Council Approves Longer Work Week for Firefighters

Three firefighters with their posters Monday night.

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

East Greenwich, R.I. – In what has become an predictable divide, the Town Council voted 4-1 Monday night in favor of moving the Fire Department from a four-platoon system to three platoons, increasing their work week from 42 hours to 56 hours. Council President Sue Cienki, Vice President Sean Todd, and councilmen Nino Granatiero and Andrew Deutsch voted to implement the new system; Councilman Mark Schwager voted against.

The rationale behind the reorganization is to lower fire department expenses. Under the plan, Town Manager Gayle Corrigan proposed laying off 6 of the town’s 36 firefighters and adding two “floaters” to each of the three remaining platoons to decrease overtime.

(Click here to learn more about how the three-platoon system works in North Kingstown.)

No changes, however, will be made to the current fire department structure pending Superior Court Judge Susan McGuirl’s ruling on a lawsuit filed by the town in December seeking permission to take such an action in the middle of a valid contract. The firefighters contract with the town does not expire until June 30, 2019. A hearing on the issue is set for May 14.

According to Town Solicitor David D’Agostino, the vote was needed to shore up the town’s argument that it already has the management right to take such actions. But, he said, that does not mean the town will automatically switch to a three-platoon system if the judge rules in its favor.

“The implementation of the plan is contingent on more than just a favorable decision by the court,” said D’Agostino. “For example … the number of firefighters out on IOD [injured on duty] status could prevent the implementation of the reorganization because of manpower considerations. Another consideration is that the timing of any reorganization would best coincide with the close of a payroll week, so that the Town would begin … at the start of a new pay period.”

D’Agostino said an additional vote on timing of the shift structure change would be necessary.

In her comments on why she planned to vote in favor of the EGFD restructuring, President Cienki spoke about the need for the town to “start thinking differently” regarding the town’s financial situation.

“We need to have options … for how we’re going to handle our responsibilities,” she said. “This gives us an option of how we can control costs.”

Councilman Schwager said he couldn’t support the plan because it would only further damage relations between the town and the firefighters.

“This is not a recipe for reaching a negotiated agreement with our town employees. And we will have to reach a negotiated agreement unless we want to be in court for months or even years,” he said. “The challenges we face as a town requires both the firefighters and the town find a reasonable solution together. The council’s current strategy has closed the door on the necessary conversation with the firefighters.”

After the meeting, Cienki said the town was willing to negotiate with the firefighters.

“Any time they want to sit down, the town is ready,” she said.

Union President Bill Perry addresses the council during public comment.

Firefighter union President Bill Perry also said the union was willing to talk.

“We are always willing to negotiate and all the town has to do is contact me and request a meeting,” Perry said. “This town manager and Town Council have never reached out to us to negotiate.”

In December, the union agreed to cut the number of firefighters per platoon from nine (an increase they got in the current contract) to eight, enabling the town to restore one floater per shift with the potential to save in overtime costs. Council President Cienki said Monday negotiations broke down because the town wanted to talk about benefits, not just staffing issues.


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How 56-Hour Week Works for NK Fire Department

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

The East Greenwich Town Council will vote on whether or not to institute a three-platoon, 56-hour work week for the fire department at its meeting Monday night.*

Just down Post Road, the North Kingstown Fire Department has been operating under that system since 2012. 

In a four-platoon system, firefighters typically work 10 hours on, 14 hours off, 10 hours on, 24 hours off, 14 hours on, 96 hours off.

Under North Kingstown’s three-platoon system, firefighters work 10 hours on, 14 hours off, 24 hours on, 10 hours off, 14 hours on, 72 hours off, then the cycle repeats.

In East Greenwich, as in North Kingstown, the argument for the switch has been cost savings. EG Town Manager Gayle Corrigan began targeting what she has called unsustainable firefighting expenses even as a consultant for the town, before former Town Manager Tom Coyle was “separated” from the town last June and Corrigan was given his job.

So, how has it worked out in North Kingstown?

According to North Kingstown Fire Chief Scott Kettelle in a recent interview, the savings has been in health care costs because there are fewer firefighters. In North Kingstown, a decrease of 15 firefighters (the equivalent of one platoon) was achieved by not filling the spots of firefighters who retired or left. Health care costs roughly $15,000 per firefighter, according to NK Finance Director James Lathrop – totalling $225,000 a year for 15 firefighters.

Under Corrigan’s 3-platoon plan, the EGFD would lay off 6 firefighters, going from a department of 36 to 30 firefighters. EGFD health care savings based on NK costs would equal $90,000 a year under her plan.

If the Town Council approves going to a three-platoon system, what the town would pay firefighters remains unknown. Firefighters are paid an hourly wage; if they receive their same rate of pay for the additional 14 hours a week, that would not provide a savings.

In North Kingstown, when the three-platoon system was imposed, the town argued that firefighters were salaried and as a result it did not pay them for 14 extra hours. Instead, the town gave firefighters 10 percent more a year. If they had paid the hourly wage for the extra 14 hours, firefighters would have gotten a 33 percent increase in annual wages.

In September 2015, the town and the union signed a four-year contract that, by June 2019, will close the 23 percent gap. In other words, firefighters will be paid at the hourly rate they were making for the same position in 2011.

Kettelle said he was not sure how the change affects pension costs. While there are fewer people, those people are working longer hours, so their pensions will be higher, he said.

EG Town Manager Corrigan’s answer to high overtime costs is to add two “floaters” to each shift – essentially two extra firefighters who can fill in for people who are out (due to injury, illness or vacation) so minimum staffing levels are met. North Kingstown has three floaters per shift and, indeed, overtime costs have decreased in recent years. Still, this year’s overtime is budgeted at $550,000 and Chief Kettelle said the actual overtime number will be about that.

Do to long-term injuries and one firefighter’s decision recently to go join Cranston Fire, NKFD is down to two floaters on two shifts and one floater on one shift. Because the next fire academy isn’t until September, Kettelle said, that means the department won’t have someone available for service to replace that firefighter who left until early 2019.

“There’s 168 hours in a week. Those hours have to be covered,” said Chief Kettelle.

He said there is another cost to be factored in under the three-platoon system: wages under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). North Kingstown and East Greenwich both use a 28-day period under which firefighters can work 212 hours before they have to be paid overtime according to FLSA.

In a 28-day period under the 56-hour work week, one platoon works 196 hours, one platoon works 216 hours, and one platoon works 240 hours. For anyone who works more than 212 hours in a 28-day period (a person has to actually work those hours – illness, injury or vacation time does not count), the town has to pay an additional “half time” for those extra hours so they are making overtime pay (time and a half).

“You have to factor in the FLSA number,” Kettelle said. A few years back, North Kingstown hadn’t been calculating FLSA correctly and firefighters brought a complaint forward. The town eventually agreed with the firefighters and paid double damages back two years.

In East Greenwich, it could get more expensive since firefighters earn “collateral pay” for jobs such as dispatch, training, EMS coordinator – a lower hourly rate that does not count toward their 42-hour work week and so is not subject to regular overtime. But, under FLSA, work is work regardless of contractual arrangements, so FLSA costs could increase significantly in East Greenwich under a three-platoon system, Kettelle said.

East Greenwich’s FLSA costs now are roughly $10,000 to $12,000.

The legal fees to enact the three-platoon system are estimated at $1.5 million. East Greenwich labor legal fees are a mystery – the last bill the town received was for $140,000 for work through November.

Beyond the finances, Chief Kettelle said running a three-platoon system is hard.

“Operationally, it is more challenging then the four platoon system. You have 25 percent fewer bodies available to you,” he said. For Kettelle, that becomes most apparent during weather emergencies like heavy snow storms or hurricanes.

“We would typically hire back additional personnel for each vehicle and bring in more vehicles,” he said. But there are fewer people to hire back. And, unlike during a community-based emergency, such as a building fire, North Kingstown can’t rely on mutual aid from other communities since those communities are dealing with the weather event too.

“Under the four-platoon system, there’s always one platoon that’s completely off,” Kettelle said. Now, if he has to fill slots in a shift, he has to either get someone to stay at work after they’ve already worked their shift, or he has to bring someone in early before their regular shift starts.

“Now it’s a lot harder to fill overtime shifts. We are ordering people to work against their choice considerably more than we did under the four-platoon,” he said. “From the firefighter standpoint, under the three-platoon system, overtime is a burden not a benefit. Guys don’t want to work any more hours.”

Kettelle said North Kingstown has created an ad hoc committee made up of members of the fire department administration, the firefighters union and the town’s finance department to study the true cost of a three-platoon versus a four-platoon system. The panel has not begun that work.

* Town Manager Corrigan has recommended the Town Council approve the schedule change pending Superior Court Judge Susan McGuirl’s ruling on the town’s lawsuit that argues the town has the right to break the union’s contract to impose the change.





 

Police Log: Fires, Hit-and-Run, and a Syringe

By Bethany J. Hashway

Monday, March. 26

5:58 p.m. – Police were called to assist EG Fire at Castle Street for a report of a structure fire. When police arrived, EGFD had put the fire out. It had started in a recycling bin next to the side of the house. A UPS driver saw the fire while delivering a package to the house and he alerted the homeowner. The homeowner was able to largely extinguish fire using a garden hose; when  EGFD arrived, they put out the rest of the small fire. It was unclear of how the fire started. There was some damage to the recycling bin and to a portion of the wood shingling on the south side of the house. 

Tuesday, March. 27

7:26 p.m. – Police cited a Providence man for possession of marijuana after he was involved in a car accident at Main Street and First Avenue. Police smelled marijuana on an injured passenger who was being treated at the scene by fire department personnel. Police asked the man if he was carrying any marijuana, noting that the fire department does not allow passengers to carry illegal drugs when being transported by rescue. The man denied having any marijuana, but police found a large plastic bag containing what later tested positive for marijuana in his pocket during a pat-down search. The man said he did not have a medical marijuana card. Police confiscated the marijuana and the man was taken to the hospital to be treated. Once tests determined that the substance was indeed marijuana, police mailed the man a citation.

8:29 p.m. – Police arrested a Warwick man, 66, for leaving the scene of an accident, after police were called to Post Road at the (former) Benny’s Plaza for the report of a hit-and-run accident. At the scene, the driver who had called the police said she had been driving southbound when a small Mercedes sedan pulled out of the Jason’s parking lot and ran into the passenger-side door of her car. The woman said the Mercedes fishtailed as the driver tried to get it under control, then the car drove off northbound on Post Road. Two people said they witnessed the incident and told the woman that the other car’s license plate was stuck on her passenger-side door.

Wednesday, March. 28

1:49 a.m. – Police stopped a Providence man for having dark tinted windows and after a licence plate check showed that the plates weren’t on file. The driver told police that he had just purchased the car and lost the dealer plates, so he placed his license plate from his old car onto this one until he was able to register the car. Police gave him a summons for driving an unregistered car, and gave him a warning on the illegal window tint. Police seized the license plates and the car was towed.

Friday, March. 30

2 p.m. – A Main Street resident told police she found a syringe filled with what looked like blood when she was doing yard work. Police took the syringe and disposed of it.

5:48 p.m. – A Queen Street resident told police that she gave her daughter permission to open a PayPal account with her Santander credit card in the beginning of March to buy a $4.99 teddy bear. During a recent visit to her bank, Santander, she learned her balance was low. It appeared her daughter had withdrawn $942.12 from her account using the PayPal account. She had the bank cancel the bank card.

Sunday, April 1

10:42 a.m EG police picked up a Cranston man, 52, from Cranston PD after he was arrested in that city on a warrant out of East Greenwich for larceny.

3:45 p.m. – Police were called to Ashbrook Run for a fire. Police found a large fire pit piled high with large pieces of furniture that had tumbled over beyond the confines of the fire pit, lighting nearly logs, branches and twigs on fire. The homeowner was trying to contain the fire but the fire department was called and extinguished the blaze. No one was injured.

Town’s 2017 Audit Shows $380,296 Surplus

The town had a $1.1 million surplus but the schools had a $728,808 deficit.

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

Nine months after the end of fiscal year 2017, the town’s audit shows an overall $380,292 surplus and an unrestricted fund balance of $6.4 million.

The audit was posted to the state Auditor General’s website last week (find it here). It has not yet been posted to the town website and was not available in the town finance department Tuesday.

The audit was due to the state by Jan. 1 – six months after the end of the town’s fiscal year.

Town officials received two extensions through March 31. According to state Auditor General Dennis Hoyle, the state got the audit on April 9.

The Town did not officially seek an extension beyond March 31,” Hoyle said via email. “As a matter of course, if we are in communication with a municipality and they need a few more days to complete beyond the approved extension date we allow that.”

In March, Town Manager Gayle Corrigan issued a letter to residents to explain why she had asked for the extensions, citing among other things an adverse legal ruling on the impact fees collected by the Fire District. According to the audit, the town will use $1.7 million from the fund balance to cover the impact fee settlement (page 16). 

In the town’s Management Discussion and Analysis letter (page 7, signed by Finance Director Linda Dykeman), it is noted that the town’s liabilities exceed its assets by $26.9 million.

According to Auditor General Hoyle, “It is not uncommon for governments, on their government-wide (full accrual) financial statements to have negative net position due to the recognition of pension and OPEB liabilities.”

Hoyle noted that East Greenwich opted to implement the new OPEB standard (GASB 75) standards in 2017, a year before it was required.  

“It appears most of the negative net position at June 30, 2017, resulted from the recognition of the OPEB liability,” he said, referring to audit note 23 (page 74) for details.

Other information from the audit:

The town administration was over budget by $464,913, largely due to legal claims and employee contract payout. Fire Department was over budget by a total of $143,739 – the overtime overage of $225,526 was offset by not filing the fire clerk’s position and lower salary and holiday pay.

In addition, the town’s tax rate for 2018 (the current fiscal year) is $23.66 per thousand, with 39 percent allocated for general government and 61 percent allocated for education. For fiscal year 2017, the town’s tax rate was $24.09 per thousand, with 45 percent allocated for general government and 55 percent allocated for education (page 13).



 

EG Golf Club Closes Abruptly

The restaurant and golf club closed abruptly April 14.

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

East Greenwich, R.I. – Anyone interested in golfing at East Greenwich Golf Club Saturday found the parking lot gate closed and a security guard sitting in a car just inside the gate to keep people from gaining entry.

One year after the club and restaurant were taken over by lawyer and former state attorney general candidate Rob Rainville, they were abruptly closed.

The nine-hole golf course was public – golfers could pay by the day – but also had yearly memberships.

The security officer on duty Sunday said club members should contact New England Tech for more information. Rainville was leasing the property from New England Tech.

“It’s going to be closed a little while,” said the security officer, who said her information came from the school. “They don’t know exactly how long before they get that squared away.”

For Joe Bertrand, it was a blow. The East Greenwich resident said he golfs at the club multiple times a week, along with a group of retirees who’ve been coming to the club for years. He had golfed there last week.

Bertrand said Rainville had done a good job improving the course and the restaurant, which had been known as Bistro 9 but became The 4o1 under Rainville.

“The restaurant is gorgeous. The greens are fantastic. They gutted the whole place. He did a great job,” Bertrand said. He said Rainville had been there pretty much every day since taking over and that Rainville had had big plans.

“He was going to put a place where you could buy equipment, and something by the sixth hole where you could drink and eat,” he said.

“It was a shock to me,” he said of the closure.



This Week in EG: Planning Board, Electronics Recycling

It may feel like winter, but the daffodils make it look like spring.

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, April 16

Boston Marathon – Here are the people from East Greenwich who will be running: Brooke Andreozzi, Ross MacAndrew, Robert Bentsen, Jason Reilly, Dino Caparco, Tom Sheeran, and John Thomas, and Lisa Meehan. Good luck, everyone!

Exploring Mindfulness Meditation – Meditation at East Greenwich Free Library on first and third Mondays. No experience necessary; all are welcome. Free. 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the library. For more information about this program or the Friends of the Library, contact: friendseglibrary@gmail.com.

Wednesday, April 18

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 project on the agenda is final plan review of an 11-lot cluster subdivision called “Frenchtown Place,” on Frenchtown Road (not surprisingly). The project gained preliminary plan approval back in 2016. They meet in Council Chambers in Town Hall at 7 p.m.

Thursday, April 19

Paper Shredding & Electronics Recycling – You will be able to recycle all sorts of electronics, including computers, TVs, keyboards, monitors, printers, window air conditioners, routers, microwaves, cables, wires, cell phones and more. And there will be a mobile paper shredded on hand too. At Office Recycling Solutions, 65 Rocky Hollow Road. Shredding costs .25 cents per pound; recycling costs $5 per item with a $20 maximum per resident, $50 maximum for businesses. From 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Presented in part by the EG Chamber of Commerce. For more information contact Brent at 401-580-5132 or info@officerecyclingsolutions.com.

Saturday, April 21

Earth Day

OTHER ITEMS OF NOTE

Recycling is ON this week.

Volunteers Needed for After Prom! This is as much fun as you will have all year. You get to meet new people, be surrounded by amazing creativity, and help a bunch of teenagers have a terrific After Prom. Click here to learn more.

EG Police Union Is Fundraising – This is an “all points bulletin,” if you will, to let you know the EG Police Union is soliciting sponsorships to its 2018 Yearbook and Business Directory, so don’t be surprised if you get a phone call. This is in advance of their Comedy Night at Quidnessett Country Club June 28 – the directories will be available then.

EGHS Class of 1960 Reunion – The East Greenwich High School Class of 1960 will be holding their 58th Reunion on Sunday, July 22, from 1 to 5 p.m. at the East Greenwich Veterans’ Firemen’s Hall on Queen Street in East Greenwich. People from EGHS classes before and after the Class of ’60 are welcome. For more information and detail contact Dan Shea (401-821-4521 or dsheajr@cox.net). To reserve your spot, send a check for $30 (per person) to Judy Briggs, 146 Sisson Road, Greene, R.I. 02827.

LOOKING AHEAD

Thursday, April 26

Collecting Original Art – The Friends of the East Greenwich Free Library will present a panel discussion will offer several perspectives on collecting art, with an emphasis on the How, Why and What of buying art today. Panelists include Cade Tompkins, contemporary art dealer and gallery owner Cade Tompkins Projects, Providence; Richard Whitten, artist and Professor of Painting and Art Department Chairperson at Rhode Island College; Catherine A. Sammartino, Partner at the law firm Sammartino & Berg LLP in Providence; and moderator Michael Rose, art historian, gallerist, appraiser, and gallery manager at the historic Providence Art Club. From 6 to 8 p.m. East Greenwich Free Library, 82 Peirce Street, East Greenwich. Designed for all levels of the collecting experience. Seating is on a first come, first served basis and subject to capacity. For more info, contact: friendseglibrary@gmail.com or visit www.eastgreenwichlibrary.org.

Saturday, April 28

Touch a Truck – The Greenwich Bay Woman’s Club is sponsoring Family Open House Touch-a-Truck at the Warwick Fire Station at 225 Potowomut Road from 9 to 11 a.m. They will be collecting canned goods for a local food pantry, so donations are encouraged!

Sunday, April 29

Race to the Stage – Performers competing for a spot on the program for Summer’s End – as well cash prizes – take the stage at the Odeum at 4 p.m. Live judges will ultimately select the winners, but audience response may help decide their fate. Tickets are $10 in Advance, and $15 at the Door.

Tuesday, May 1

EG Athletic Hall of Fame Dinner – More details soon.

Together RI Community Supper – The Rhode Island Foundation is holding a series of community dinners around the state. The idea is to share a meal with other members of your community and get creative about the challenges and possibilities facing Rhode Island. It’s free. At the Varnum Armory, 6 Main Street, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Registration is encouraged but not mandatory. Click here for more information and to register.

Friday, May 4

Into the Woods, Jr. – The award-winning Cole Drama Club will perform this musical based on fairy tales with a twist at East Greenwich High School at 7 p.m. (and again on Saturday at 4 p.m.). Tickets are $10 per person and will be available at the door and online at https://bit.ly/2pTjkSD. Find more information on the show on the Cole Drama Club’s Facebook page here.

Saturday, May 5

Into the Woods, Jr. – The award-winning Cole Drama Club will perform this musical based on fairy tales with a twist at East Greenwich High School at 4 p.m. Tickets are $10 per person and will be available at the door and online at https://bit.ly/2pTjkSD. Find more information on the show on the Cole Drama Club’s Facebook page here.

Sunday, May 6

May Fair 2018 – ”County Fair” is the theme of this year’s May Fair. The Barbara Tufts Co-op Preschool’s annual event features pony rides, bunnies, games, food, silent auction and lots and lots of fun. As always, at Academy Field from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Sunday, May 13

The Gianna Cirella Memorial 5K Walk/Run

And …

Interested in Running for Office? Here’s a pamphlet from the Secretary of State’s office with everything you need to know. While the period to file to run for office isn’t until June 25-27, there are earlier deadlines, say if you want to change party affiliation before filing to run (that’s March 27-29) or if you plan to run for office but are not yet registered to vote (May 26-28). If you are planning to run and are ready to go public, contact egreenwichnews@gmail.com.

Inspectors Deem Eldredge Safe; School to Reopen

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

East Greenwich, R.I. – After spending most of the day at Eldredge Elementary, structural engineers told school officials Wednesday the main part of the building was safe following a partial ceiling collapse in the school gym Tuesday.

“The engineering group came back and said we were cleared to be in the building,” said Supt. Victor Mercurio Wednesday evening. “We’re still looking at the root causes of the actual ceiling collapse itself.”

“The gym is off-limits, potentially through the rest of the school year,” he said. The classrooms above the gym have been deemed safe, he said.

Mercurio said he also submitted a waiver to the state Department of Education to ask if Eldredge could end the school year with the rest of the schools on June 22. He said he should have an answer in a couple of weeks.

Tests of air quality came back negative for any problems, Mercurio said. 

“We dodged what could have been a very catastrophic event,” he said. “Now it’s just a question what the extent is what the repair is for that facility, but it’s going to be extensive. There’s no question about that.”

Here are a couple of pictures of Eldredge from the year it was built, in 1927, courtesy of Alan Clarke.

Painting the third floor hallway at Eldredge School in 1927.
A classroom at Eldredge School before it opened in 1927.


 

Part of Eldredge Gym Ceiling Collapses During PE Class; No Injuries

The portion of ceiling that fell onto the gym floor at Eldredge Tuesday.

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

There will be no school at Eldredge Wednesday so the whole building can be inspected. 

East Greenwich, R.I. – A section of plaster ceiling in the gymnasium at Eldredge Elementary School, including a light fixture, fell Tuesday morning during a third grade gym class. No one was injured.

School officials said the incident happened at approximately 10:55 a.m.  Students and two faculty members were in a different area of the gym at the time. Principal Dan Seger sent an email to parents on Tuesday.

Here’s a portion of that email:

Fortunately, no one was hurt.  Both Ms. Peduto and her students were quite obviously shaken by this event, and we have called in student service supports for anyone requiring them.  The Director of Facilities is on the scene, has locked off the gymnasium, and has contacted the building inspector to review the entire area.  The portion of the facility is closed until further notice.   We are taking all necessary steps to ensure student safety.

“We avoided what could have been very catastrophic,” said Supt. Victor Mercurio Tuesday evening.

He said one student said the collapse looked as if the ceiling came “unzipped.”

According to Mercurio, the ceiling over the gym is a different type than ceilings in the rest of the building but that, as a precautionary measure, ceilings in the entire school will inspected by Halliwell Engineering Associates Wednesday. There will be no school.

“As a precaution, we said, let’s get an engineering firm here and look at the whole building structurally,” said Mercurio. “I want to err on the side of caution.”

In an email sent out to Eldredge families, Mercurio said he would follow up with Wednesday afternoon, “upon completion of this structural engineering review.”

He said the initial inspection showed no sign of asbestos.



 

 

Homeowner Fights Batting Cage At Cole

The batting cage planned for Cole Middle School would sit on the west side of the school.

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

It seemed like a nice idea – the EG Little League wanted to donate batting cages to the high school and Cole Middle School that could be used by school teams as well as Little League teams. The School Committee approved the offer last spring and equipment appeared at Cole to install the batting cage last Memorial Day weekend.

Except that placement of the proposed batting cage at Cole was on the west side of the school, the side closest to Sarah’s Trace, the street on which homeowners had sued the town over construction of the school in 2011 and which resulted in a settlement in 2015. When construction of the batting cage began, a Sarah’s Trace homeowner called police, citing a breach of the settlement. Police stopped the construction.

Now, nearly a year later, Little League representatives are hoping to get the construction back on track. The double batting cage at the high school was erected without incident after the failed attempt at Cole.

The challenge at Cole is there aren’t very many place to put the batting cages, Athletics Director Chris Cobain told the School Committee Tuesday night. He said there were only two sites at the school that don’t have anything to do with drainage, sewage, or electrical lines. One is near the tennis courts, close to houses on Wanton Shippee Road. The other is the side that abuts properties on Sarah’s Trace. Cobain said they chose the area closer to Sarah’s Trace because of the generous landscape buffer there. There is no such buffer on the Wanton Shippee side.

Cobain said he spoke with the homeowners who’d called the police.

“I talked to the family and heard, “We will fight, we will fight tooth and nail,” he said.

School Committee members said they needed to know just want was included in the settlement. If it was about equipment, could EGLL use hand tools to install the batting cage, they asked.

Committeeman Matt Plain said there was a difference between whether or not the settlement contained language about construction of something like a batting cage at Cole and the batting cage itself.

EGLL representative Russ Marcantonio agreed.

“If you let the threats of lawsuits dictate how you operate, that’s a bad precedent,” he said.

The School Committee decided to have their lawyer talk to the town about the issue, since it is the town that has the settlement with the homeowners.

School and Little League officials said they hoped the issue could be ironed out before spring baseball begins in earnest.

 

Ethics Commission to Investigate Complaint Against Firefighter

Firefighter union president Bill Perry talks with former interim Fire Chief Olsen last November.

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

Former Fire Chief Peter Henrikson filed the complaint against Lt. Bill Perry, saying he and his brother should not work in same platoon.

The state Ethics Commission is investigating a complaint filed against firefighter union president Bill Perry – a lieutenant – that accuses him of conflicts of interest because his brother, a firefighter – was placed in the same platoon.

In its “Notice of Determination,” the Ethics Commission writes, “the … complaint alleges facts sufficient to constitute a violation of the provisions of the Rhode Island Code of Ethics.”

On its website, the Ethics Commission describes such an “initial determination to investigate” this way:

The decision to investigate does not address the validity of the complaint; rather, it merely indicates that the allegations properly fall under the provisions of the Code of Ethics. Neither the complainant nor the respondent participates in the initial determination.

Peter Henrikson, who served as EGFD chief from 2010 to 2013, filed the complaint (Perry Complaint).

In the complaint, Henrikson cites an Ethics Commission opinion from 2016, in response to  Perry’s request for a ruling on his brother James Perry’s application for a job with the East Greenwich Fire Department. In that application, then-Fire Chief Russell McGillivray said it was “very unlikely” that James Perry would be assigned to Bill Perry’s platoon because of Bill Perry’s position of authority over his brother.

James Perry did end up in Bill Perry’s platoon, Platoon B. However, Bill Perry works on Engine 1 at Station One (on Main Street) and James Perry works on Rescue 2 at Station Two (on Frenchtown Road) and James Perry is supervised by two other firefighters, a lieutenant and a captain.

Bill Perry’s lawyer, Elizabeth Wiens, said there would only be a conflict if Bill was in charge of evaluating his brother. He is not, she said.

Another accusation in Henrikson’s complaint is that Bill and James Perry are eligible for additional overtime because Platoon B recently lost its floater position due to a change in the contract.

That, however, would be impossible, since the overtime due to the loss of the floater would be available only when members of Platoon B are working. Members of that platoon would be the only firefighters not able to work overtime then since they would already be working that shift.

Henrikson’s complaint also addresses fill-in procedures – suggesting that Perry could have a hand in helping his brother get overtime spots. According to firefighters, overtime slots are filled off a list – the first name on the list gets the call, and so on; they are not determined by the ranking officer. Henrikson included a copy of EGFD fill-in procedures and other documents that are not public. He did not respond to a request about how he possessed those documents.

Henrikson has been advising Town Manager Gayle Corrigan in her efforts to restructure the fire department and he has met with both interim fire chiefs. His complaint was notarized by Town Solicitor David D’Agostino. His wife, Kristen, works as clerk for the fire department. Henrikson retired from the department just as it went from a separate fire district to merging into a town department.

Two months before Henrikson retired, the firefighters union – headed by Perry – passed a vote of no confidence in Henrikson as chief by a margin of 36-1.

Perry has 20 days from March 27 to respond to the complaint, although technically he has yet to receive the “notice of determination” that was sent to him via certified mail on that date. His lawyer has since obtained a copy from the commission via email. 

Henrikson had given Station One as Perry’s address but all EGFD mail goes to Town Hall. Perry only learned of the complaint after a resident tweeted about it Saturday. Town officials gave Perry the original complaint on Tuesday, 19 days after it had been sent by certified mail. The commission’s letter of determination was sent by certified mail on March 27; Perry has not yet received it from the town. 

In a letter to Town Solicitor D’Agostino (Wiens to D’Agostino 4/2/18), Perry lawyer Wiens outlined her objections to the town’s failure to deliver Perry’s mail in a timely fashion and questioned Henrikson’s access to town documents. She called Henrikson’s complaint the act of a “disgruntled former chief.”