Voters approve creation of merged ‘East Burrillville Fire District’

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BURRILLVILLE – It’s been more than four years since residents of Nasonville voted to dissolve their 80-year-old fire district, and talks began about consolidating the department with the neighboring district of Oakland-Mapleville.

On Monday, July 24, that merger finally became official, with creation of the new East Burrillville Fire District.

Voters approved a new, single district that will provide fire service to the historic villages of Oakland; Mapleville; Whipples; Gazzaville; Tarkiln; Oak Valley; Nasonville; Mohegan; Mount Pleasant; and parts of Glendale.

Chief Joseph Bertholic, who has led both the departments in both Oakland-Mapleville and Nasonville since consolidation talks began, said that the committees governing the districts are still deliberating decisions regarding apparatus, buildings, trucks and equipment.

“There will definitely be no reduction in service,” Bertholic said. “If anything, it’s going to get better. We’re hoping to get more personnel going forward.”

It was the near final step in a long legal process that began with a vote in 2019 and will result in a fire district that spans roughly 22 square-miles and covers around 8,500 homes.

The vote to dissolve the Nasonville Fire District came following a labor dispute that ultimately put 13 paid firefighters out of work, and led to the resignation of some 27 volunteers. At the time, residents rejected proposals to settle active litigation with fire personnel, opting instead to dissolve the department when faced with a potential tax increase.

OMFD has been providing service to the village of Nasonville since, while operating committees from both districts have continued to meet, and to work out details of a potential merger.

“We’ve been providing service to both districts since it happened,” said Bertholic, who, in addition to leading OMFD, was named interim chief in Nasonville shortly thereafter. “There’s no negative impacts.”

The consolidation also required authorization of the General Assembly, which was passed in June following sponsorship by Reps. David Place and Brian Newberry in the House, and Minority Leader Jessica de la Cruz in the Senate.

“The East Burrillville Fire District, upon consolidation, shall be vested with title, ownership and control of all property and assets of, and
shall assume all liabilities of, the Oakland-Mapleville #4 and the Nasonville Fire Districts,” notes the bill, passed Thursday, June 15. “The Oakland-Mapleville #4 and the Nasonville Fire Districts shall be hereby dissolved and the charters are hereby revoked upon said consolidation being approved.”

According to the legislation, a new East Burrillville Fire District will hold annual meetings on the third Wednesday in September each year. It will be run by a seven-member operating committee to be elected by voters, with the power to tax residents as needed.

Bertholic noted that the first East Burrillville Fire District Operating Committee will be elected at that first annual meeting this September, as the other two committees dissolve.

In the interim months following the vote 37-0 vote Monday night, the two boards will work together on a budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

The new committee’s first order of business will be to appoint a chief and Bertholic said that yes, he expects to be in the running.

“That will happen at next meeting following the annual meeting,” he said.

The approval brings to three what has long been four independent fire districts in Burrillville, leaving Pascoag and Harrisville still in action.

Editor’s note: The above article was updated to reflect approval of the merger following Monday’s meeting.

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