CCFD expected in court Monday for bankruptcy hearing

COVENTRY, R.I. (WPRI) — Representatives of the Central Coventry Fire District are expected to meet before a judge Monday to decide whether or not the bankruptcy case involving the cash-strapped district can be dismissed.

Eyewitness News has learned the district is on the verge of losing two of its vehicles because they were not fully paid off.

A judge will decide whether or not Rhode Island can give financial responsibility back to the district.

“We’re prepared to step up and get going right away,” said Fred Gralinski, chairman of the CCFD Board of Directors.

Gralinski was elected after the district went into state receivership in 2012. The receiver, Judge Mark Pfeiffer, filed for bankruptcy on the district’s behalf in December 2014 in federal court.

Earlier this month, Pfeiffer filed a motion to drop that bankruptcy case at the instruction of the Raimondo administration. Gralinski said he supports the decision, but the firefighters union does not.

“The bankruptcy plan the state has been forced to abandon has already led to a positive fund balance of $1.9 million,” said Paul Reed, President of the Rhode Island State Association of Firefighters.

At a rally Friday, Reed and other union leaders accused Gralinski of playing politics over public safety.

“A toxic political environment that is gaining the upper hand over the safety of the community,” Reed said.

Gralinski said the union is the one playing politics.

“They’re one of the most potent political parties in the country,” he said.

A number of groups including the Town of Coventry and the Coventry Credit Union have also filed motions ahead of Monday’s hearing, asking the judge not to dismiss the bankruptcy case. According to the credit union, the district has defaulted on loans and the credit union plans to repossess two of the district’s rescue vehicles.

Gralinski predicts that won’t happen.

“They won’t take them,” he said. “IIf they took the rescues, and then there was an injury, someone would sue them.”

According to Gralinski, if the board gets control of the district’s finance back, they will pay about $4 million in debt to a long list of parties – including the Coventry Credit Union. He said the district has $1.2 million on hand right now.

The hearing is scheduled for Monday at 11 a.m. in federal court in Providence. The state is expected to hand control over to the board on Thursday.

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