Three mayors of three Rhode Island communities said Tuesday that enough is enough when it comes to assisting with emergencies in Providence.
The leaders of Johnston, North Providence and East Providence said extra costs are weighing down their budgets.
The mayors said they would never cut mutual aid for emergency services with Providence. But they also said they feel the agreement is no longer so mutual.
“This is no longer mutual aid in our opinion, this has become automatic aid,” Mayor Joseph Polisena, D-Johnston, said.
It’s all about dollars and cents for Polisena and his constituents. With fuel and equipment costs always rising, and overtime being paid for most of these calls, these communities are no longer financially able to provide EMS aid to Providence.
“We feel at times that we’re jeopardizing the service to our community while at the same time subsidizing the service to the city of Providence,” said Mayor Charles Lombardi, D-North Providence.
Here’s an example from last year. North Providence was called for help 553 times while the town called on Providence about 30 times — a difference of about 523 calls.
The proposed solution? A nominal fee of up to $500 paid by the city of Providence each time any of the communities provide aid and are not reimbursed by insurance companies, Medicare or personal payments.
A couple of weeks ago, Providence announced the hiring about 50 new firefighters. But Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare said it won’t help in the short term.
“It’s not going to alleviate the problem in the short term, in 12 months. We’re going to hire firefighters because we need firefighters,” Pare said.
Pare said the city is required to have 90 firefighters on each shift city-wide. He said the hiring will help save the city about $9 million a year.
As for the communities seeking financial aid?
“Look, the city doesn’t have $500 flat fee to pay. We just don’t have it. We’re struggling as a city and the mayor told them that in the meeting we had a couple weeks ago,” Pare said.
Representatives from all four communities said that no matter what, they will continue to work together in the name of public safety.
A meeting is set for the week of June 18 for the sides to try to come up with a solution.