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Poquonnock Bridge residents lambaste fire district board

By Deborah Straszheim

Publication: The Day

Published August 09. 2013 4:00AM   Updated August 09. 2013 10:39AM
Residents furious that officials are considering filing for bankruptcy

Groton - The Poquonnock Bridge Fire District board is getting its legal advice from the same law firm representing the Central Coventry Fire District, which is in receivership in Rhode Island.

The fire district there has remained open so far due to loans and action by the state legislature. If it dissolves, other fire districts would take over areas it formerly had served.

Poquonnock Bridge Fire District board President Alan Ackley told the board Thursday it could receive advice as early as next week from the law firm Chace, Ruttenberg & Freedman of Providence. The firm is doing the work free of charge at the moment, Ackley said.

Meanwhile, taxpayers furious over the possibility of bankruptcy confronted the board of directors Thursday night.

"I cannot believe the arrogance of some of you people on this board," Dick Monteiro said, his voice trembling. "We are the district. You just represent us."

He added that "people could die" because of the board's decisions, yet he saw one board member laugh during public comment.

"It's funny, isn't it? You make me sick!" he said.

Helen Rush said she lives on Social Security and even she would contribute more to support firefighters.

"I don't care if you get angry at me. And that isn't my problem," she said. "Where has all the money gone that we've contributed?"

"I have a right to say what I think of the performance of elected officials who are spending my money," Cindy Baril said. "I am sick and tired of hearing about how this mess is all caused by the greedy firefighters and their families."

The board is actively considering bankruptcy because voters approved a $3.5 million budget for the fiscal year that began July 1, while personnel costs alone will total $4.2 million.

Board member Deb Monteiro said she hopes the law firm knows there are options besides bankruptcy. She said the district could seek a supplemental appropriation from taxpayers, for example.

Nicki Bresnyan, Monteiro's sister, said those who won't honor their legal obligations ought to let the money run out, "step aside and let responsible people take over.

"Better yet, consider stepping aside now since you have intentionally created the problem and you clearly have no desire to be part of a solution," she said.

Bill Simpson said, "I think you should all immediately resign." Then he walked out.

Board member Ron Yuhas told those in attendance that it's easy to criticize when you don't know the whole story. He said the current board didn't approve the union contract that it is now being forced to deal with. But, he said, no matter what the board does, everyone yells and the union won't negotiate.

"We're up here with our hands tied," Yuhas said. "And everybody here is picking us apart."

Mike Nahornick said the financial problems didn't happen overnight - they're the result of bad management, he said, and he didn't want to hear board members' feelings.

"If my house catches on fire and the firetrucks aren't there, every one of you guys are responsible," he said. "You guys are ridiculous."

d.straszheim@theday.com

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