A Hummel Report Investigation
The Final Chapter?
Voters in the Central Coventry Fire District passed a budget this week for the first time in three attempts - but it won't be enough to fund the district for the coming year. The overwhelming message from voters: shut the financially-troubled district down. This week Jim Hummel hears from the district board's new chairman and the firefighters union president - who have differing views on the future of the department.
Click HERE to watch our previous report on the Coventry Fire District with extended interview footage and copies of the union contracts.
They lined early up to get into Coventry High School Monday night - hundreds of taxpayers ready to exercise the purest form of democracy.
In all, nearly 900 people came to decide the fate of the Central Coventry Fire District - and it turns out put the department one step closer to liquidation.
It may have been a new board, but this meeting had the feel of previous gatherings.
Lot of questions.
And a good dose of outbursts.
Some had heard enough, ready to cast a ballot and go - while the Q & A session lasted for more than an hour.
Inside the auditorium, new board Chairman Fred Gralinski fielded many of the questions - from some who didn't really want to hear an answer. Under the umbrella of a Superior Court judge and a court-appointed receiver, the board had been working for months to come up with a new budget - after trying to negotiate concessions from the firefighters union.
Last week, the board said enough: rejecting the proposed concessions and recommending liquidation of the department.
Gralinski: ``We were trying to make this work. And we needed help from the union. We don't feel we got it. We got mostly - and I don't mind saying this, I'll go through line by line - smoke and mirrors concessions.''
In his first extended public comments Gralinski talked about the struggle the board had recommending closure.
Gralinski: ``This is our community and we do care. And we're not making any of these decisions lightly - in fact when we voted to dissolve the district one of the gentlemen on the board had to say it twice because the first time when he opened his mouth, the words didn't come out. We had to get him to repeat himself. No one slept the night before, they were tossing and turning because it's such a major decision for the community we live in, for our friends, neighbors and relatives. This was not taken lightly and it was never fore planned, that we were going this way.''