EAST GREENWICH — On Monday, after eight months in the making, East Greenwich history was finally made.
With a few strokes of the pen, Gov. Lincoln Chafee made the merger of the East Greenwich Fire District into the Town of East Greenwich official inside a packed Chamber Room in Town Hall Monday evening, signifying a change in government that hasn’t been seen in 216 years.
Members of the now East Greenwich Fire Department, including Chief Peter Henrikson, marched into the Chamber Room, in full dress uniform, presented the colors along with Town Council President Michael Isaacs, fellow Councilmen Mark Gee – a former East Greenwich Fire Commissioner – and Jeffrey Cianciolo, District 30 Representative Anthony Giarrusso and District 35 Senator Dawson Hodgson in tow, leading in Chafee for the official signing.
The ceremony was the climax of months and months of discussions and negotiations, which began last summer when Cianciolo initially proposed a simple question of possibly merging the EGFD into the Town as a way to save money for taxpayers.
From there, the referendum passed by a large majority during the November election, then the legislature put together by Town officials was passed unanimously in both the House of Representatives and the Senate at the State House, with the final step being Chafee giving his John Hancock on the bills.
“This was a smart move by an overwhelming margin,” Chafee said in addressing state and local officials Monday evening during the brief, yet poignant ceremony. “The people have spoken.”
With the signing, the Town of East Greenwich becomes the first community in Rhode Island to merge a Fire District into the town and create a single municipality. Local officials hope that East Greenwich can be a blueprint for other cities and towns within the Ocean State in finding a way to properly consolidate government and have the community thrive at the highest level.
“For us, and I think for the state, this is a momentous event,” Isaacs said. “Given the difficulties that many communities face in the state, economically, this is a step in that direction and we’re pleased to be the first town to do this.”
Isaacs added his thanks toward the members of both the House of Representatives and the Senate, as well as Town Manager William Sequino for their support of the merger.