Warwick broke ground on a new fire station on Potowomut Road in late October. Photo credits: EG News
Warwick’s recent groundbreaking for a new fire station in Potowomut means the end is in sight for the $300,000-plus East Greenwich has been getting for many years to cover fire and rescue calls in the area.
The new station will be built on the site of the former Potowomut Elementary School on Potowomut Road. East Greenwich sits between Potowomut and the rest of Warwick, so it made sense to have East Greenwich provide fire and rescue service to the area while it was unserved by a fire station. East Greenwich got $312,000 last year from Warwick for fire service to the area.
EG Fire Chief Russell McGillivray said he was not sure yet how the loss would be dealt with in next year’s budget. The town’s fiscal year starts July 1.
“This is going to be a big hit to revenue, without a doubt,” said Town Manager Tom Coyle.
“For fiscal year 2016 we’ll most probably lose that revenue from the City of Warwick. I’m hoping to get some – some is better than nothing.”
In September, Coyle laid off a member of the Planning Department staff to help pay for the $98,000 EG Fire District senior citizen tax credit that had been overlooked when the district was merged with the town in 2013.
In addition, the town has left one police officer and two firefighter positions vacant in order to save some money.
“I have to be really conservative,” said Coyle about next year’s budget.
According to McGillivray, EGFD does about 200 runs to Potowomut annually. In terms of potential savings that could be found by eliminating those runs, he noted there would be less wear and tear on the trucks.
Warwick officials had been talking about building a fire station in Potowomut for several years. Potowomut School was closed in 2008. Warwick voters approved spending up to $2 million on a fire station in 2006.
All that’s left of the old Potowomut Elementary School is a playground behind where the new fire station will sit.
Warwick decided to demolish the school and build a fire station on the site in 2013, but initial bids last summer all came in over $3 million. After paring down the plan, it was put out to bid a second time. Again, bids exceeded $2 million, ranging from $2.3 million to $2.9 million.
But two weeks later, the City Council approved a $2.6 million bid from Ahlborg Construction, using about half of the $800,000 in the budget put aside for city employee bonuses. Additional money was allocated from the city’s disaster recovery fund.
According to Warwick Fire Chief Ed Armstrong, construction will take about a year.
It is interesting that the $300K that Warwick would not pay the EGFD for their services is being described as a shortfall. Wouldn’t there be an appropriate staffing reduction to reflect the fewer calls? Otherwise, if I were a Warwick resident, I’d be suspicious that East Greenwich has been guilty of gouging all of this time. Considering how long that the construction of the new station has been a possibility, there really should have been a contingency plan in place for such an adjustment. Perhaps a twist of fate should be in order and, when the Potowomut station is up and running, EG could purchase their services for the area East of Rt. 2 and shut down the Main St. station leaving the Frenchtown station to cover West of Rt. 2. From what I understand, 83% of the calls for the Main St. station are to attend to the Elderly Centers on 6th Ave. Those locations would be about equidistant from Main St. as from Potowomut so the speed of service would not be affected.