LETTERS

At the breaking point

Posted

Dear Mayor, City Council and Warwick School Committee:

My name is Michael Underwood. I live in the Cole Farm section of Warwick (Ward 4). I am the vice president of the neighborhood association, a husband and a father to a beautiful and bright 6-year-old. I am a 23-year honorably retired disabled United States Coast Guard veteran. I’m a Warwick small business owner. I’m also an unsuccessful candidate for State Representative (District 21).

But, I’m not wearing any of those hats right now. I do, however, represent the average Warwick taxpayer, resident or constituent that has reached a breaking point.

When I retired from the Coast Guard I was excited and happy to “come home.” I bought a knock down house and built a new house for a grand total of $269,000. Well, guess what that house was just assessed at? A whopping $470,000. That’s going to be about a $1,200-1,500 annual increase from where I am now. And it may be more because the association’s land just went up $660,000. Which, by the way, you doubled the tax of everyone in the neighborhood. Ironically, someone else’s house valuation went down.

As each day goes on I regret my decision to ever come back and live here. It is blatantly obvious that my daughter will not receive a decent education, and my house is for sale just two short years after I built a house in front of me for my elderly mother to see and spend time with her only granddaughter.

One might ask, well, what do I get for $10-12,000 in potential taxes?

I know none of you will ask, so let me tell you. I get trash pick-up. Not just trash pick-up though. I get sworn at and verbally abused by an arrogant, lazy trashman in front of, at the time, my 5-year-old daughter, which I had to put in the house, so I could rebuke the guy and file a complaint.

I get real crappy entrance roads and overgrowth that was surprisingly cut this year once. The road was so bad we approved the expenditure to pave 200 feet of road into our neighborhood. Yes, you heard that right. We paid for it.

It is the only road into our development. During the microburst, we were plowed in by someone from the city with a front end loader stacking 18 trees like Lincoln Logs, thus cutting off any emergency ingress or egress for 84 homes for two weeks. We cut our own way out. I mention this incident, as if that’s not bad enough, because we decided we needed another emergency-only access gate or entry point. We worked with the local fire station that helped choose a new entry that would suit the trucks and they agreed and thought it was a great idea. By the way, we work very well with our local fire station and they leave a boat at our dock free of charge for immediate response due to proximity of Conimicut Point and Gaspee Point as a result of multiple drowning deaths.

So, we applied and submitted all the required paperwork to the Public Works Department over the course of three to five years. We were having our new gate installed last fall and, lo and behold, a city worker who lives on Archdale got belligerent with the fence company and an 82-year-old widow and the president of the association. The supervisor showed up and it was admitted by said city employee that he had been throwing away our paperwork. Yes, you read that right. The fence is on our property, not his. He has no right to tell us what to do, get belligerent, and throw away our applications. And we are no further along than when we started.

By the way, I would also like to add that everyone in our neighborhood paid their sewer assessment of $3,000 and we gladly gave the city an easement of 150 feet of sewer main line through our property. We were told we were on our own, though.

At this point, I would like to ask for my money back for the last 12 years of taxes that equal over $100,000 based on the fact that we get treated so poorly and essentially get nothing. We are facing a catastrophic situation right now and, after coming to several school and City Council meetings, the only thing I see is a bunch of irresponsible people pointing fingers at each other. That’s not leadership, and you are kicking the proverbial can down the road. I want you all to consider things like emergency spending freezes, worker furlough days, budget cuts or more specifically declare bankruptcy or receivership. We are already there, just do it.

I want responsible government. I also don’t want elected officials on hot mics calling constituents "***holes," which is eerily familiar to what Rep. Camille Vella-Wilkinson said when she was on the City Council. Yes, my/our state rep that sponsored the evergreen contract. How’s that working out? I don’t want ethics violations. I don’t want cronyism by hiring business partners for city work. I don’t want the council president or the mayor to ridicule and belittle a constituent when they ask questions at a city meeting. I don’t want the federal government or the FBI conducting three separate investigations of our city. I’m tired of hiring lawyers and appraisers to fight your ridiculous appraisals, which are just wasteful tax money grabs.

I’m aggravated by the school committee chair shutting down comments at meetings. I’m tired of the phrase "level funded." Do your research on the Coast Guard. We were level funded and usually lost money every couple of years. I don’t want schools that are in the bottom quarter rankings in the state with a 25 percent math proficiency.

Pensions and legacy costs are out of control. We have unratified contracts and shady deals going on with pay rates and overtime scams that are out of control. We have some of the highest costs of services with some poor ratings. And before I’m attacked for talking about it, I'll remind you all that I am a 23-year Coast Guard veteran. I signed that blank check payable with my life. I fought fires in my time. I’m so old I used OBAs for firefighting. I’ve personally conducted an average of 400 law enforcement boardings annually. So yes, I’ve done both of those jobs, with a lot of life saving thrown in as well. With all of that said, at no point will my retirement be more than when I was active. I also have to pay for a medical, dental and vision insurance policy for my family. It is not free.

I’m asking you, in your elected capacity, to be leaders that we all hoped for and fix this. Do not point the blame at each other, because some of you have been here for a while and are culpable to this fiscal crisis. The fiscal crisis that I refer to already meets two of the state criteria to declare bankruptcy or request receivership.

If any of you would like to come to see anything I speak of, please do, I’ll give you the full tour.

Mike Underwood

Warwick

Comments

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justanidiot

easy peasy, move

Tuesday, July 16
Louise

Sorry Mr. Underwood, I'm feeling the same way. Despite loving my home and neighbors - buying property in Warwick turned out to be the worst financial decision I ever made. When I bought my house 10 years ago I lived within walking distance of an elementary and middle school. Great right? Well, they're both closed. And like he said, what do my taxes buy? Trash pick up and maybe 5 plows during the winter.

If Warwick continues kick the can down the road and find ways to give maximum tax increases to it's citizens I KNOW I will not be able to pay my mortgage and pay other basics such as water and electricity, for example.

I was in attendance at the city council meeting last night. Aside from the very annoyed looking city council people...why can't anyone talk about SPENDING CUTS or pension reform? We have legacy costs that just keep getting bigger and it's obvious these costs are UNSUSTAINABLE. Just how many more years of kicking can does the city council think the taxpayers can support?? If I were a retiree, or a municipal employee, I would be worried. How can you not be? Although it wasn't popular, the Governor - then Treasurer - implemented pension reform. Raimondo said quote, “Everyone knew that the pension was a real problem but no one was willing to really step up to the plate and attempt to tackle it. The can always was getting kicked down the road.” Sound familiar? I know it's hard to give up free healthcare, but would you be willing to accept a small co-pay? Maybe miss a COLA? Anything to help stop the train from going off the tracks entirely?

(((Mr. Idiot, moving is not an easy option for many people including myself, but maximum tax increases will force hundreds of people, including myself, to leave. )))

| Tuesday, July 16
justanidiot

if ye cants move, den works to change tings. warwicks is full of whiners and do nuthins

Tuesday, July 16
Mike

Just an idiot

I tried to change things. I ran for office twice.

Didn’t win obviously.

And my house is currently for sale too.

Not much else I can do.

Thank you for reading the article

Louise

It’s crushing. I’m trying to get out and get my daughter settled somewhere else

Wednesday, July 17
Marc

Just an IDIOT,

That name suits you perfectly, You are part of the problem and not a solution.

Wednesday, July 17
Marc

Mike,

Great Letter. I agree with you 100% Warwick is in a sad state of affairs but everybody Hates Change so they vote the assclowns in-office time and time again. I hope the next election everybody wises up by then!!!

Wednesday, July 17
justanidiot

eyes just trying to be a humble debils advocate to see how well peeples arguments hold up. sum peoples gets it others are bigger idiots dan youse tink i am.

Wednesday, July 17
warwick10

justanidiot, he stated his house is for sale, so he is moving.

Sadly, many are being taxed out of their own homes!

Thursday, July 18
justanidiot

warwick10 -- glad hes moving. we needs better peeple moving into dis town. a more diverse grupe

Thursday, July 18
Charles Callanan

justanidiot how exactly is "more diversity moving in" the answer to a a math and corruption problem? Just another useless throwaway phrase. Maybe we could use less of you and more problem solvers.

Thursday, July 18
Cat

justanidiot is harmless and often times provides insightful commentary. You just have to understand that he is being sarcastic....

Thursday, July 18
Fastfred Ward 4

sell

Tuesday, July 23
justanidiot

tanks cat. sumbuddy is reading my comments and not just dimissing dem. i aims to intice conversation not shuts it down. make you tink and use logic

Tuesday, July 23
Patient Man

Mike,

You're not alone. Warwick should be one of the best cities in the country to live in. 39 miles of waterfront, beaches, marinas, waterfront restaurants, train station, airport, city parks. close proximity to two world class cities (Boston & NYC) & a pretty good city 10 miles away. 3-4 hours to the best skiing on the east coast. Our year round climate is phenomenal.

I will move in a few years. I will keep my house here initially. We have great friends here. They're natives & unlikely to ever move, I'm not. I love summers here. I'll return for the summers until my wife realizes the taxes & upkeep is to much to pay for 4-5 months in the summer. I'm currently looking at Wyoming, North Carolina, Tennessee & New Hampshire.

Tuesday, July 23