LETTERS

Block & Cote conclusions all wrong

Posted

To the Editor:

Ken Block and Rob Cote are trying to convince Warwick taxpayers (and the entire state) that they have the answer to save money from the fire department’s staffing and completely eliminate overtime on the department. 

While this sounds good and would certainly be a welcome relief for Warwick taxpayers their figures and conclusions are entirely mythical. If you read their proposal you will quickly see that their entire plan is based on making the firefighters work an additional 25 percent more hours with no raise in salary. They do their best to bury this fact with an overwhelming amount of superfluous and irrelevant data. Their plan of moving the Warwick Fire Department to 24 hour shifts under a three-platoon system (as opposed to a 4 platoon system) increases the base weekly hours work from 42 to 56. This would be akin to asking all Warwick residents who work a 40-hour week to begin to work Saturday and Sunday for the same pay.

They also make the claim that around “seventy percent of the fire departments around the country happily work a 24 hour, 3 platoon system.” This is a blatant lie!

The City of Providence attempted to move their fire department from a 4 platoon to a 3 platoon system a couple of years ago and it was an absolute disaster for the taxpayers. The weekly costs went up, overtime went up and because Providence didn’t pay their firefighters any extra base salary (just as Block and Cote propose) the City paid out around $10 million in back pay for the firefighters when the City finally gave up and moved back to the more efficient four-platoon system.

Block and Cote claim that swapping shifts with another firefighter (a common practice) results in an overtime shift paid at 1½ times base hourly wage. Once again an outright lie!

Mr. Cote amassed hundreds of pages of documents from the Warwick Fire Department in order to document that there were many 24- and 48-hour shifts worked by Warwick firefighters in order to debunk the notion that working 24-hour shifts would be unsafe for firefighters. He needn’t have wasted his time. No one in the fire service claims that 24-hour shifts as part of a four-platoon system is unsafe. Firefighters would still work 42 hours per week. It’s the 24-hour shifts as part of a 3 platoon system that is unsafe. This raise a base workweek to 56 hours even before any overtime is required.

Neither Mr. Block nor Mr. Cote have any experience or understanding of the fire service. I am a retired Fire Captain from Providence with 35 years of experience. I know a lot more about this subject than they. I wouldn’t gain of loose personally with this proposed change – other than the fact that I’d be less confident in my fire protection having to rely on overworked firefighters. I have lived in Warwick for the past 18 years. If this proposal really had merit and would save me on my tax bill, I’d be silent – but it doesn’t!

Tom Kenney

Warwick

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Warwick Man

Finally some common sense. Thank You Capt. Kenney

Tuesday, May 22
richardcorrente

About three years ago we all heard from Rob Cote how the overtime was "out of sight" at the Warwick Fire Department even though Warwick hired many new fire fighters "to lower or eliminate overtime". Not being the type of person who takes these comments at face value I spoke to several firefighters about the issue. I asked why hiring many new fire fighters didn't actually decrease the overtime.

Here's what I learned. (and I wrote about it in the Warwick Beacon at that time)

Warwick received hundreds of thousands of federal dollars to train these new fire fighters.

BUT

Some lazy spread-sheet data entry person decided that rather than create a new column labeled "training" he/she just stuck all the federally-funded training hours under "overtime". Therefore is looked like Warwick taxpayers were paying that overtime money but, in fact they were NOT. Subtract the "training hours" from the total overtime hours and the remaining overtime hours DID GO DOWN!

I agree with Tom Kenny. There were comments in the Block and Cote article that were blatant lies!

Happy Spring/Summer everyone.

Rick Corrente

The Taxpayers Mayor

Tuesday, May 22
Thecaptain

Dear Mr. Kenney,

For someone who has 35 years of experience in the fire industry, you clearly have written a letter based on false figures and non fact. The facts are that Warwick Firefighters DO NOT work 42 hours in a week. They work 48 hours. They work two 10 hour days followed by two 14 hour nights followed by 4 days off. Because your initial foundation basis of your letter to the editor contains wrong numbers, your letter is clearly debunked without credibility. One would think that with 35 years of experience that you would know that and not misconstrue the actual numbers. One would think that you are also aware that state law allows for municipalities to work fire fighters for 53 hours prior to overtime. One would think.

As a retired Fire Captain in Providence, you above all people should know about the fraud, waste, scams, fake injuries, and 2/3rds claims that have gone on in PVD for years, even decades, including a retired chief. Under Cianci, more 2/3rds claims took place than ever in PVD history. Which is why the PVD fire pension is

Having said the obvious, the fact of the matter is that something needs to be done to dramatically change the way fire services are contracted in RI.

First problem is that no department should advance a chief from within the department. Case and point. Warwick just retired Chief Jim Mcglaughlin at age 51. His pension is $100,800 with a 3% annual cola. According to the mortality rates, that makes his penison (- healthcare) worth $4 million dollars. Not withstanding if his wife outlives him.

Warwick is rotating chiefs out every 18 - 24 months. If we go out of department and contracted chiefs to work until 65 with a salary bump and no pension, in the 14 years that a chief would have been in and not retiring at age 51, the city saves $28 million dollars, not including healthcare costs. Wow, there is the debt service to new schools. (as a side bar, Corrente could never figure that out)

Obviously, as a firefighter, no one wants that scenario because pension spiking, promotions just one year before retirement etc... , are incestuous. Clearly you can see how badly the PVD fire department pension plan is funded. Are you proficient in simple math? It simply is not sustainable. The reason why we can no longer promote chiefs from within is that they have all been beneficiaries to the numerous schemes for decades and it now has to stop.

I have many dear friends that are fire fighters and share information with me. Would you like to know about the incident that rendered the PVD chief out on 2/3rds when he was driving the tiller from Broad St. 25 years ago? Its just time to stop with the hero banter. This is a conversation about finances, affordability, and sustainability. Not Emotion! Obviously, no local chief has ever been able to come in under budget due to the numerous opportunities for scams. Maybe its time for a educated administrator as opposed to a incestuous scammer.

Here is another incorrect quote - Block and Cote claim that swapping shifts with another firefighter (a common practice) results in an overtime shift paid at 1½ times base hourly wage.

That is not what we are saying. Our argument, the one I have made for 3 years, is that swapping shifts instead of taking a sick day or using a vacation day, preserves vacation and sick days to be monetized at a later date for higher wage. Those are facts. Its simple. In no other industry can this type of activity be done. That activity has a cost to the taxpayer. In Warwick last year, if vacation days were taken off the books instead of shift swapping, and if floaters were used as the chief stated they were used (to cover 100% of vacation time) $560,000 would have come off the books. Maybe you should read a bit about what is happening around the country pertaining to this activity. Here is some reading material for you to rebuke:

http://www.kansascity.com/news/politics-government/article192624069.html

http://archive.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2011/01/30/system_that_lets_boston_firefighters_swap_shifts_a_costly_free_for_all/

And to the most important point - The reason the debacle that took place in providence happened was because, when over 100 fire fighters knew that the gig was up, they all retired at the same time, sabotaging the department and the community and once again proving, that at the end of the day, they are only concerned with contract language and end of year salary.

Do you actually think that the taxpayers of PVD will ever be able to pay the bill of the department? honestly?

Lets see if you can keep the conversation to the fiscal end of things and not the emotional. Lets also see of you have any statistics or facts on Warwick. Clearly your 42 hr work week claim just put your argument in the toilet, but I'll give you another shot at it.

AS far as Corrente is concerned. DUH

Tuesday, May 22
Warwick Man

Capt.

One question, simply put, my daughter is graduating high school, I can’t get a vacation in June and I’m supposed to work that night. Every normal “business man” you talk about is off. I’m not! How do I attend my daughters graduation in Rob Cote world?

Tuesday, May 22
Warwick Man

Sons baseball game, cousins wake and Funeral, Mom is sick in hospital, divorce court, class, etc... how do I take time off to attend these if I can’t get vacation?

Tuesday, May 22
GoodJake

Here is a public record you missed to cut and pate. Is this why you have a grudge? or is it the 7% of the total city budget your worried about? I think Mr Corrente hit the nail on the head.

DEM ARRESTS WARWICK MAN FOR ILLEGAL DISPOSAL OF GASOLINE IN SEPTIC SYSTEM

PROVIDENCE: A Warwick man was arrested today for allegedly disposing of gasoline by pouring it down the drain at his business. Robert Cote, 39, of 12 Social Drive in Warwick, was arrested by DEM Officers at his place of business and arraigned before Judge Walter Gorman in 6th Division District Court in Warwick. He was charged with a single count of unlawfully disposing of hazardous waste. Cote entered no plea, as typically occurs in felony cases. He was released on $5,000 personal recognizance and faces an arraignment in Superior Court on August 14. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail and/or a $5,000 fine. The RI Attorney General's Office will be prosecuting the case.

According to Sr. Agent Giusto Iannelli, of DEM's Office of Criminal Investigation, the Warwick Fire Department was called to Cote's business, the Pro Divers Shop at 2442 West Shore Road, on April 30 after a neighbor in an adjacent strip mall heard an explosion and observed smoke coming from the dive shop. The fire department responded and extinguished the fire, but an officer at the scene noticed a heavy smell of gasoline coming from the facility. Cote admitted to placing a container with less than a gallon of gasoline in a sink to see if the gasoline was contaminated. Cote claimed that the fumes from the gasoline were ignited by a spark from a hot water heater.

The fire officer at the scene called DEM to determine if there was a remaining hazard. John Leo, a Sanitary Engineer with DEM's Emergency Response Unit, responded and found that a considerable amount of gasoline was present in the septic system. Leo determined that the situation constituted a threat to public safety and the environment, and he immediately called CYN Environmental to come to pump out the septic system.

Subsequent lab tests indicated that there was at least 20 and perhaps as much as 30 gallons of gasoline in the septic system, enough to pose a significant danger of a major explosion. Leo noted that if the fumes had backed up overnight in the pipes and vents associated with the septic system, the result could have been disastrous.

In addition to today's arrest, DEM officers, assisted by officers from the Warwick Police Department, executed a search warrant and removed evidence from the scene.

Tuesday, May 22
MathIsHard

The captain,

2 day shifts + 2 night shifts + 4 days off = 8 day work week.

365 days / 8 = 45.625 work weeks per year

48 hours per work week X 45.625= 2190 hours per year

2190 hours / 52 calendar weeks = 42.115 hours per week

No what were you saying about having no credibility with incorrect numbers?....

Tuesday, May 22
tekpfd

Thecaptain:

MathIsHard has just shown your ignorance of the basic facts of the argument here. I do know the system and the job and the truth and lies about the job. You & Block know nothing that you don't read in a report and have no real understanding of the big picture!

You state, "Here is another incorrect quote - Block and Cote claim that swapping shifts with another firefighter (a common practice) results in an overtime shift paid at 1½ times base hourly wage." This is a direct quote from your article published in the last Beacon, "Central to the problem, Block and Cote claim, is that under the current system firefighters are able to voluntarily pick up an available second consecutive shift, or swap shifts with another firefighter, in order to work a full 24 hours, and that second consecutive shift is compensated at overtime rates of 1.5 times normal pay." Fact: If a FF works a 10 hour shift as a swap and then works his own shift it is not paid at 1 1/2 his base rate, it's paid at straight time.

Let's keep the financial argument (which obviously you know nothing about the real statistics...you have the #'s but you know not what to do with them) about Warwick. I do have to say, however, that Providence's pension woes have everything to do with the City's refusal to make required annual contributions...period!!

Corrente, who?

Tuesday, May 22
foundation

Mr. Kenney, first and foremost, thank you for presenting accurate factual data.

Mr. Cote, while I respect your position to help improve fiscal efficiency within government, your bias against the fire department has been well documented in an overt and aggressive manner. Having said that, SOME of your facts are accurate, but are portrayed in an inaccurate light. Many of the remaining facts that have been presented over the years, have been blatantly inaccurate. Too often, an number or static has been presented with only the facts relevant to your position being presented. Not the full spectrum of facts and circumstances.

Having said that, I will elaborate on the work schedule to provide the contrary to Mr. Cote's facts. I am stating clearly here and now, that I will not be engaging in a back and forth battle on this. I will provide facts pertaining to this and only this topic of discussion.

Firefighters work 2 10-hour days, and 2 14-hour nights in a pay period. Yes, it is easy to add those up and think that it is a 48 hour pay period as opposed to 42. Let me clarify with ALL of the facts. Each full rotation runs a span of 8 weeks comprised of the shift structure that I just elaborated on above. Over the span of those 8 weeks, a number of hours fall within the previous or following pay period due to the 24-7 coverage, nights, weekends, holidays, etc. When this is looked at in the accurate structure, a firefighter works 42 hours per pay period. For a city paying traditional Monday through Friday 9-5 employees does its accounting, these factors are taken into consideration to accommodate the consistent pay schedule.

Rest assured, firefighters work and are paid on a 42 hour work week, and this is evident when all of the metrics are run over the entire 8 week cycle. *Boom*

Tuesday, May 22
tekpfd

First of all, for the record, my name is Tom Kenney.

Secondly, Mr. Cote, please respond to my observation in my original letter-to-the-editor that the only thing that you and Mr. Block are looking for is for the Warwick FF's to have their work week extended by an additional 25% with no additional compensation...

You both state 24 hour shifts in a 3 platoon system but what you might not realize is that the overwhelming number of fire departments working a 24 hour shift work on a 4 platoon system.

Also, you state, "And to the most important point - The reason the debacle that took place in providence happened was because, when over 100 fire fighters knew that the gig was up, they all retired at the same time, sabotaging the department and the community and once again proving, that at the end of the day, they are only concerned with contract language and end of year salary"

100% untrue. When the PFD began (and ran for 1 1/2 years) they had full staffing for a 3 platoon system...with floaters! It simply doesn't work. Sorry

Tuesday, May 22
Thecaptain

Warwick man,

You have a hypothetical situation. Here is the language according to contract.

No employee covered by this Agreement shall be entitled to more

than twelve (12) days of his or her vacation during either the summer period, to wit, June,

July, August and September.

And if you cant get a vacation day, you simply use one of your 140 sick days.

Wednesday, May 23
Warwick Man

Captain,

Hypothetical? It happens to all of us all the time. And Sick days are specifically spelled out for when your sick. Can’t use a sick day to go to child’s graduation. Nice try though.

Wednesday, May 23
tekpfd

Thecaptain:

Please explain whether or not now that your statement to me has been reflected right back at you ("Because your initial foundation basis of your letter to the editor contains wrong numbers, your proposal is clearly debunked without credibility") you will stop pushing your ill-conceived plan altogether.

Also, an apology would be nice...and fitting.

Wednesday, May 23
Daydreambeliever

Did anyone see either in person or online Monday night the expert Bobby leave the council meeting because his expertise in compressors wasn’t in his favor?

He’s an expert on compressors (yes we know you own a dive shop), expert mariner, expert financial advisor, expert pilot, expert construction foreman but mostly an expert bullshitter !!!!

He’s flustered boys with the last comment about the contract it say nothing about if you can’t get vacation you can use one of you 140 sick days.

What a jackass and not everyone has 140 it takes 7-10 years to accumulate Bobby.

Wednesday, May 23
Hemi_Royed

In the case of Rob Cote as an expert. His expertise is defined in two parts:

Ex= a has been.

Pert (pronounced "spurt") = a drip under pressure.

Rob Cote is the poster child for the "Liars Figure" statement.

As for Ken Block, still Don Quixote chasing windmills. They both have paths that only

lead to Fantasy Island.

Wednesday, May 23
WwkVoter

Interesting. How does the Fire Dept know if the person out is truly sick? Is a doctor note required?

Thursday, May 24
Warwick Man

Captain,

Can you explain this blatant lie you told on Dan Yorke, “Ladder trucks only go out if there is a fire”. I always gave you some credit for basic knowledge, but after that disaster of an interview I take it all back. You know nothing about the basics, and that makes you and Kenny Boy unqualified for comments.

PS, They go to Car accidents with Jaws of life, they go to water emergencies, they go to box alarms, they go on Medical calls, CPRs, etc....

Thursday, May 24
davebarry109

"Our argument, the one I have made for 3 years, is that swapping shifts instead of taking a sick day or using a vacation day, preserves vacation and sick days to be monetized at a later date for higher wage. Those are facts." That is exactly correct. How can no one use sick time? They need to eliminate these swaps for the relief of the taxpayer. Cashing out sick days and vacation days is extremely expensive. Warwick Fire has gone over its overtime budget for at least 35 years in a row. I also agree that the pensions need reforming. Otherwise, Warwick will find itself like Providence; near bankruptcy and telling retirees to take haircuts left and right.

Thursday, May 24
davebarry109

Warwick Man

You are obviously a fire fighter. You guys are great but let's be real. You missed your kids graduation because you can't swap? Sorry. That comes with the job. I've missed more family events and special events, including a child's birth BECAUSE OF THE MILITARY. So cry me a river. You sign up for the job, don't cry when you work and miss things.

Thursday, May 24
Warwick Man

Agree to disagree, thanks for your service Dave

Thursday, May 24
tekpfd

davebarry109,

You are right that swapping preserves the sick day for future cash in upon retirement (providing that this benefit is not lost in the next 15 - 20 years), however, if the firefighter in question uses a sick day the City would pay time and one half for his replacement.

Also, if the firefighter needs to attend something and that's the reason for his absence, calling in "sick" could be false and set him up for possible departmental charges and/or dismissal.

Thursday, May 24
tekpfd

Thecaptain,

Can I assume that your silence means that you realize that your entire agreement was based on flawed mathematical data and therefore invalid? Have you thrown in the towel?

Thursday, May 24
Cooterbfd

So, Mr Cote likes to dump gasoline in down the drain, eh. In 1992 here in Bristol we had a house explosion. Gasoline vapors from the sewer backed up into a 93 year old woman's house. When the boiler kicked on, it ignited the vapors and blew the front picture window 40 FEET out onto the front lawn, and buckled the table end wall. We spent the next 16 hours flushing the sewer system with millions of gallons of PUBLIC water. WASTED!!!! Still looking for the culprit.......

Saturday, May 26