Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported the nature of police cruiser vote as a vote on repairing cruisers. The story has been edited to correct the error.
Warwick, RI — The Warwick City Council authorized up to $242,087 for training and equipment for a WFD technical rescue team Monday and delayed a vote on $500,598 for new WPD cruisers until the City Finance Director attends to answer their questions on the fixes.
Though the Fire Department got their request, that decision seemed also seemed in question as councillors expressed dismay that 88 of the items on the firefighters’ list weren’t bid on by vendors and had been left blank.
“So you just want to have permission to spend the $242,087 on the items this technical rescue team is going to need?” asked Councilman Joe Solomon.
Assistant Fire Chief James McLaughlin explained the money would pay to train and equip 32 members of a new 36-person team to effect Rope/Confined Space/Tower Rescue; Vehicle & Machinery Rescue; Trench Rescue and Structural Collapse Rescue.
McLaughlin noted the team would be able to confidently respond to rescues involving cell towers and proliferating windmill turbines in the area. “It’s a confined space, up in the air,” he said.
The expertise to effect rescues from such spaces, McLaughlin said, does not currently exist in Kent County. “Nobody else is going to do it for us,” he said.
Solomon said he would support the spending, but was concerned that the vendors competing for the bid hadn’t submitted estimates on 88 of the items involved, leaving those items blank. Solomon put city departments on notice about making similar future attempts.
After Monday night, “unless it’s an emergency item, don’t ever come to me and ask for a bid on a blank item, because it’s not going to happen,” Solomon said.
The City Council approved the spending, up to a limit of $242,087, as part of the evening’s consent agenda.
Police Cruiser Replacements Vote Delayed till December
A request from the Warwick Police Department for $500,598 for new cruisers was also part of the consent agenda, but Councillor Camille Vella-Wilkinson pulled it out during the earlier Finance Committee meeting for separate consideration during the regular Council meeting.
Warwick Police Major Robert Nelson said the new cruisers are needed to replace aging cruisers in the department’s fleet, which travel about 33,000 miles per year. Vehicles involved in hot pursuits are particularly susceptible to increased wear and tear, reducing their service lifetime. This year, there have been an unusually high number of accidents involving cruisers, increasing the usual number of repairs needed, he said.
The conversation didn’t get far, however, when Solomon sought to ask a question of the City’s Finance Director Ernie Zmyslinski, whom the councilor noted the City Council had passed a resolution requiring his attendance at each meeting.
“Now this is several times he’s missed,” said Council President Donna Travis.
“Not to be an ass about it, but we know that he is not here, and we have questions, we know the public has questions,” Solomon said.
Councilman Steve Merolla also had questions about the replacements for Zmyslinski. “We seem to be voting on these piecemeal, and I’d like to look at the big picture,” he said.
Merolla asked for a financial note on the matter, which he said usually results in Zmyslinski’s attendance. Solomon criticized Mayor Scott Avedisian’s office for Zmyslinski’s absences. “Why does the executive branch feel privileged that they don’t have to send a representative?”
The City Council voted to postpone the vote until Dec. 14.
Snow Removal Ordinance Amendments Approved
In other news, the Council also voted final passage on Snow removal ordinance amendments. This vote makes several changes to the city’s snow removal ordinance, including applying it only to the owners of property nearby a “priority sidewalk.”
The amendments were themselves amended prior to the vote on the suggestion of Councilman Edward Ladouceur, who asked for three changes:
- Stipulating that the definition of a property owner be a natural person, and eliminating the exemption for corporations.
- Also changing the language defining reasons for an exemption from “physical and economic hardship” to “determination of hardship.”
- Exempting a property owner on a non-priority sidewalk.
Ladouceur’s changes passed with Merolla voting against. The amendments as a whole then passed, with Solomon and Merolla voting against.
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