Fire sale proposed for some items at ailing Coventry Fire District

Items on the potentioal auction block include vehicles, generators and land

COVENTRY, R.I. (WPRI) — The financially-troubled Coventry Fire District is considering putting trucks, equipment, and even land, up for sale in an effort to generate revenue.

Among the items on the potential auction block is a 2014 Chevy Tahoe that was seen repeatedly in Target 12 undercover video in an investigation last fall.

Target 12 released findings from an undercover investigation on Labbadia in October. He was seen in the video leaving work in a taxpayer-funded department vehicle to go play golf in another town for hours on end; drinking during the day, then driving the fire department vehicle back to work; and even taking the department vehicle to a party on Federal Hill, where he drank and appeared to smoke – and share – marijuana before once again getting behind the wheel.

Video also showed an unknown man access the SUV on Federal Hill, roll what appears to be a joint before sharing it with two other people.

Coventry Fire District Division Chief Ben Perra said he’s unsure how much the department will get for the SUV, but said every little bit helps.

“We need some cash right now, our cash flow is pretty low,” Perra said. “We lowered our taxes by 15 percent and we basically have the same bills that we had the year before so we’re trying to address that problem right now.”

The SUV which was unmarked when it was used by Labbadia, now has decals on it showing it is an official Coventry Fire District vehicle.

“I think people should know where their vehicles are and where they’re being used,” said Perra.

Among other items the district may put up for sale, Perra said there is a 1978 pumper truck that has gone unused for years because it is need of repair.

“I think it would be more valuable as a collector than it would as a fire truck right now,” he said.

Also on the potential auction block: a 2001 Dodge pickup, a 2005 For Escape, two generators and a large ventilation fan used to clear smoke out from  buildings at a fire scene.

Perra said they may also sell nearly 17 acres of land that was donated to the fire district years ago and was being considered for use as a training ground, but sits unused. He said the land has not yet been appraised.

The Coventry Tax Assessor’s office has the parcel – a wooded area off Hilldan St. – assessed at $345,600.

In December the district slashed its budget by 15 percent, which has put further strain on the finances. Earlier that month, the then-Director of Revenue for Rhode Island said the district’s finances were strained, but it was not on the verge of bankruptcy.

In July firefighters were only partially paid because the district didn’t have enough money to make payroll.

Perra said he may retire soon, adding morale is at an all-time low.

“Our payroll issues have caused a lot of heartache with men right now,” Perra said. “I’ve been here 31 years, its pretty difficult to walk away from something like this, but we’ll see what happens.”

Perra said it’s unclear when the items will be put up for sale or when. He said the five-member board of directors that governs the district will make the final call.

Tim White ( twhite@wpri.com ) is the Target 12 investigative reporter for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow him on Twitter: @TimWhiteRI

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