December 15, 2019

Monthly News Briefs

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Schools Seeking $3.3Million More From City in Budget
The School Committee was presented a proposed 2019-2020 budget request of $88,830,196 at its July meeting. School Finance Director Craig Enos gave the committee its second budget workshop proposal. With no one in the audience other than school staff, the committee was told that $51,017,217 would be needed in local appropriations with some $36,222,919 anticipated in state aid. Enos explained that tuition payments received would be $150,000, rental income $35,000 and prior year refunds $25,000. Enos further stated that Medicaid and state benefit reimbursement would see revenue of $1.2million and certified retirement revenue would be $125,000, He listed miscellaneous income from other revenue at $5,000.

"This is part two of our process, in part one we reviewed the salaries and benefits part of the budget," said Enos. "Now we'll highlight other specific areas and some of the capitol projects we've done over the past five years. Salaries and benefits are all confined to our four bargaining units," Enos added.

Some of the specifics that Enos outlined for the committee include:

  • Technology services. $1,428,027 for an increase of $100,851.
  • Property services. $1,928,500, an increase of $1.3million.
  • Other services. #11,800,000, a $232,000 increase.
  • Supplies. $2,322,100, a decrease of $404,000.
  • Property Services. $1,538,511, an increase of $372,830.
  • Miscellaneous. $74,100, a decrease of $18,100.
  • Psychologists, Student Evaluation Needs. $53,205, an increase of $50,000
  • Professional Development. $58,5000 increase to assist in math improvements.

Enos and facilities manager Tony Feola described school construction work that needs to be done. "We are looking at school vestibule areas in elementary schools that don't have it," said Feola. Also being planned is HVAC work for Martin and Riverside Middle Schools. "We're also looking at some type of cooling systems for Orlo, Whiteknact, Hennessey, schools with no trees around them," said Enos.

The district anticipates spending an increase of some $201,000 for special education tuition after planning for summer transitions with students moving in and out of the district.

About $160,000 is needed for a lot of masonry and repointing work that needs to be done along with other building improvements. Feola told the committee that the district anticipates the city council and Mayor may not approve the entire school budget request. "We have to prioritize as we know we're going to set priorities when the city gets a hold of this," added Feola. "We also have to budget to clean ventilation systems."

"These are some of the items we need to bring to the council. We need a column (budget) that we cannot cut from. Maybe some postponements for awhile." "There is work we need to do on our school buildings. If we don't do it now, we are going to pay more for it as years go on," said Enos.

Committee member Jessica Beauchaine asked if monies would be needed to accommodate transportation as athletics is re-routed due to the new high school construction. "I met with athletic director Gregg Amore," replied Enos. "He is anticipating roughly $25,000 more for buses to go where we need to go, practices, etc. But because of the lack of fields at the high school, we're able to reduce grounds keeping at the high school." A plan is in place to have more school athletics at Pierce Stadium and other off campus sites.

"Speaking of transportation, the budgeted (overall) amount seems to be about the same," asked Beauchaine. Enos responded that the line item for transportation was a "conservative estimate but good balance. We'll have to keep track of it over the year," he added. Beauchaine also added that spending for textbooks was down, "because of chrome book computers."

Tony Ferreira asked, "when do we know get to know when the budget is stripped if the council cuts us." "September 3rd is our presentation with the city council," said Assistant Superintendent Sandra Forand. "We have some ideas if we get cut." "In terms of this budget, you can make changes now, cut or ad (before the council gets budget), Enos told the committee.

School Facilities Improvements Noted
Facilities Manager Tony Feola updated the committee on some of the major improvements that have been completed over the past three and a half years. "We have been staying on top of our facilities," said Feola. "For instance five buildings have new roofs. It cost $2.1 million of which 54% was reimbursable. The savings we roll over and apply to our next set of projects. We've done doors, roofs and asphalt work at schools. We've also done major lighting rehab which was paid for by National Grid. Our only expense was for some in-house wiring and a little overtime," Feola continued.

The report continued to say that $115,000 was spent on bathroom stall repairs and replacement. Kitchen equipment repairs at Martin and total replacement at Riverside middle schools. A funding grant covered the kitchen work. Other work included sewer line replacement, gym floor painting, with most projects getting grants or 58% housing aid reimbursement. "We're tracking what we've done. The public can go see what we've done," said Feola.

"This shows how we bring in money to work for us," said board Chairman Charlie Tsonos. "We put it to work to bring in more money (reimbursements/grants) and most improvements are infrastructure. I don't see anything but very necessary work being done. Stuff that any property owner should do," said Tsonos. In 3 and a half years we're getting lots of reimbursements. We're multiplying the value of our tax dollars," added committee member Joel Monteiro.

Live Nation New England and Waterfront Commission Announcement
In an announcement from Live Nation New England and the City of East Providence and the East Providence Waterfront Commission, it was announced that Live Nation Entertainment, the world’s leading live entertainment company, is working on initial stages of securing a new location for a new amphitheater to house the city’s waterfront concert series and more local entertainment. Not far from its current location, the prospective site is a new mixed-use development with plans to also serve as a deepwater port for Rhode Island’s growing offshore wind industry.

RI Waterfront Enterprises LLC, the new parcel owner, has planned a unique mixed-use model to meet two objectives: helping connect the people of East Providence to the waterfront, and serving the port needs of the offshore wind industry. The entertainment venue is planned to include an outdoor amphitheater, ample parking, and new amenities for warm weather events from May to September. The venue will be booked by Live Nation New England.

Live music, among other benefits, helps to attract tourists to cities and contributes to a thriving cultural environment. In East Providence, a strong emphasis has been placed on the positive economic impact of the waterfront concerts at Bold Point Park. The City is enjoying renewed interest in key areas of economic development including job growth, consumer spending and real estate development.

The City of East Providence and the East Providence Waterfront Commission partnered with RI Waterfront Enterprises to bring this 45-acre mixed-use development project to fruition. Mayor Bob DaSilva said, “It was important for the City to champion this project because it adds to our City’s commercial tax base, as well as solidifies the State of Rhode Island’s commitment to green energy and its position at the forefront of offshore wind energy.”

The East Providence Waterfront Commission, charged with facilitating the transformation of the East Providence waterfront, will be instrumental in streamlining the approval process. The parcel, known as the South Quay, was previously owned by Providence and Worcester Railroad, sat unoccupied and mostly unused for the past 40 years. William Fazioli, chairman of the Commission, noted, “We are encouraged by the expansion of the successful Bold Point concert series within our Waterfront District. This proposal advances our goals for a vibrant mixed-use development that will grow jobs and increase public access to our City’s waterfront."

The Bold Point Park concerts will continue as planned for 2019. The new yet-to-be-named venue is slated to open in 2020. RI Waterfront Enterprises General Manager Melissa Martin is working with local corporations on naming rights for the new outdoor amphitheater.

About Live Nation Entertainment
Live Nation Entertainment (NYSE:LYV) is the world's leading live entertainment company comprised of global market leaders: Ticketmaster, Live Nation Concerts and Live Nation Sponsorship. For additional information, visit www.livenationentertainment.com.

About RI Waterfront Enterprises LLC:
RI Waterfront Enterprises LLC is the new owner of the Providence and Worcester Railroad land along the East Providence waterfront. The development will include the new home for a boutique outdoor amphitheater and a deepwater port for offshore wind energy.

City Hires Police Officers
The City of East Providence Police Department has added two new police officers in July. William J. Demers and Stephen C. Burns were sworn in by Mayor Bob DaSilva as the newest members of the police force before the East Providence Police Command Staff including Chief William Nebus, Major Christopher Francesconi, Capt. James Nelson and Capt. Thomas Rush.

“We welcome the opportunity to put seasoned officers on the road,” Chief Nebus said. “Officers Burns and Demers have 20 years of experience each; both have served in the detective divisions in their respective departments.

“Although here in East Providence, they will be considered “junior” officers, their experiences throughout their careers will allow them to share their knowledge with our new recruits on the late night shift,” Nebus added. “The residents of East Providence should feel lucky to have them join us.”

“My sincere congratulations goes out to Officers Demers and Burns,” Mayor Bob DaSilva said. “The city is fortunate to have two additional experienced officers join our first-rate police department.”

Demers joins the East Providence Police Dept. after working as a U.S. Marshal with Walden Security since 2017.

After his honorable discharge from the U.S. Marine Corps, Demers joined the Johnston Police Dept. where he spent 20 years of service working both in the Patrol and Investigative Divisions. In 2009, he became detective. As detective, he was then assigned to the Rhode Island State Police High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force (HIDTA) from March 2011 until June 2017. Demers, who earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Roger Williams University, retired from the Johnston Police Dept. in June 2017.

Burns comes to East Providence from the Portsmouth Police Dept. after 19 years on the force. As a member of the Portsmouth Police Dept., Burns worked in the Detectives Division handling general investigations; worked in Prosecution handling both juvenile and adult cases; and in the Patrol Division as a patrol sergeant in charge of Harbor Patrol. Burns retired from the force as sergeant on July 2, 2019.

“The city continues to increase our police roster,” DaSilva added. “After an aggressive recruiting process, the city’s police department is working diligently to vet a long list of applicants and send additional recruits to the Rhode Island Municipal Police Academy.”

Fire Dept. Receives American Heart Association Award
The East Providence Fire Dept. has received the American Heart Association’s Mission: Lifeline® EMS Gold Plus Award for implementing quality improvement measures for the treatment of patients who experience severe heart attacks. Every year, more than 250,000 people experience a ST elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI), which is the deadliest type of heart attack caused by blockage of blood flow to the heart that requires timely treatment. To prevent death, it’s critical to restore blood flow as quickly as possible, either by mechanically opening the blocked vessel or by providing clot-busting medication.

The Mission: Lifeline initiative provides tools, training and other resources to support heart attack care following protocols from the most recent evidence-based treatment guidelines. Mission: Lifeline’s EMS recognition program recognizes emergency medical services for their efforts in improving systems of care to rapidly identify suspected heart attack patients, promptly notify the medical center and trigger an early response from the awaiting hospital personnel.
The City of East Providence is the only EMS service in the state to have received the 2019 Mission: Lifeline EMS Gold Plus Award.

“East Providence Fire Department is dedicated to providing optimal care for heart attack patients,” Director of Emergency Medical Services Capt. John Potvin said. “We are honored to be recognized for our dedication and achievements in emergency medical care efforts through Mission: Lifeline.”

“EMTs and paramedics play a vital part in the system of care for those who have heart attacks,” said Tim Henry, M.D., Chair of the Mission: Lifeline Acute Coronary Syndrome Subcommittee. “Since they often are the first medical point of contact, they can save precious minutes of treatment time by activating the emergency response system that alerts hospitals to an incoming heart attack patient. We applaud the East Providence Fire Department for achieving this award in following evidence-based guidelines in the treatment of people who have severe heart attacks.”

City Group in Sister-City Trip to Ribeira Grande, Azores
A group of city residents including East Providence Mayor Bob DaSilva, State Senator Valerie Lawson and State Representatives Gregg Amore and Joe Serodio travelled to Ribeira Grande, Azores in July. City Councilwoman Anna Sousa also attended but in a separate trip while visiting family. "We had a great meeting with Vice Mayor Tania Fonseca of Ribeira Grande as we strengthen and renew our sister city relationship between East Providence and Ribeira Grande," said Mayor Bob DaSilva.

In an open letter to residents, Representative Gregg Amore wrote; "I just returned from a week in beautiful Sao Miguel, Azores where part of my time was spent in a diplomatic capacity. The trip gave me, Senator Valerie Lawson and Rep. Joe Serodio an opportunity to meet with the Azores’ Secretary of State, Rui Bettencourt, to discuss opening travel to Sao Miguel to multiple airlines, including SATA, on direct flights from and to T.F. Green (Right now, the only direct flights to the Azores from New England originate out of Boston’s Logan International Airport).

Considering the significant population of people of Azorean descent who make their homes in Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts and in acknowledgement of the economic dependency on tourism of both the Azores and Rhode Island, the members of the East Providence General Assembly delegation considered this an outstanding opportunity to promote T.F. Green, enhance trade and tourism between the Azores and Rhode Island, and help serve a large part of our constituency who have family members and friends who live in the Azores. We also discussed an educational exchange between Rhode Island College, the University of Rhode Island and the University of the Azores," wrote Amore (see full letter elsewhere in this edition).

Mayor Bob DaSilva as he was hosted by Mayor Jose Manuel Bolieiro of Ponta Delgada and Vice Mayor Tania Fonseca of East Providence’s sister city, Ribeira Grande. Councilwoman Anna Sousa had met with her earlier in the week. "The meeting with Vice-President Tania Fonseca and Sousa provided an open dialogue and resulted in the mutual desire to "deepen links in the future, either through cultural exchanges or by the revitalization of relations between the sister cities", said Fonseca in a statement as she thanked Sousa for the support from East Providence.

The trip was not without some travel headaches for many in the group. Complaints surrounded the often criticized SATA airline. "My trip to the Azores was a wonderful experience but not without great disappointment as well. My sister and her family were supposed to join us for this family exploration of our parent's homeland with our mom and dad. Unfortunately SATA airlines unexpectedly cancelled their flight with no explanation and no urgency to get them a backup plan," offered Mayor DaSilva. Several others were left stranded when SATA cancelled the flight from Boston to San Miguel. Councilwoman Sousa also had travel difficulty. "I enjoyed my annual visit to see my family, but the unexpected cancellation of my flight, extended my trip for an additional week and had my nerves rattled," Sousa said.

The officials attending the excursion said that no taxpayer dollars were used for the trip. "All parties paid for their own expenses."

City receives $70K For Riverside Square
The East Providence Community Development Office has received $100,000 for streetscape improvements to Riverside Square. The city received a $69,969 Main Street Improvement grant from Rhode Island Commerce Corp. and $30,000 in city funds for the improvements.

“We are so grateful to Rhode Island Commerce Corp. for the opportunity to make Riverside Square even more attractive and appealing to residents, visitors and future investors,” Mayor Bob DaSilva said. “And we plan to do that with help from the community.”

The funds will help to support a smart design at Riverside Square that will feature new landscaping, public art and design elements, a permanent holiday tree display area and business banners. The plan is to also include a community board with QR-Code reader where people can scan and see a map of local businesses and nonprofits with links to those websites.

Riverside Square features a portion of the East Bay Bike Path, which sees 800,000 (walking, biking and skateboarding) trips per year.

The Community Development Office, which hopes to capture the attention of those riders, published a request for proposal for a landscape architect in June. Today, the Community Development Office named Kevin M. Alverson Landscape Architecture, as the architect for the project.

The plan, according to David Bachrach, the city’s community development coordinator, is to have the landscape architect and the sculptor work together to present a concept plan to the community for input.

“The concept is to create a sense of interest and curiosity from these improvements that may draw people from the bike path to local Riverside establishments,” Bachrach said. “I truly feel this project will significantly improve this area for residents for years to come.”

Walgreens - Rite Aid Swap Takes Place
The busy intersection of Pawtucket and Warren Avenues will go from having three drugstore sites in walking distance down to two. With the sale of all Rite Aids to the Walgreen chain it didn't seem probable that Walgreens would keep two stores across from each other. The Warren Avenue Walgreens will vacate the first week in August and move in to the already converted Pawtucket Avenue site.

Walgreens on Warren Avenue was built in 2007. That site is appraised by the city at $2,778,900. The Rite Aid, now Walgreens building, was built in 1970 and has an assessed value of $1,047,300. This site has housed many different stores and businesses since it was built. Although an older site, the building has been renovated through the years and has easier access and egress for traffic. The Walgreens site is directly across the street from a large CVS store.

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