Is Potowomut fire station really cost-effective?
To the Editor:
The demolition of the abandoned Potowomut School is underway. Evidently, Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian decided to throw a bone to the politically powerful firefighters union. At a meeting with area residents last summer he and WFD Chief Edmund Armstrong announced plans to build a fire station housing one engine company and a public meeting room for 100 people. This would end an agreement with East Greenwich to provide fire coverage for the Potowomut section at an annual cost of $350,000.
Much is being written and said about consolidation or regionalization of municipal services. A joint legislative committee is looking into the matter. Here we have a clear case of a successful agreement between two municipalities that goes back to the 1930s that is being ripped up based on some bogus logic.
Chief Armstrong said that the new station will be staffed by “three firefighters.” Does he mean three per shift, or would there be only one man on duty to drive the truck to the scene? I believe Warwick FD is on the four-platoon system so this proposal means 12 firefighter positions would be created.
And what about EMT runs? Would a rescue truck have to come through East Greenwich from Apponaug fire headquarters or somewhere else in Warwick? This, as the mayor implies, would represent an improvement in “municipal services” for the residents of Potowomut?
The mayor and chief claim the new station would cost just south of the $2 million bond approved by Warwick voters in 2007 and therefore would pay itself off over six years. Conveniently overlooked is the interest on the bonds as well as the cost of maintaining the building (electricity, heat, snow removal and communications). Note that this bond was approved when there were no announced plans to close Potowomut School.
The plan calls for keeping the kids’ playground and installing walking trails on the 2.1-acre site. There is an allusion to the potential installation of cell phone towers on the site. This is, or should be, an entirely separate decision and one that I suspect would meet with strong neighborhood resistance.
Ironically, East Greenwich Fire Department is looking at the soon-to-be abandoned post office on Post Road as the location of a new fire headquarters. This site is less than a half-mile as the crow flies from the Potowomut School property.
Mayor Avedisian said if the City Council doesn’t approve his proposal, “I’m not sure what we’re going to do.” How about keeping the cost-effective agreement with East Greenwich in place?
Richard J. August