East Greenwich Town Council to vote on fire department restructuring
By: Rebecca Turco
EAST GREENWICH, R.I. – East Greenwich firefighters are in limbo as the town council is set to decide whether to restructure the department mid-contract.
The town manager is aiming to eliminate a platoon shift in a cost-cutting measure – potentially laying off six firefighters. Staffers’ hours and wages would be increased.
The head of the Rhode Island Association of Firefighters calls it a dangerous move. "We need, in that size community, a minimum of at least 15 to 16 people on duty at all times; they have eight and nine," said Joseph Andriole. “How much lower can you go than that?"
The town council had voted on this matter last month, but in court Monday, the local union’s lawyer argued there was confusion over that proposal’s intention. The judge allowed for a vote on a motion with stricter language at Monday night’s meeting.
"We feel that the motion, because it provides a specific date of implementation of June 3, that we've covered the contingencies and concerns raised by the union,” Town Solicitor David D’Agostino told the judge in court.
The vote will come just weeks after Providence doled out roughly $6-million in settlement fees to its firefighters over a shift elimination mid-contract – one that was short-lived. "My advice to the town council is simple: get a second opinion,” said Paul Doughty, the president of the Providence Firefighters’ Union. “We ran into the exact same situation with the exact same attorney. He was wrong."
If the council votes yes, both sides will meet with a judge May 24 to go over whether the town has jurisdiction to break the firefighters’ contract.