July News Briefs
New EPHS $2.8M under budget, on-time
The East Providence School Committee accepted the recommendation of the building committee in late June, which sets the project Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) at $154,388.87 million. This rate is $6 million under original cost estimates and comes in at $2.8 million under budget. Items previously removed such as field turf and lighting have been added back to the project.
City Councilman and former School Committee member Nathan Cahoon co-chaired the building committee with School Committee member Joel Monteiro. The co-chairs were reached for comment after the meeting. “This is great, great news for the City of East Providence,” said Nate Cahoon. “East Providence is building a brand new high school. The new high school is state of the art. It is safe. It is secure, modern, flexible, sustainable and efficient. It is as remarkable in appearance as it is in function. It will be the centerpiece of our City’s renaissance for the next several generations,” Cahoon added.
“The new school will deliver everything that was promised. From the earliest days of design, the most critical concern has always been getting the building that our students, faculty and staff need, and that our community deserves,” said Cahoon & Monteiro. “With the approval of the GMP, that promise has been fulfilled. The new EPHS will feature all of the classrooms, career and technical space, science labs, artistic facilities, fields and gymnasiums that Townies demanded,” writes the building committee.
"With the approval of the GMP, we can state with certainty that the new building will be ready in time for the 2021-22 school year, again, as promised. Also, as promised, installation of all new fields, and the demolition and removal of the old building will be complete in time for the 2022-23 school year. The building will be completed UNDER budget. We are ecstatic to report that this price is approximately $2.8M less than we have programmed, planned, and scheduled for,” said Joel Monteiro.
The committee had cut the step of using turf for the new on-campus fields and lighting early on. However the good financial news means that the artificial turf and field lighting is returned. The GMP also projects that the building will complete with a Minority-owned / Woman-owned Business Enterprise (M/WBE) participation rate of close to 16%, exceeding the state-required goal of 10% in all state-funded procurements.
“We all know that large government projects can run late and over budget. Our project has enjoyed an enormous amount of support from state and city leaders. And our architect (Ai3), construction manager (Gilbane), owner’s project manager (Peregrine) and host of trade professionals have performed in exemplary fashion,” said Cahoon. Cahoon and Monteiro stressed the critical role of the volunteer building committee which met weekly to oversee the work. They are Steve Amoroso; Kathy Crowley; Craig Enos; Anthony Feola; Sandy Forand; John McNamee; Gene Oakland; Benjamin Russell; Nick Shattuck; Manny Vinhateiro; Shani Wallace; and Bob Weygand. “If you see any of these amazing Townies about town, please take a moment to thank them for their service. They represent everything right about democracy and Government. They are the reason we’re on track,” said the co-chairs. An expanded version of this story with some historical background can be found for free at ReporterToday.com.
Planning Board Gives Initial Approval for Metacomet Zone Change
The city Planning Board met on June 24, 2020 and conducted a public hearing on the petition of Marshall Development LLC, to eventually allow for a mixed-use development for the use described as retail, office, residential and multi-family residential. This is a first in a series of steps required to allow Marshall Development LLC to amend the “Generalized Land Use Map of the City’s Comprehensive Plan” to change the Metacomet Golf Course from “Open Space” to a new sub-district of the East Providence Waterfront Special Development District to be given the designation “Veteran’s Memorial Parkway II”. Eventual approval by the City Council could allow for development to include a hotel, shops, housing, retail and office space, etc.
The hearing conducted on “Zoom” was to deny or approve a recommendation to the City Council to change zoning. Residents could call in questions and comments or do so via computer. Some residents were allowed to enter City Hall council chambers to view the meeting on a monitor, following all social distancing guidelines by Rhode Island.
Over four hours, planning board members had questions regarding the scope of the project. Some questioned the need for a hotel and more business space with several vacant buildings in the city. A couple of members thought that the issue could be tabled until more studies could be conducted on traffic and school census implications.
All residents speaking were mostly against the plan by Marshall. A few acknowledged the need to have some development in the city but no one explicitly supported the proposal. Planning department staff recommended that the proposal was good for the area and could be adjusted during future hearings. During the hearing, Marshall confirmed that they have a solid agreement to buy the golf course at any time but a final purchase hasn’t closed. Metacomet Property Company LLC (the golf course) is still the owner. Marshall also stated that an earlier announced “lawsuit” by Metacomet members against the Faxon group who owned the course, has been settled and was no longer an issue. Marshall didn’t directly answer a resident’s question which asked if they would finalize the sale if the zone change didn’t prevail in the long run.
In the end, the Planning Board voted unanimously to recommend approval to the City Council for the rezoning of the Metacomet property. The board vote doesn't approve the proposal, but "recommends" it to the City Council. The Waterfront Commission which may have the most direct regulatory oversight in the development is involved also. Commission Chairman William Fazioli said that 8 of the 11 commission members are East Providence residents. State officials on the commission have “no voting rights.”
City Gets its First Official Dog Park
The City of East Providence has released a statement introducing a first-ever dog park in the city. The park was introduced by Council President Robert Britto and unanimously approved by the Council. The ordinance enables the city to establish a dog park at an existing East Providence park or section of a city park. A section of land near Hunts Mills on Elden Street has been designated as East Providence’s new dog park.
The dog park, open to only East Providence residents and their dogs, will provide an open area for licensed and vaccinated dogs to exercise and interact with other dogs. To utilize the park, dog owners must first obtain a dog park permit from the City Clerk’s Office, at no additional fee, upon the granting of a dog license specific to that dog.
“Listening to constituent concerns and being a pet owner, this is a great opportunity to be able to allow your dog to be loose and to run and play with other animals,” Britto said. “And, it’s a more controlled setting where pets have been screened.” Dogs previously adjudicated as dangerous, aggressive or vicious will be not allowed within the park, according to the ordinance.
City could save $215K-$250K in energy costs with net-metering agreement
East Providence Mayor Bob DaSilva, together with the City Council, is working with a local renewable energy developer to bring energy savings to East Providence. Mayor DaSilva, the Council and other staff have been in talks with Green Development LLC, a Rhode Island-based renewable energy developer, since 2018 to implement a virtual net metering credit savings program, which will result in significant energy and financial savings to the City through Rhode Island’s net metering program.
The East Providence City Council approved the agreement, voting four to one in favor of the deal. “We have always sought out ways to save our city and the taxpayers’ money,” Mayor DaSilva said. “The City has an opportunity to see a savings of between $215,000 and $250,000 by partnering with Green Development in this program during this short-term period.”
Supporters pointed out that the City can terminate the agreement if Green does not achieve Commercial Operation within one year from the execution of the Agreement. The City can claim an “Event Default” and terminate the Agreement if Green fails to deliver. The short-term agreement was ratified by the City Council on Tuesday, June 16, 2020. Ward 4 councilman Ricardo Mourato opposed the measure while the one-year agreement was favored by members Robert Britto, Ward 1; Bob Rodericks, At-Large; Nate Cahoon, Ward 3 and Anna Sousa,Ward 2.