The Town Council will review a draft of legislation calling for the East Greenwich Fire District to be merged with the Town of East Greenwich at their next meeting, on Jan. 28.
In November, voters approved by a two-to-one margin a nonbinding referendum question that asked if the Fire District should be merged with the town. The Fire District was against the merger and remains a reluctant party to the discussion.
According to Town Council President Michael Isaacs, Fire Commissioner Chairman Bill Daly told him the Fire District has "some ideas they want to put on the table." He did not specify what those ideas might entail.
Town Solicitor Peter Clarkin said the Fire District's solicitor, Scott Spear, indicated he thought a binding referendum would need to be held before any merger could take place. Isaacs pointed out that the referendum was nonbinding only because it was beyond the scope of the voters to decree a merger.
"My interpretation was that it was nonbinding because it’s not possible for it to be binding," he said at a meeting of the Town Council Monday night. Rather, he said, it must be done at the state legislative level.
Town Manager Bill Sequino also offered Town Council members a list of possible changes to the town charter to accommodate the merger. (That list was not made available at the meeting.) The charter already has in it a provision allowing for a town fire department, so it's unclear just what, if anything, would need to be changed in the charter.
During public comment, Robert Vespia said, "Is there any possibility to not disband the Fire District?"
He said the town was interested in historic buildings – "But here we are talking about an historical entity that's been around since 1797.... Is there any way to keep the Fire District as the Fire District but under the town?"
He continued, "Instead of saying this historical entity is being thrown away and we're going to start from scratch ... is there any way to keep the Fire District in existance, but under the umbrella of the town?
"It's a historic entity I would hate to see flushed away for no reason," Vespia said.
The Council meets next on Monday, Jan. 28. They meet with the EG Fire District commissioners on Monday, Feb. 4.