It was tense night in Coventry as the Town Council voted on trying to save one of the town's four fire districts. Central Coventry Fire is the largest district, but it's out of money, in danger of closing Thursday night.
"Per the agenda there will be no public forum," said Town Council President Gary Cote. He was greeted with boos and shouts. "Where's the democracy?" yelled one resident.
And with that a raucous and angry Coventry Town Council meeting got underway. The emergency meeting was over a $300 thousand dollar loan to try to help save the Central Coventry Fire District from closing. Many citizens wanted to speak.
Dave Gilman, a Coventry resident said, "I just think this is not democracy in action. It's just not."
Jeff Blais, another Coventry resident said, "Of course we should have. Isn't this a public gathering? We're in the Town Council Chambers."
But on a four-to-one vote, the Town Council approved a loan that might keep the Central Coventry Fire District open at least three more weeks, while the General Assembly tries to find a permanent funding source. Some lawmakers thought they had better plans and felt undercut by the Council vote.
State Sen. Nick Kettle, (R) Rhode Island said, "Clearly I don't think this was a wise financial move on behalf of the Town Council."
State Rep. Patricia Morgan, (R) Rhode Island said, "It's really irresponsible. They are clearly ignoring what the people have said, number one." Residents have already voted no on two packages of budget and tax increases.
But even Governor Chafee showed up to support the Council's loan to the Fire Department.
"Hopefully we can go back to the voters with an affordable proposal, that provides the fire protection, the rescue service, as I said, at an affordable cost," said Gov. Lincoln Chafee, (I) Rhode Island.
Harold Gorman, Coventry resident who supported the loan said, "If my granddaughter is choking and her mother calls 911, where does 911 go?"
And ultimately the Town Council said the $300 thousand dollar loan came down to public safety.
"Wednesday night when I lay down to sleep, I will sleep well, knowing that emergency services will be provided for the taxpayers in the Town of Coventry," said President Gary Cote, Coventry Town Council
The Council President said he did not allow public comment because the issue has been widely debated and that Council Members were elected to lead in times of emergency. Many of these same people will be back in court Wednesday afternoon, to see if the judge overseeing the fire departments receivership agrees with this plan.