Budget up, tax rate down for Pascoag fire, Toti renamed chairman

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BURRILLVILLE – Days after being the top vote-getter in the commission election, Chris Toti has been named chairman of the Pascoag Fire Commission.

Toti, who held the chairmanship since he was first appointed to the board in May, was unanimously renamed to the position by his fellow board members.

Brian Mathieu will serve as vice chairman, and newly elected board member Carmella White was named secretary. Lisa Gensen was hired as interim administrative clerk for 25 hours a week at 20 per hour for a six month probationary period.

Christopher Alger was renamed district attorney, but the board tabled motions to hire a tax collector and treasurer.

“We’ll give the district and the board the opportunity to advertise for those two positions and get the best qualified person,” Toti said.

A motion to hire a chief was also tabled. Chief Harold Carter has not been present at recent meetings.

It was a quiet meeting for the Pascoag Fire District, in stark contrast to gatherings over the past year and a half.  Residents concerned over past violations with the state Ethics Commission and Attorney General’s office have gradually calmed with Toti, a lieutenant colonel in the Rhode Island Army National Guard with decades of budget and organizational experience through the military, at the helm.

Resident Norman Desjarlais, who posts videos of district meetings on social media is among those who have been a vocal critic of the commission’s proceedings in the past.

“We are hoping for some change,” Desjarlais said. “Hopefully we can move forward from the chaos that we’ve had.”

Of Toti, he added, “He’s done an excellent job. He took over during a very tough time and he kept the meetings civil.”

The department’s budget, passed unanimously at the district’s annual meeting on Monday, Sept. 9,  is up roughly $186,000 from last year, but the tax rate has decreased from $2.03 to $1.95. Deputy Chief Richard Peck said the district’s $1,597,000 budget is broken down with an operating tax rate of $1.591 and a capital tax rate of $0.359.

Rates are multiplied by most recent property values to determine each taxpayer’s burden.

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