November 28, 2014
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Police to get K-9 unit
Jessica A. Botelho
AIRPORT EXPANSION: Six residents addressed the City Council at last week’s meeting and urged them to consider health hazards and costs before reaching an agreement with the Rhode Island Airport Corporation. Among them are Mike Zarum (left) and Phillip D’Ercole.

The addition to a K-9 unit at the Warwick Police Department (WPD), the banning of plastic bags, as well as airport banter and talk of the lack of requested expenditure reports were all topics at last week’s City Council meeting.

After being without a K-9 unit for more than two years, the WPD is about to obtain a German Shepard to assist them in capturing criminals. In fact, they are seeking authorization to purchase a German Shepard canine from Connecticut Canine Services for $9,000.

Ward 8 Councilman Ray Gallucci said the Department has been without a K-9 unit because the previous handler no longer works for the WPD.

According to Commander and Deputy Chief Michael Babula, who addressed the council, ACI officers have highly recommended a dog from the Connecticut Canine Services, as they are the only breeder in the area that maintains an on-hand stock of dogs, which enables officers to test and work with animals before they are obtained. ACI handlers also will accompany officers and assist with testing and choosing a suitable animal.

The cost of the dog will be funded through a federal grant from the Byrne JAG Grant, said Babula. Additionally, he said the ACI K-9 unit would provide training of the new K-9 officer at no cost. The officer will train and certify with their unit.

Babula said a K-9 unit is needed to track suspects and locate missing persons, particularly children. Further, he said K-9 units are helpful for building searches and clearances, as well as establishing crowd control. Trained dogs can also be useful to detect narcotics and can be crucial on drug-related search warrants and searches of vehicles for narcotics, said Babula.

In the past, the K-9 unit was often sought out to help federal task forces with WPD members. Babula told the council the use of K-9 units with the task forces led to additional federal asset fortitude revenues.

Council members, including Gallucci, Ward 6 Councilwoman Donna Travis and Ward 3 Councilwoman Camille Vella-Wilkinson, are in favor of reinstating a K-9 unit.

Vella-Wilkinson said she thinks it’s important to note that the WPD conducted research and was able to earn the grant to fund the canine.

“I especially like the fact that the police and fire departments are being very creative in finding funding through grants,” she said at the meeting. “They save the cost by doing research themselves and coming up with the money to fund the program. I think that’s phenomenal.”

Babula said the breeder would provide all the standard guarantees that are required of police dogs, such as health, vaccinations, as well as a guarantee against hip dysplasia. They also assure that the dog is trainable as a police canine above the level of training already received by the dog before purchase. No other kennel in the area, said Babula, offered this guarantee.

In a statement to James Marcello, the purchasing agent for the city of Warwick, Babula said, “We believe it would be a significant disadvantage to the city to purchase an animal from a different kennel.”

Also, two members of Environment Rhode Island addressed the council to urge them to ban the use of plastic bags within the state. Channing Jones, 24, an associate for Environment Rhode Island, and Aaron Yang, 24, an intern for the organization, who is also a graduate student at Brown University, said reusable bags are an easy solution, as well as the most environmentally sustainable option.

“Plastic bags pollute the oceans and kill wildlife,” said Yang. “We only use plastic bags for five minutes.”

Channing also said, “Paper bags still take resources and trees.”

Also, Yang is from China, a country that has already banned plastic bags. He said China citizens have embraced the idea.

“People really like it over there,” he said.

Additionally, six members of the public spoke to the council expressing their concerns for expansion of T.F. Green Airport. Before the council headed to an executive session following the meeting, citizens reminded the council of the hazards the airport already causes, such as health issues from toxins emitted from airplanes, as well as financial hindrances they feel it would create.

Resident Richard Langseth handed out a spreadsheet he created that referenced the Airport Improvement Program, as well as the Congressional Service Calculations, and said $3.4 billion is available for airport improvement.

“Only 30 percent of it is discretionary,” he said. “That’s the money airports can use to extend runways. Of that, $357 million goes to noise programs, $40 million goes to military conversion and $6 million goes to reliever items, leaving $615 million for all available airport improvements, of which small airports get 68 percent. The entire amount of money available for the U.S. government to do all the work [Green hopes to do] is $196 million a year. This is astounding. Look at this because this is a major deal and I don’t think this airport has nearly enough money to pay for it.”

Other citizens, including Raleigh Jenkins, as well as Michael Zarum and Phillip D’Ercole, also spoke against airport expansion. They urged the council not to go forward with an environmental impact statement (EIS) at this time.

D’Ercole, who lives on Warwick Pond and said he has witnessed abnormalities in wildlife in the pond, is concerned with pollution the airport has caused and said he feels Kevin Dillon, CEO and president of the Rhode Island Airport Corporation (RIAC), has put Warwick in jeopardy.

“Mr. Dillon and past CEOs of the airport have put us in this position, as far as discharging pollutants into Buckeye Brook without a RIPTEs permit,” said D’Ercole.

In other business, Ward 4 Councilman Joseph Solomon said Mayor Scott Avedisian is yet to sign a resolution that unanimously passed at the Feb. 13 meeting. The resolution requests six-month fiscal expenditure reports by department or acting department directors.

Solomon also said he doesn’t understand why Finance Director Ernie Zmyslinski has not provided the council with analysis reports.

“Zmyslinski didn’t prepare any of that information for us,” said Solomon. “He still fails to deliver information the council members need to perform due diligence to the taxpayers. Ernie vocalized that this information is readily available to us daily and we’re still waiting.”


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