continue to do the best they can with what they have to accomplish the mission. I do ask is when town leaders propose options, that you take me and my family (fire family as well as my beautiful wife and three children) into consideration. In order to do this, simply evaluate what they propose and ask, if my workplace asked me or my spouse to do this, how would it affect our family and our lives? Thank you for your time.

Sincerely Honored,
Lt. Thomas Bailey

Added Prospective:

Average full coverage auto insurance cost for RI $1,688 annually or $4.62 per day: https://www.carinsurance.com/state/Rhode-Island-car-insurance.aspx

Average Homeowners insurance cost for RI $1,162.00 annually or $3.18 per day: https://www.valuepenguin.com/best-cheap-homeowners-insurance-rhode-island

Average national cost for health insurance $5,277 annually or $14.45 per day: http://www.ncsl.org/research/health/health-insurance-premiums.aspx

Average cost of a Dunkin Donuts coffee $2.09 large: https://www.fastfoodmenuprices.com/dunkin-donuts-prices/

Cost for your Fire and Emergency Medical Service in East Greenwich $1.37 per day (utilizing the highest figures).

New Fire Chief Cites Documentation, Professionalism Problems

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

The town’s laser focus on the fire department continued Monday night, when Acting Fire Chief Christopher Olsen spent nearly 90 minutes outlining his 30-day report. Among the findings, Olsen said documentation on everything from fire incident reports to training was deficient and that the department was not a professional as it should be.

“Documentation, training, following policies, professionalism and communication need to be corrected and accountability will play a major part in the solution,” Olsen said near the end of his report, adding, “The plan of action will be backed up by detailed documentation.”

Olsen cited the incident report from a fire on Thanksgiving, Nov. 23, at a house on Rector Street. The report, he said, consisted of two sentences. He said a more complete narration of the incident was needed.

“So if you weren’t there and you read the report, you would know what they were doing,” Olsen said. He did, however, praise the page-and-a-half safety report that was done for that fire.

That incident and another one involving a gas line at the Dave’s plaza have prompted some outcry on social media citing safety concerns, because both took place on days in which the chief was at his home in New Hampshire and there is no deputy chief right now to cover for the chief when he’s away. (In a cost-saving move, Town Manager Gayle Corrigan decided to leave the deputy chief position vacant after a retirement in June.)

Typically, the chief or deputy chief would respond to a fire and be able to direct the firefighters from the outside. If there is no chief or deputy chief, Olsen said, the chain of command falls next to the captain on duty. On Nov. 23, that was Capt. Mears, who was on the first engine to respond to Rector Street. Because he was first to respond, he could not direct the fire from the outside, but rather had to commence fighting the fire. West Warwick responded to help with the fire and their batallion chief took over command.

It’s not ideal, said Olsen, but he expressed confidence in Capt. Mears.

Councilman Nino Granatiero questioned the expectation that a fire chief need always respond.

“Does mean that a chief can never go out of town, they can never go on vacation? They can never leave the state, they can never leave the country? If the thought is that the chief needs to be at every single fire, how does the chief ever take a day off? How the chief go to see one country in Europe? That doesn’t make sense,” he said. “What you’ve said to me is that the incident command takes care of this.”

As to why West Warwick responded to that fire when it was not the closest station, Olsen said Warwick and North Kingstown would be the preferred mutual aid responders going forward. (Mutual aid is when another municipality helps out with fire and/or police.)

Olsen also highlighted the yearly state Dept. of Health inspection of fire vehicles that took place Nov. 2 (shortly before he took over as chief). Several of the vehicles had deficiencies, some needing immediate resolution (such as a missing medical device or expired medication). Olsen said all deficiencies had been resolved but he wanted to put a better process in place going forward.

“There are things on here that need attention. There are things on here that shouldn’t have been – no attention to detail,” said Council President Sue Cienki.

Jason Rhodes, who heads the Dept. of Health’s EMS division, called the East Greenwich report “average”  in an interview Friday.

Overtime came up, with Councilman Sean Todd remarking that the cost for November was close to $100,000, which is almost double the overtime in October. Later, during public comment, union president Bill Perry said the higher overtime in November was because of a federal grant for additional training – the training took place in November and will be paid for, almost completely, by the grant.

Another aspect of Olsen’s report was the department’s ISO (Insurance Services Office) rating. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being best, East Greenwich scored a 4 in 2017. The rating includes best practices in terms of equipment – EG does not have a full ladder company, for instance, and a higher rating would require that. In addition, it takes into account whether or not an area has hydrants. Some areas west of Route 2 do not have hydrants.

The chief noted that firefighters were not always following the chain of command inside the fire house. On Tuesday, he explained.

“If they have an issue, they should follow the chain of command. Sometimes they just go right to me – they should be following the chain of command,” he said. The chain of command at a fire department is firefighter, lieutenant, captain, deputy chief, and chief. “You don’t need to go to the boss right away,” Olsen said.

Olsen spends Monday through Thursday in Rhode Island; he and his wife live in New Hampshire. East Greenwich is paying him $65 an hour for four 10-hour days (Mon.-Thurs.) – $133,200 a year. Former Chief Russ McGillivray made $103,000 a year. The town is also picking up the cost of Olsen’s lodging three nights a week. In an interview Friday, Town Manager Corrigan said she did not know how much that cost. She said the town would start a search for a permanent fire chief sometime in early 2018.

Olsen said he’s met “almost everybody” in the fire department.

“Being a good chief is important to me,” he said in an interview Tuesday. “We are going to move this fire station in the right direction, working together and making sure we have good communications with each other. We are professional but we need to push our buttons to be more professional…. I know we can make a good difference.”

Olsen said he was starting to work on a strategic plan for the department to roll out in late December, early January.

Find Chief Olsen’s report here.

 

Police Log: Rash of Car Break Ins

By Bethany Hashway

Wednesday, Nov. 22

8:15 a.m. – A Bridge Street resident told police that someone broke into his car while it was parked in the driveway. The car had been unlocked. The resident told police that his glove compartment was open and that he was missing three pairs of sunglasses (Maui Jim) along with a bottle of bourbon whiskey (Sons of Liberty). Two days later, the resident contacted police again, to report additional missing items, including 200 compact disks (estimated value $2,000), Apple headphones ($30) and 10 pairs of cufflinks ($500).

9:30 a.m. – An employee of Alpha Associates on Rocky Hollow Road told police that their work and personal cars had been gone through in the parking lot. The cars were unlocked at the time. Loose change and some cigarettes were taken (estimated value $25).

10 a.m. – A Fifth Street resident told to police someone stole some things from his car and garage, both of which were unlocked. He said $40 and a bottle of prescription medication were missing from his car and a Specialized Matte Black 24-speed bicycle (estimated value $800) from his garage.

10:18 a.m. – A Second Street resident told police someone tried to break into his house. He said around 9:30 a.m., his wife saw that a lawn chair had been pushed up to their bedroom window. He said the bedroom window was opened at the same place the chair had been. The resident said his next-door neighbor had a video surveillance camera. Police checked the footage and could see a person opening the window at around 7:40 p.m. on Tuesday but that the person did not try to enter the house. The resident said he and his family were home at the time.

8:16 p.m. Police arrested an East Greenwich man, 65, for disorderly conduct after he was yelling and screaming while at the Oaks Tavern on Queen Street. When police arrived, the man was standing in the middle of Duke Street, holding a metal pipe in the air yelling, “C’mon I’ll kick your butt.” Despite requests from police, the man refused to stop yelling, saying he was angry about an incident that happened the day before. Police arrested him and took him to the EGPD, where he was processed and released with a District Court summons and issued a No Trespass order for the Oaks.

This Week in EG: Fire Chief Report; Stone Ridge Candlelight Tour

A weekly article that lists happenings in East Greenwich and nearby. If you have something you’d like to add, send your information to egreenwichnews@gmail.com.

Monday, Dec. 4

Exploring Mindfulness Meditation – Meditation at East Greenwich Free Library on first and third Mondays. No experience necessary; all are welcome. Free. 6:30 p.m. at the library. For more information about this program or the Friends of the Library, contact: friendseglibrary@gmail.com.

Town Council meeting – The agenda includes a report from interim Fire Chief Chris Olsen on his first month on the job and, in her report, Town Manager Gayle Corrigan will be recommending a salary structure for department heads and nonunion employees as well as providing an update on a meeting with the Personnel Board. There will also be a work session on the town manager search. The work session starts at 6 p.m. The regular meeting begins at 7 p.m. at Swift Community Center.

Tuesday, Dec. 5

School Committee meeting – On the agenda, the will be updates of the website, the fund balance, and the sewer bill. In addition, there will be discussion of recent enrollment projections and the current budget versus actually spending. In the library at Cole Middle School starting at 7 p.m.

Wednesday, Dec. 6

Lunch on the Hill – If you are looking for some good food and company, stop by the dining room at St. Luke’s Church on Peirce Street where you will find both. A free lunch is offered every week, sponsored by various local churches and restaurants – a different church-restaurant combination each week.From 11:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.

Planning Board meeting – The only item on the agenda is a continued discussion of the “Coggeshall Preserve” condominium proposal for 62 South Pierce Road.  The board meets in Council Chambers at Town Hall at 7 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 9

POSTPONED/Annual Stone Ridge Candlelight Tour – Many of those who live on Stone Ridge Drive will be lining their curbs and walkways with luminaria lanterns. This is a tradition spanning more than 30 years – last year the neighborhood was lined with more than 3,700 lanterns. From 5 to 9 p.m. Postponed to Sunday, Dec. 10.

Sunday, Dec. 10

Annual Stone Ridge Candlelight Tour – Many of those who live on Stone Ridge Drive will be lining their curbs and walkways with luminaria lanterns. This is a tradition spanning more than 30 years – last year the neighborhood was lined with more than 3,700 lanterns. From 5 to 9 p.m. .

 

OTHER ITEMS OF NOTE

Recycling is OFF this week. Yard waste will be picked up through this week.

Register for email updates from the town – Sign up through the town’s Notify Me system and you can receive anything from a weekly email listing meetings and events to targeted emails about specific boards and commissions you are interested in. In addition, you will be notified in case of emergencies (i.e. parking bans, other important information). Click here to get started. And, for those who signed up before August, revisit the link if you have specific topics about which you’d like more information.

December Holiday Meals – The town’s Senior Services offers holiday meals to needy residents. The deadline to sign up is Wednesday, Dec. 6. To see if you are eligible and to register, contact Carol Tudino at ctudino@eastgreenwichri.com or 401-886-8638.