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Council gives green light for Potowomut fire station bonds

Reasoning that the residents of Potowomut deserve the same level of fire protection and rescue service provided the rest of Warwick, and that a fire station could be built and operated at no additional cost to taxpayers, the City Council approved a $2 million bond Monday to build a two-bay station at the site of the Potowomut School. Fire Chief Edmund Armstrong told the council that he aims to have the school razed and the 8,000-square foot station built and operating by June or July of next year.

The 9-0 vote came after Armstrong assured that by relocating an engine company now stationed in Norwood – there are currently two at the station next to Aldrich Junior High School – the Potowomut station could be operated without added personnel or equipment. The new station would have a single engine and be staffed by three firefighters.

As is the practice throughout the city, the engine would respond to emergency medical rescue calls. All Warwick firefighters are trained emergency medical technicians or EMTs. Transport to a hospital would then be provided by a rescue housed on the other side of East Greenwich, at the station on Cowesett Road, or if a Warwick rescue is not available, through mutual aid by East Greenwich.

Projections that the station can be built and operated at no additional costs hinge on elimination of the $350,000 a year Warwick is paying the East Greenwich Fire District to provide Potowomut service. Even with the agreement, Warwick is also responding to all house fires in Potowomut.

“This process has taken a long time,” Ward 9 Councilman Steve Merolla said. He said plans to build a Potowomut station date to the mid-1990s and, while personnel were added to the department, a site for the station wasn’t found. In 2006, voters approved a $2 million bond to build the station, but with the downturn in the economy, Mayor Scott Avedisian placed a moratorium on issuing additional bonds. The plan for a station resurfaced after the Potowomut School closed and a committee, charged with considering how the building should be used, recommended it. An examination of the building found it would not be cost effective to renovate and the city would be better off tearing it down and building new.

“It’s not an ideal location,” Merolla said of the site, “but it’s better than no fire station on the Potowomut peninsula.”

In addition to the elimination of the East Greenwich payment, Merolla believes the city has the potential of generating revenues by leasing space for a cell phone tower on the property and $250,000 to $400,000 in added payments for rescue runs. He said it is important that Potowomut residents receive the same fire and rescue services rendered in other neighborhoods.

Merolla envisions the station providing residents a building for community use. A meeting room and a police sub-station where residents could address public safety concerns is planned.

Ward 4 Councilman Joseph Solomon questioned whether the station could still be built at the $2 million cost voters approved in 2006. Armstrong projected construction costs at $1.8 million and demolition of the school at $150,000 to $200,000.

“I believe it’s in the ballpark of $2 million,” he said.

Council President Donna Travis called a Potowomut station “long overdue.”

While favoring a station, Ward 5 Councilman Edgar Ladouceur questioned whether spreading personnel over an additional station would affect minimum manning requirements and increase departmental costs. Armstrong assured him that wouldn’t be the case.

“We will do it with the manpower and the equipment we have now,” he said.

Council members also rebuked the School Department for using the school as a dumping ground for unwanted books, equipment and furniture. Ward 3 Councilwoman Camille Vella-Wilkinson called the actions of the School Department a “sad commentary” and a display “of utter disrespect for the city and the taxpayers.”


Comments
6 comments on this item

YOu never take a building with out walking in before the closeing.Bad move on the city part.Would you take a house and not walk in before you take it. That all I have to say. Good luck on the new station they need it up there in 9

It was too bad they closed that school. That was one schools that made sense because of its distance to other schools. I think it is a good idea with the fire station, but what happened to the police community office as well? The prevention of crime is equally as important to the medical calls and fires in the area. One concern I have is that is tucked away in a neighborhood. I truelly hope that the trucks drive slowly down Potowomut Rd and watch out for kids and pets. Also, if the siren and horn is blaring all the way down Potowomut rd I'm sure it will piss off a lot of the residents. But, spreading out resources is a good idea. We shouldn't be paying East Greenwich.

So instead of retrofitting the school for a third to half the cost of a new building , some lucky contractor gets to salvage red brick & copper plumbing after demolishing the old structure. And, he gets to charge the city for the privilege. I wonder how much new equipment could be bought for the station by re-using the existing structure.

Armstrong admits the fire dept. has been overstaffed for years.....not a surprise.

The idea that this will be cost neutral is rediculous. The fire OT budget has never been within budget for the last 30 years.

Camille, great job getting in another shot at the schools in every article you can in the Beacon. This is really moving the communication between the School Committee and the City Council forward. Would you like to yell at the schools for not emptying the trash on time too like Donna Travis or would you like to talk about important issues like voting for a budget to raise taxes every year? It has been 24 years of tax increases in a row with the last 4 years of increases going directly to the city with no additional funding to the schools. With additional funding, the schools could have paid for removal of the articles you are talking about. Also, if the city follow procedures properly, and didn't have to rehire a crook who stole building materials for his own house repairs and pay a year of back pay the money could have gone towards a clean up. Focus on the issues and work together to solve problems.

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