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Seltzer: Coventry Budget Problem 'Could Have Been Avoided'

The former CCFD chief speaks about the Central Coventry Fire District's recent financial problems — and how it informed his decision to move to Smithfield.

 

After watching the recent budget issues in his former fire department — including a decision to pursue receivership for the Central Coventry Fire District — new Smithfield Fire Chief Robert Seltzer spoke with Patch about the issue.

"It could have been avoided," Seltzer said during a phone interview. "I attended the financial meeting, since I'm still a resident and a taxpayer in that district — the budget was presented very poorly. Questions were asked to the board about the tax rate, about the deliquencies and the debt, and the board couldn't provide concrete answers, and it upset the people at the meeting."

Seltzer also said that he moved to Smithfield — which, unlike Coventry, centralizes its fire and rescue service under the town government — partly to avoid such issues.

"The system here is more efficient — in Coventry, you have four districts there, so I was looking to move on," Seltzer explained. "A small fact in my decision has been what's gone on in the last year and a half — the district became a political football for some residents."

The main financial problem in Central Coventry, Seltzer said, is that it's got past delinquencies — reported by Coventry Patch to be $200,000, and a nearly $1 million overall deficit — and without approving a higher budget this year, "there was nowhere else to get the funds" to make up the difference.

"It's a fixable road, but quite frankly, I don't blame the taxpayers because at the meeting, they weren't given concrete answers about where their taxes were going," he explained.

[Read more: , from Coventry Patch, Oct. 3, 2012.]

Once the Coventry district issues tax bills, "the payments come back quickly — usually, within two or three days, you're collecting $50,000, $60,000, $70,000 a day." Seltzer added.

To the suggestion that the town should combine all of its fire departments — presumably to lower costs — Seltzer said there are some legal hurdles in the way.

"I know that the [Coventry] Town Charter has a provision that allows the town to put in place a single fire department, but the problem is that the assest of the department don't belong to the town," Seltzer explained. "They belong to private corporations, which are the fire districts — so, other than getting a court order to seize those assets, the town would literally have no assets."

Seltzer also said he feels the Coventry situation is a case of "people running off of emotion instead of logical thinking, and I feel bad, because it's a great department, they're good people, and it's a great town — it's sad to see this happen."

Check out Smithfield Patch's introduction article from Chief Seltzer's appointment at his new department.

 

 
Mary October 24, 2012 at 05:11 PM
Kathleen--you're heartless. I'm sure you drive by those boots in your mercedes. By the way, every city/town does this...get a life and stick to the real issues. Go donate for the charity of your choice...but to bash people who are trying to collect charitable donations is disgusting in my eyes. Your comments don't even deserve a response but boy do I feel better...sure it's not the first time you've been called a heartless witch!
Kathleen October 24, 2012 at 09:51 PM
Mary, I am not bashing people collecting for charity. I am stating the fact that town workers are collecting for charity while on the clock. If you think I am wealthy you are wrong. I work my a** off all day long and could not and would not be allowed to stand out the middle of the road, trying to raise contributions while working my job. You really have no problem paying people's salaries while they are not working but are fundraising? Every time you move those vehicles out of the station it has a price tag- it costs money. I am not a witch nor heartless. I realize every city and town does this and I still think that doesn't make it alright. There is no emotion necessary here; this is simple business. Glad you feel better Mary.
dohn joe December 26, 2012 at 03:49 PM
Kathleen, there is no need to respond to their comments. it seems those are the firemens wives. Anyway, as i see it, the bigwigs didnt do their jobs, and they went over their budgets. So what happens when people dont do their jobs? They get FIRED. The only time we will ge answers is when their at retirement age so they can step down and collect their pensions, then say 'whoops'. As for you kathleen, you are 100% correct. They are on your dime standing there stopping traffic, merely begging for money. I understand its for a good cause, but cant they do it off the clock. Those large trucks that are sitting there with them are very expensive to fuel. (as i have seen them coming out of coventry walmart with shopping bags of food and hop into the fire truck). We as taxpayers should get a say-so about everything they do and where those trucks go all the time seeing as to its us paying for it. Dont you know where your car is at all times?
Realistic voter December 26, 2012 at 04:07 PM
dohn joe Those guys coming out of Wal-Mart would be Hopkins Hill not CCFD , As usual your facts are wrong
dohn joe December 26, 2012 at 05:03 PM
as usual? realistic voter, are you stalking me?

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