October 13, 2015
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Potowomut School could be future fire station

A committee established to examine the reuse of the former Potowomut Elementary School has recommended that the property be re-purposed to include a fire station to serve the Potowomut and Bay Ridge neighborhoods, with space for a Community Police unit and community meeting room, and recreational playing fields. The committee has also recommended preserving the existing playground.

Mayor Scott Avedisian said yesterday he would ask City Council approval to release up to $2 million in bonds that were approved by voters in 2006 and specifically earmarked for construction of a fire station in Potowomut. He said that Diana Pearson, who chaired the reuse committee, would serve as Building Committee chairwoman.

Ward 9 Councilman Steve Merolla, who proposed the 2006 bond issue to build a station, said, “I thought it should have been done a lot sooner.” He said the city wouldn’t have to hire additional personnel or buy equipment.

Merolla believes the station can be operated at virtually no added cost to the city as an engine company now being doubled in an existing station could be relocated to Potowomut. In addition, he said the city could save on payment to East Greenwich and mutual aid rescue runs could generate as much as $450,000 annually.

In response to an e-mail, the mayor said:

“There will be no additional personnel hired. The Chief and the Firefighter’s Union were part of the overall decision-making process that moved the project forward. It is our intention to re-deploy existing personnel to cover the new station. The current amount budgeted for the agreement with the East Greenwich Fire District is $320,000 a year. It is my intent to keep that line item in the budget and pay off the bonds by that amount each year. So in six years or so, the line item would disappear and the bond would be paid off.”

Avedisian established the Potowomut School reuse committee by executive order last year. The committee, a cross section of area residents, city employees, elected officials and municipal board members, met regularly for several months. They discussed the feasibility of numerous options, and then prioritized them for Avedisian’s consideration, Pearson said.

The committee examined the need for public safety services to the neighborhood, which is separated from the rest of Warwick; a centralized meeting space, absent in the neighborhood since the school’s closure; indoor and outdoor recreational opportunities; and income-producing ideas, such as sale of the building or leasing of a portion of the property.

Construction of the fire station will provide closer fire and rescue services to residents and will ultimately allow the city to end its service contract with East Greenwich, Avedisian and Pearson said.

If possible, some of the existing elements of the school building will be preserved and incorporated into the fire station as a way to connect its future use with its decades-old ties to the community.

Avedisian said the committee has expressed hope that demolition, design plans and construction will begin as quickly as possible to provide the neighborhood with a similar type of community focal point that the school and playground once provided.

In addition to Pearson, the Potowomut School Reuse Committee consisted of: Jay Arnold and Lara D’Antuono; Ward 9 City Councilman Steve Merolla; Planning Board Chairman Phil Slocum; Rick Crenca, of the Planning Department; Joseph Blake, of the Department of Public Works; John Mulhearn, a Realtor; and Jackie Procopio, who has been active with the Potowomut Neighborhood Association for years.

Avedisian said he aims to have the council consider the request soon:

“I hope the Council approves, and get moving as quickly as possible.”

9 comments on this item

The mayor is framing this as a money saver. There is no way they will be able to staff a firehouse and pay for the overhead of the building for under $350,000. The East Greenwich fire chief was obviously correct when he said the Warwick ff union blocked the shared dispatcher services. I've lived here a long time and the E.G. fire department seems to have handled issues over there just fine. this is complete BS.

I think it is a good idea. Also, what happened about the mention of having a community poliice office. That would be useful also. I don't think it would cost more to handle our own business. In regards to the fire dispatch. Hey if another community wants to pay Warwick millions of dollars for Warwick to take over their duties that would be fine. But, more dispatchers would be needed in Warwick and I'm sure a pay raise due to the increased responsibilities and speciality of the job. But, Warwick could say to E.G. pay us 2 million a year and our city would gladly take over your dispatching needs.

Patientman, what evidence do you have that the ff union had any voice at all in this matter, none because they were never consulted and don't need to be. The East Greenwich chief is more concerned that he will now lose 20% of his budget. Also, Warwick pays EG $320,000 a year and has to go on calls there anyway. Why are we paying for EG to take care of the area when they can't even do that.

SteveD, Do you honestly believe that this is going to be a money saving project for the city? If we could run a fire station for $350,000 then we wouldn't need a $21,000,000 budget. Don't pee down my back and tell me its raining. As for the union interfering with the shared dispatch, that was as I remember the feeling espoused by the E.G. fire chief. Unions know how to play politics without getting their fingerprints on anything. I hope your right and this turns out to be a money saver for the city.

Your missing the whole point. No you can't run a fire station including manpower and equipment for that price. The thing is maybes you didn't read, THEY DON'T NEED MANPOWER OR EQUIPMENT. LaSt I checked land is free, once building is paid for all you are on the hook for is heat/cooling the building. Plus you make money for rescue runs. What are you missing here? Why are you siding with EG, they have been robbing the city blind. We pay for runs we still have to go on in Potowamut.

Why can't we can already render mutual aid for rescues without spending $2,000,000 on a new firehouse?

This is pretty spectacular. A union member screaming that growing government is going to be a revenue generator for the city. Don't worry, the city council will rubber stamp it. Our taxes will continue to go up every year, unlike Cranston where the mayor has admitted that there is a severe problem, dealt with the problem, and been able to not raise property taxes two years in a row. I understand the point very well. You don't. Your not supposed to raise your taxes every year. Revenues should rise through an expanding economy. When you overspend and perpetually raise taxes, people and business move away. More people lived in Warwick in 1970 than do today. Do you think the 1200 jobs lost to N.C. are going to be replaced by another major employer? Shrinking our expenses and lowering the cost of living here and doing business here are what will save this city. I know you see this as a revenue generator, but your the only one. Please remind me of this conversation as soon as the new fire station goes from in the red to in the black. (that means from when it goes from being unprofitable to profitable).

Your like talking to a brick wall... Go hang out with your drunk buddy Mike Riley... Tea Party Nuts...

Wow. I'll take that as a capitulation (that means you surrender).

Here's a heads up, warwick fire dispatchers aren't in the warwick fire union. They are not firefighters or IAFF members. The IAFF did no bidding on their behalf here as they are not members. Secondly, since when are fire stations supposed to be profit generating? Lastly, if they hire no new firefighters, create no new spots and buy no new trucks and only move currently deployed equipment and manpower where is the new cost? Why would you advocate wasting 350k a year contracting EGFD? To boot, its firefighter hating Merolla who's been the biggest advocate for this. This is the city's and Merollas plan, not the Warwick IAFF's.

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