PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — House lawmakers passed legislation Thursday that could potentially save the troubled Central Coventry Fire District (CCFD).
The bill, sponsored by House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello, calls for a state budget commission to oversee the fire district. The Senate passed its first version of the bill earlier in the week. If both sides pass each others versions, the bill then goes to Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee to be signed into law.
The state currently has the authority to appoint a receiver or other official to oversee the finances of troubled municipalities. The bill passed by both chambers would expand the state’s authority and allow it to do the same for troubled fire districts by appointing a fiscal overseer, budget commission, or receiver.
According to the legislation, in the event that a budget commission were appointed, it would consist of five members: Three would be appointees of the director of revenue, one would be the chairperson of the district’s governing body, and one would be the fire chief of the district.
The Central Coventry Fire District, the largest in that town, went into receivership in October 2012. The district operated without a set budget until October 2013, when voters finally approved one for $5.6 million for the 2013-2014 fiscal year. However, the amount was not enough to last the entire period.
In February, Superior Court Judge Brian Stern ordered the CCFD to cease all operations within 90 days and liquidate its assets on May 16, ultimately dissolving the fire district.
Firefighters in the district received termination notices in the mail this past week in light of the upcoming May 16 deadline. CCFD Union President David Gorman told Eyewitness News that the notices were just part of the process, and that no firefighters have been terminated early. The union has filed an appeal to the liquidation order with Superior Court.
Following passage of the legislation in concurrence, Gov. Chafee’s signature would allow the state to intervene if the law goes into effect before the May 16 deadline.