15% increase in Fire Dept. fuel usage questioned

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The Warwick Fire Department has used more fuel than projected for the year – 7,326 gallons to be precise – and Rob Cote believes he knows why. In a letter to the mayor that he has forwarded to council members and other city officials, he reasons there hasn’t been a corresponding 15 percent increase in fire runs and that the fuel is being used when firefighters use apparatus to make trips to local super markets.

But assistant Chief James Kenney has an explanation. On Friday he explained that the department conducted its “largest ever” fire training academy for 24 recruits last summer. The 18-week program involved the use of apparatus for practice runs and the setup of scenarios where trainees connect hoses to engines and complete drills with charged hoses. This requires apparatus to be running.

Cote, who is a regular at City Council meetings, is no stranger to either the Fire Department or Department of Public Works. He has followed DPW vehicles, videoing instances where drivers are in their vehicles for hours apparently doing nothing that are posted to the internet. He has taken video of firefighters allegedly shopping at local markets, leaving with only a few items to an engine left running in the parking lot.

Cote urged for a policy eliminating the practice of using fire apparatus for shopping runs, arguing firefighters coming on duty could make the market trips before arriving at the station. The chief at the time, Edmund Armstrong, responded that the stops were being made as apparatus were returning from runs and that there was no added cost to the city or that safety was being compromised. The Board of Public Safety went along with that reasoning.

In his letter, Cote recalled Mayor Scott Avedisian’s remarks in opposition to use of the vehicles for shopping and then having the board condone the practice. He called it, “political posturing” and an abuse of taxpayers’ dollars.

Kenney reasons the department’s 17 pieces of apparatus need to be run to keep them in good working order. Also, he feels it is good for residents to see members of the department in the community. Overall, neither he nor Chief James McLaughlin thought the additional fuel was extraordinary when spread over the fleet and considering their use for the training academy.

Asked about the impact stops at the supermarket on fuel consumption, Kenney said, “That should have nothing to do with it.” The chief said the department maintains a log of all runs, but does not list stops at the supermarket.

According to data provided by the department, the department’s nine engines had made 18,069 runs last year; ladders 3,787 runs and rescues 13,400 for a total of 35,256. That doesn’t reflect the number of incidents, which totaled 15,986, as two and often three apparatus respond to a single call depending on the nature of the emergency.

Councilman Ed Ladouceur, chair of the finance committee, said Monday he looks at city department budget expenditures as he would his own business. He said he is looking for answers on what is being spent and whether those expenses are justified.

“What you need, you get. What you don’t need you don’t get,” he said.

He said he has questions about fuel usage, adding, “He [Cote] does present some very concerning issues. These are questions that need to be answered.”

Comments

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emw100

Someone doesn't have much of a life if this is the focus of his daily activities. Using a fire engine or ladder to make a run to the grocery store uses a negligible amount of fuel - most of the city of Warwick is within 1-3 miles of a supermarket. And, when many of these men and women are working multiple shifts in a row, it's not always possible to plan on bringing your own food for 34 hours. These folks spend many days, nights, and in-betweens with their crew. They deserve to eat as a crew - nay, as a family - as well.

Oh, and with the required 30 minutes of CPR on scene and an extra engine company often required to show up for manpower, get used to there being even more fuel required. Maybe next year you can complain that they are going to Gregg's for dessert too often.

Tuesday, March 21
Thecaptain

Now there is a typical ridiculous comment which is almost as buffoonish as the Asst. Chiefs comment. So lets look at the facts.

The department is 15% over budget on fuel and there is still more than 1 fiscal quarter yet to go. So that means at a minimum they will be over budget by at least 30%. Let's examine the foolish comments.

In one breath the chief justifies this poor behavior by saying that "we need to run the equipment to keep them in good working condition". In the next breath he says that the department did 35,256 runs. Umm, contradiction at best.

He says that the runs to the supermarket have nothing to do with the fuel being over budget. I guess his mentality is such that he believes that when a truck goes to the market and is left idling for 30 minutes, that it somehow is not burning any fuel. These vehicles average 2-3 miles per gallon, and contrary to what the ole chief may think, it all adds up. Particularly when the men shop for every meal. They are not shopping and stocking a refrigerator.

The comment in the above posts suggest that the men are in the station for 34 hours at a time. Another foolish comment as the shift is 2 -10 hr days, followed by 2- 14 hour nights followed by 4 days off.

The problem is that the department has been unable to control any line item in their budget for years. The bigger problem is that arrogance that is publicly displayed when shopping is a violation of the RI DEM Air quality regulation 45.7.5 which clearly states that fire personnel cannot idle an apparatus for the convenience of the operator. They are not exempt from the law.

It is this mentality which causes this department and every other department to over spend budgets. It is wasteful, and contrary to what the ole chief may think, the general public does not feel that is is good for the community to see the men wasting fuel, breaking laws, and using taxpayer apparatus to go buy popcorn. When your city is closing down senior centers but giving fire department personnel bonuses of $1,092,421 there is a problem. It's called fiscal incompetence. So if it makes you feel better, disparage the messenger.

Tuesday, March 21
PaulHuff

Mr. Cote.....Nobody cares if they stop at the supermarket to get something to eat or if they drive around their area of responsibility.

Just like the old pickup in my driveway that keeps having brakelines rot out of it due to not driving it, these trucks need to be driven.

Tuesday, March 21
Thecaptain

Paul, evidently you didn't see the part that they made 35000 runs. I think they are driving around enough. It is about the budget and you should care as you will be getting another tax increase next year. I'm not sure if you've ever been to a budget hearing or a finance meeting but it gets disturbing when every line item in every department is overdrawn.

Tuesday, March 21
chuckbones

Rob Cote, you are an idiot! The fire chiefs gave their explanations as to why the fuel is over budget. I am happy with the response, how come you are not? I'll tell you why, you are a joke, and a rat. You should put more time and energy into not being a POS and leave the hardworking city employees alone!

Tuesday, March 21
Jenn1000

Way to keep it classy Chuck! Typical response from a union putz.

Wednesday, March 22
davebarry109

All of this is a distraction from the real issue: The fire dept has not made its OT budget in 30 years. They are over budget each year. Every year. It's a scam. Nationwide, fires are down dramatically. The fire apparatus makes runs they don't need to in order to have runs 'logged' to justify new equipment and manpower. I've had fire chiefs admit this to me. It's all about numbers.

Wednesday, March 22
Thecaptain

Chuckbones, or shall I call you city employee Scott? The fire chiefs are fiscally incompetent. The data and the documents indicate contrary to what the fire chiefs statements indicate. This is just one Small example of the abuses in the city. It will never be enough compensation for the fire department. After raises and coordinated scheme bonuses, they sue the city. They continue to put excessive un-necessary burdens on the taxpayer. Close the senior center but give the WFD $1,092,421 in bonuses. Reduce the police force, but increase the WFD roster to the highest number ever recorded. Allow the chief to lie under testimony at the budget hearings. He states that there are 6 floaters on the department at all times to cover vacations at straight time pay, and that no more than 6 men can be on vacation at any time, However, when you examine the attendance records, we find that every vacation day is covered at the OT rate and that there are numerous examples of more than 6 men on vacation at the same time. So what is it? Either the chief has Alzheimers, or he purposely lied and deceived the council members? Maybe he just mis-remembered. Or maybe you think that the taxpayers think its ok that a member of the WFD takes a paid leave of absence to go to the state police training academy while employed by the City of Warwick? So in your mind you should insult the messenger because of your employee status and failure to recognize the factors contributing to an unbalanced overdrawn check book. Go for it.

Wednesday, March 22
NoStoryHere

Hey, Chucky, or should I say Scott:

I was at the last Finance Committee meeting when the WFD, WPD, and DPW asked for their gas $$. I asked Chief Kenney, the messenger, did the WFD have a policy to "GO TO A CALL AND IMMEDIATELY RETURN TO THE FIRE STATION AND AWAIT THE NEXT CALL". He said "NO". They are encouraged to be seen in the community. What a STUPID answer, and nothing but BS. They have a Firehouse in every community, that they are seen when WE DRIVE BY THEM. They are seen in the community when going to calls, and when immediately going back to the station to await the next call. That is all the time that they need to be seen IN THE COMMUNITY, at our expense.

I have been complaining to Mayor Avedisian for years, since gas at almost $4 a gallon. Every day I go to Oakland Beach at different times to read, etc. No matter what time it is, it becomes like a parade of WFD vehicles, more than the WPD actually, all joyriding, and enjoying the scenery. Ladder trucks, engines, pumpers, rescues, hazard vehicles, etc. MY SCANNER always confirms that they AREN'T ON A CALL THERE. It should also be noted, that they are from ALL DIFFERENT Stations in the City, not just Engine 3 next to Vets School on West Shore Rd., which if you were to believe Chief Kenney, should be the only equipment I see in the Oakland Beach area, unless others are on a call there.

This just further proves my point, and shows Chief Kenney lied to the Finance Committee last week. AGAIN. The Mayor, and the WFD administration, are just wasting OUR TAX DOLLARS, and could care less what ANYONE thinks. The Mayor, just about every other Warwick Politician (Fed/State/City levels), and their family members Property Tax Assessments went down in the last re-evaluation. Therefore, THEY don't have to pay any higher Taxes for this waste.

People of Warwick better Wake Up fast, because your taxes will be going up again, before the next election. HOPEFULLY THEN WE CAN THROW THE MAYOR, AND HIS CRONIES, OUT FOR GOOD.

Wednesday, March 22
richardcorrente

Dear DanElliott,

I preferred to stay out of this one because I felt it would end up as a name calling complaint session and wow was I right. I did want to respond to you however Dan, because you and I have had several respectful conversations. We didn't agree on everything but we both benefited from the talks in my opinion, and I welcome more of them.

I did dozens of hours of research in 2015 and 2016 about this issue, spoke in person to Chief Armstrong and several others and I conclude that in regards to the shopping runs:

1. About 95% of them are before punch-in and the firefighters are in street clothes so they are never noticed as firefighters.

2. The remaining 5% are in uniform, oftentimes before the firefighter is "on the clock". Sometimes that food run can't be helped. Sometimes it can. Should we cut them some slack when that happens? I think so. Armstrong admitted it was wrong. I agree, but it's a minor issue, not anything to bring to Federal Court especially against people who risk their lives to keep our homes safe.

As far as the gas usage, I attended the same meeting Cote did and I spoke with Councilman Ladouceur the next day about it. I suggested that Warwick pre-purchase gas for all departments at one time. This would allow for the biggest possible quantity discount maximizing the money saved to the taxpayers. (That is the big picture in my opinion). Then, arrange for delivery times and locations as needed, just as a chain store orders goods from a manufacturer. This would also help the City Council monitor quantities being used by each department on a monthly basis and identify any abuses immediately. He agreed and again, Ed and I don't always agree, but I think respectful dialog is the way to improve things in Warwick, not constant insults, put-downs and complaining. I have never given or gotten an insult from Ed Ladoucuer in the 30 years I have known him. If someone doesn't like the present way Warwick is doing something and they have a BETTER IDEA, that person deserves respect for working on the solution, not barking about the problem. That person deserves to be listened to and admired. However, if they just want to b**ch and complain without being part of the solution, then I have no use for them and neither should you or any of the 80,000 taxpayers that are paying the tab.

Talk soon my friend.

Happy Easter to you and your family.

Rick Corrente

The Taxpayers Mayor

Wednesday, March 22
chuckbones

It seems that the only ones who comment on here are robs cronies!! I have no issue when I see the fire trucks in my neighborhood! As for the truck at Oakland beach, isn't that in their district and where they park their fire boat that needs daily attention? I guess you failed to mention that!! Were you this mad at the fire department back in the day when you poured gasoline down the drain and nearly blew up your building? You have a major issue with the firefighters in this city, maybe you were not hugged as a child or maybe the fire truck didn't honk its horn when you asked as skittle kid? I don't know, but what I do know is that you and your cronies are the small minority in this city and that we laugh at you every time you open your mouth!!

Wednesday, March 22
Thecaptain

Mr. Corrente,

Your words make no sense. Describe "your research" which you state indicates that 95% of the shopping is done off the clock. You are markedly incorrect. In fact, little if any shopping is done off duty, and at any given date, such as today, you can see the waste. Furthermore, you seem to always have "research" but are unable to produce a document, email, or any other evidence, unlike myself who produces documents, emails, statutes and video. Your claim is just plain silly. I assume that you as well have an excuse for the RIGL 45.5.7 diesel idling violations each time a piece of apparatus goes on a shopping spree. 30 minutes idling for 3 bulky roll sandwiches and a bag of chips. We must have lots of calls at 9:45 and 10:30 because every day at those times you can see trucks at Dave's Hoxie and Stop & Shop Meadowbrook. Every day. In fact, for your entertainment here is today's video taken at 10:45 at Meadowbrook. Cut and paste it. Here's another example.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_YXag-fQuC0&feature=youtu.be

You must also believe as the chief does that in his words, this activity has zero impact on the fuel budget. I guess the apparatus get transported by magic carpet. They just float to the market. You clearly don't understand the law of cumulative effects. But then again, you don't pay your tax obligations so why should you care about budget impacts? Just sayin' ! Here's more evidence, what do you have?

From: captiana1@aol.com [mailto:captiana1@aol.com]

Sent: Wednesday, March 16, 2016 4:08 PM

To: McLaughlin James G; Mayor Scott Avedisian

Cc: JORDAN JANE; Bristow Karen; PICOZZI DAVID; Keiser Bruce; Peter - Legal Team; johnh@rhodybeat.com; dan@630wpro.com; matt@630wpro.com; news@abc6.com; news@wjar.com; news@wrni.org; desk@wpri.com

Subject: WFD abuse of tax dollars

Chief,

Last evening 3 of your men took Ladder 1 to Stop & Shop on Greenwich Ave. to purchase a birthday cake and candles. I called fire alarm and was told that the battalion chief would contact me about the issue. The men were video taped and while leaving blasted the horn at me as their gesture of complete abuse and disrespect of the tax dollar.

This behavior is completely egregious and an example of total abuse of the system. It needs to end immediately and I expect both you and the mayor to end this abuse. If it is not ended I will immediately design a web site to showcase this taxpayer abuse.

I expect an answer from both you and the mayor. It is getting exhausting having to plead with you and the mayor to exercise common sense.

Rob Cote

ANSWER

From Mayor Scott Avedisian SCOTT.AVEDISIAN@warwickri.com

To captiana1 captiana1@aol.com, McLaughlin James G James.G.McLaughlin@warwickri.com

Chief: I know that discipline was given and that you cannot by law reveal that but I think you might want to let Mr. Cote know.

Letter from the Mayor

Nov. 17, 2015

Dear Mr. Cote

Thank you for your recent email response relative to the use of fire apparatus to perform personal shopping at local markets. I share your concern, as do all taxpayers that the delivery of fire services in an efficient and effective manner is of paramount importance. On duty food shopping using fire apparatus is not supportive of these goals. I have asked the Fire Chief to evaluate current practices and to develop new policies regarding shopping by fire personnel.

I will continue to monitor this issue and work with City officials to ensure that proper steps are taken.

Sincerely,

Scott Avedisian

So as of this date, much like your unpaid taxes, nothing has changed. Just more political BS.

Wednesday, March 22
NoStoryHere

Hey Chucky, or is it DPW Scott? Whatever !

Apparently you couldn't read my earlier post. You said: " As for the truck at Oakland beach, isn't that in their district and where they park their fire boat that needs daily attention? I guess you failed to mention that!!"

You didn't understand it when I wrote that they should be the ONLY fire apparatus I see when there at Oakland Beach? Try reading it again, or should I type slower for you?

"NOT WHEN I SEE EVERY OTHER WFD VEHICLE GOING THROUGH THERE JOYRIDING AT ANYTIME OF THE DAY AND NIGHT.....LADDER TRUCKS, ENGINES, PUMPERS, RESCUES, HAZARD APPARATUS ETC. FROM ALL OTHER AREAS OF THE CITY".

Please learn how to read, before you try to correct or complain about another taxpayers stated opinion. That's right, City employees don't have to know how to read, they just need to know a guy, to get a job. You Idiot.

Wednesday, March 22
DaveEpstein

Maybe if we didn't have this overage we could use the savings to resurface some city streets. We all know that they need some serious attention.

Thursday, March 23
Thecaptain

DaveEpstein is correct,

The tax increase last year produced a net revenue of $4.8 million dollars. 100 % of that $4.8 mil went to raises and bonuses while every service line item in the city was cut. The budget documents are readily available to all. Additional cuts were made to road repair, however, the fire dept. got a 50 % increase in unused sick pay bonus which as we all know is a complete scam, and we closed a senior center. Who do you think Avedisian is looking out for?

Thursday, March 23