East Providence News Briefs
Several Schools Deal with Pandemic
About half of the public schools in East Providence have had some students or staff diagnosed with a positive Covid 19 test. Those involved have been quarantined and no serious illness has been reported. The high school was closed down for two weeks due to a serious water leak in the school. Water was 12 inches deep causing damage to the electrical system. The leak was in the area of the former pool and may have been water coming in from the ground. The school has been put on distance learning as officials race to repair the damage to the soon to be demolished building. The new high school construction remains on budget and schedule.
Fiscal Year 2020-21 $194 Million Budget Approved
On a 3-1 vote last month, the city council approved the Mayor’s budget for just shy of $194 million. According to the city Finance Director, a tax increase of 2.6% will mean about an $80 to $90 annual increase for the average homeowner. Director Forbes explained that a 3.5% dollar levy would translate to a 2.6% tax increase, once accounting for new revenues. Councilors Robert Britto, Nate Cahoon and Bob Rodericks voted in favor. Councilman Ricardo Mourato voted against and councilwoman Anna Sousa was not present. After the meeting Sousa said she would have voted against the budget although gave no specific areas to cut. Mourato wanted to cut the bottom line in the Mayor’s office and elsewhere. The Ward 4 councilman disagreed with the homeowner tax exemption being set at 14%. “Business will have to absorb the loss of $500,000 to the budget,” said Mourato. At Large councilor Bob Rodericks suggested the council consider a tax freeze for all senior citizen homeowners to which Mourato also agreed. “I know we can’t do it for this budget year, but we should start looking at ways to accomplish that as soon as we can,” Rodericks said. Of the overall budget, Cahoon said that it “is responsible to increase taxes slightly once we are sure that no unnecessary spending exists. I don’t support just cutting a budget at the last minute for the sake of cutting. I don’t see a lot of that (unnecessary spending) in this budget,” added Cahoon. “It’s a good budget,” said Rodericks. “Outside of uncontrollable expenses, it is mostly level funded including the school department share. And it includes initial expenses and planning for our new state of the art high school,” he added. Without the high school bond, we’re probably looking at about a 1.6% tax increase indicated Finance Director Forbes. The new school was widely supported by voters.
Platt-Watters Buildings to Come Down Finally
In a long played out process to decide the fate of two very old, abandoned school buildings, the City Council voted to raze Platt-Watters on Burnside and Hoppin avenues. The council vote unanimously gives the Mayor the authority to spend capital development funds to clear the property and sell off 9 to 11 individual house lots. Much of the neighborhood objected to the prior council plan in 2018 which proposed about 32 condominiums on the site. A recent community meeting held by the Mayor garnered mostly approving comments from neighborhood residents. Council members Nate Cahoon and Bob Rodericks stressed that affordable housing prices would be helpful and appropriate as much as possible.
Public Works Opens Municipal Compost Site/Forbes Street
The East Providence Public Works Department, Recycling/Refuse Division announces that the Forbes Street compost site will be open to residents on the following Saturdays November 7, 14, 21, 28 and December 5, 2020 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The DPW will also open the compost site on Friday, Nov. 27, 2020 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Residents may drop off leaves, grass and other vegetative material suitable for composting at the site. Incoming material must be loose; no plastic bags, no contaminates, no trash or fencing material. Residents must show a valid driver’s license or state issued ID card as proof of residency. No commercial vehicles are permitted.
The last week for curbside Yard Waste collection is December 14, 2020 – December 18, 2020. Collections will resume in the spring. For questions or more information, please contact DPW Program Coordinator, Donna McMahon at (401) 435-7701 Fax: (401) 434-1725.
Historic Walker House gets Urban Farm
Preserve Rhode Island (PRI), the statewide advocate for historic preservation, is proud to announce an exciting new endeavor at the ca. 1724 Philip Walker House at 432 Massasoit Ave. in East Providence. The house and one-acre lot has been leased to a farmer tenant for the purpose of establishing an urban farm.
Owned by PRI since 1983, the Walker House is the oldest building in East Providence and one of the oldest in the state of Rhode Island. Since PRI’s acquisition of the property, it has been used as a study house for students of architectural history and historic preservation, PRI property manager living quarters, and a private residential rental.
For several years, PRI has been actively seeking a creative and productive new use for the property and large front yard. Drawing inspiration from a visit to Fowler Farm in Mattapan, Mass., and after consultation with the Southside Community Land Trust (SCLT) and the East Providence Planning Department, PRI staff and a team of trustees developed and released a Request for Proposals for farmers in the spring of 2020.
“PRI is grateful for the support of the East Providence Planning Department and Mayor Bob DaSilva in getting the project started,” said organizers.
“This is an amazing way to utilize the property – our East Providence residents and businesses will benefit from fresh, locally-grown crops,” Mayor DaSilva said.
City of East Providence awarded $75,000 “Take it Outside” Grant
The City of East Providence has been selected by the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation as a “Take it Outside” grant awardee. The funds will enable the City to dole out up to $5,000 in grant funding to East Providence businesses who are working to take their business services outside during the pandemic. The businesses may apply for eligible equipment and supplies including patio heaters, outdoor lighting, tables, chairs and more that will be used to support outdoor activities beginning fall 2020.
In response to the impact on small businesses, Mayor Bob DaSilva, together with Planning & Economic Development Director William Fazioli, Chief Planner Jim Moran applied for the funds through a competitive process of more than 80 applications seeking more than $5.7 million in grant funding. East Providence businesses will need to apply for the grant here: https://www.eastprovidencebusiness.com/incentives/pages/city-east-providence-%E2%80%9Ctake-it-outside%E2%80%9D-business-assistance-grant-program . “We are grateful to the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation for granting us this award,” Mayor DaSilva said. “These funds will assist our East Providence businesses in providing services and products to our residents and city visitors during this unprecedented time.”
Orlo Avenue School Teachers Praised:
RI Commissioner of Education, Infante-Green, praised two of Orlo Avenue school’s teachers in her regular memo to all Rhode Island teachers last month. “Jen Ruthven and Stephanie Caverly, second grade teachers at Orlo Avenue in East Providence, were trying to figure out how they could continue their career days and community readers in the current climate. Not being able to welcome people physically into their classrooms just meant they had to get a little creative. Mrs. Ruthven and Miss Caverly decided to start their Surprise Lunchtime Guest Readers this year to fill that void. During lunch, a member of the community or a parent of one of their students, joins them virtually through a Google Meet. Their guests read a favorite story and then share their careers or an interest. Students love to hear the stories and learn about different careers in the community!” wrote the Commissioner.
Election Coverage at ReporterToday.Com
Local election results will be updated at ReporterToday.com, as the election of November 3rd is being held at press time. It has been a mostly quiet election in the city this year as there are no city council seats being contested with members in the middle of a four-year term. A couple of notable upsets have already occurred, however. Veteran incumbent Senator Billy Conley was defeated in a District 18 September primary by newcomer Cynthia Mendes. Observers attribute that loss mostly to Conley’s legal involvement with the Marshall Corporation purchase and proposed development of the Metacomet Golf Course. Also losing his seat was first term incumbent Representative Joe Serodio. Serodio lost his Representative District 64 seat to newcomer Brianna Henries. Mendes and Henries do not have opponents in the November general election.
State Senator incumbent Valerie Lawson, D faces a challenge from Major Pettaway in District 14. Representatives Gregg Amore, Katherine Kazarian and Liana Cassar are also unopposed as is Senator Cynthia Armor Coyne.
The school committee has the most contested races as a couple seats face lively campaigns. Max Brandle is challenging incumbent Anthony Ferreira in Ward two. Brandle came in first in a three-way September primary. Ferreira finished second and is in a close November match against Brandle. The at-large race features incumbent Joel Monteiro against former member Chrissy Rossi. The open Ward three seat is between newcomers Jenni Azanero and Francis Fogerty. In ward One, Chairman Charles Tsonos is opposed by Michael Budziszek Jr.
Rep. Cassar to Challenge for Speaker of the House Post
State Representative Liana Cassar, District 66, which covers Barrington and parts of East Providence, has announced that she is a candidate for the Speaker of the Rhode Island House of Representatives. The seat is currently held by Cranston Representative Nicholas Mattiello. Mattiello is in a tough fight for reelection. Cassar is part of a group of “progressive” legislators looking to become more visible in general assembly leadership posts. In a letter to her House colleagues, Cassar wrote; “We, together, can create a leadership team that enables us to effectively, efficiently, and empathetically do the work our constituents sent us here to do, while making sure our chamber is a place where the public can be heard respectfully, as they deserve to be. We, together, can create a chamber in which there is trust and a commitment to collaboration and problem-solving.”