Governor Lincoln D. Chafee said Tuesday that a state-appointed lawyer, Robert Flanders, and the Receiver for the Central Coventry Fire District, Steven Hartford, filed a petition in the United States Federal Bankruptcy Court to start Chapter 9 restructuring proceedings in regards to the fire district.
Governor Chafee continued: “This is an unfortunate step. Short of an agreement with the Firefighters Union and restructuring the district’s other debts, bankruptcy is the only tool left to us to finally set the fiscal ship of the Central Coventry Fire District on the right course. I fully expect the district to emerge from the bankruptcy with a reorganized and downsized operation that can pay back its debts and maintain a proper fire and rescue service, as well as assure tax stabilization for the residents.
“For about a year and a half, we have brought both sides – the Central Coventry Fire District and firefighting staff members – together to reconcile their differences. My administration has offered assistance, initiated back-and-forth discussion, and suggested and requested options. I have instructed members of my administration to continue the negotiations in hopes of working toward a resolution. The cost of the fire district has risen beyond the willingness of the taxpayers to pay, and now bankruptcy is the only means available to restructure the district's operations and obligations to restore it to fiscal solvency and stability for the future. While we are unable to predict how long the bankruptcy will take, our objective is to conclude it as soon as possible and obtain a confirmed plan to provide the district with a balanced budget for the next five to six years.
“Throughout my career as a mayor, senator and governor, I have been sensitive to striking the balance between the voice of the local taxpayers and the employees who work in our cities and towns.”