May 25, 2024

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And now we know … The Bridge has to Go
After months of speculation and studies, Rhode Island officials have opined what many residents expected to hear.  The George Washington Bridge west-bound span must be totally replaced.  As many as seven independent engineering firms investigated multiple options for repairing and strengthening the damaged bridge or demolishing it and building a new bridge.  Experts reviewed replacing tie-rods, strengthening piers/girders, replacement of supports and in the end there was one conclusion.  “Several elements of the bridge cannot be viably repaired.  It is recommended to replace the entire bridge superstructure (deck and girders) and replace part or all of the substructure (piers and foundations).”  The next step is to procure contractor/engineering and demolition of the existing bridge. A Design-Build construction of the new bridge has a $250M to $300M estimated cost.  The schedule and cost will be updated with a selected Design-Build Team.

Engineers stressed that the bridge is in much worse shape than was known when the inadvertent sighting of broken tie-down rods led to the abrupt emergency December 11, 2023 closure. The bridge report concluded that there are "structural deficiencies that cannot be viably repaired."  If past practice is followed, the federal government will cover 80% of the $250-$300 million cost with Rhode Island taxpayers allocating 20%.  This is projected to cost the state at least $50 million.  The projected date of completion is March of 2026, if all goes well. This includes a complicated bridge demolition.   

Reports indicate that the federal government has awarded some $52 million dollars since 2015 to repair a bridge which is now slated to be demolished.  An on-going U.S. Department of Justice investigation is looking into all aspects of this catastrophic situation.  The question of how this happened and when it became critical and beyond repair is yet to be answered.  Governor Dan McKee has hinted during press conferences that “a deck of reckoning is coming soon.” 

Governor McKee Announces Grants for Public Safety Infrastructure
In March, Governor Dan McKee announced the award recipients of a matching grant program to help finance significant public safety facility infrastructure projects. The Municipal Public Safety Infrastructure Grant Program is funded with $11 million in State Fiscal Recovery Funds (SFRF) through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The maximum award amount is $5 million for regional projects and $1 million for local projects.

"Investing in Rhode Island's public safety starts by addressing the infrastructure that police, fire and EMS units need to protect our state," said Governor Dan McKee. "I'm grateful to our partners in the Rhode Island General Assembly and the federal government for recognizing the importance of funding these local projects, so that we can support the brave men and women who keep Rhode Islanders safe."

An evaluation committee reviewed proposals and made nine awards based on project readiness, including the availability of local funds to satisfy the matching requirement and anticipated start and completion dates.  East Providence was awarded $960,000 to renovate the East Providence Police Station, including “a reallocation of existing space to better meet the needs of a modern police department.”

“Our administration is always looking to make our tax dollars go further. When I learned of the application opening for the public safety infrastructure grant program, I immediately asked our Police Chief Chris Francesconi to partner with our Planning and Economic Development Director Keith Brynes to begin the application process,” said Mayor Bob DaSilva.

Also, the City of Providence was awarded $770,000 to refurbish the Providence Public Safety Complex through various improvements, including a new roof, updated interior finishes, and exterior repairs.  Eligible expenses include design, predevelopment, construction, and direct administrative costs related to a public safety facilities infrastructure project.  This project was supported, in whole or in part, by federal award to the State of Rhode Island by the U.S. Department of Treasury.

Pierce Stadium to Receive $2M in Federal Renovation Grant
The City’s Pierce Stadium will receive $2M in a federal grant as part of close to $60M allocated to Rhode Island for upgrades to key infrastructure projects. “I’m pleased to bring home tens of millions of dollars to invest in projects and communities all across the Ocean State,” said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse in a press statement. “These direct investments will advance on-the-ground efforts by local organizations and community leaders to create opportunity for Rhode Islanders, protect public safety, upgrade key infrastructure, and harden the Ocean State against climate change.”  East Providence will use its grant to improve the stadium turf and handicap accessibility at the complex.  $1.8M will be used to construct a new synthetic turf surface and a new walking track with handicap accessibility.  Pierce Stadium has undergone several renovations during the past few years.  “Both baseball and football scoreboards and PA systems were not working and much of the fencing had jagged edges and was old and unsafe.  In the past couple of years, they have all been replaced,” said Council President Bob Rodericks.  “More improvements are needed and we’re keeping Pierce as the gem it has always been.  I thank the Mayor for working with us (council) to get this done.  Mostly with grant funding.” 

Ward Two Councilwoman Anna Sousa is also appreciative of the work done at Pierce.  “I want the park to be functional and safe for public use,” she said.  “I’m hoping that we can renovate the concession stand and more.”   

In addition, as part of the city's collaboration with The Nature Conservancy, the local environmental organization will receive $750,000 towards the continuing effort to restore the shoreline and bluff at Crescent Park in Riverside.

The earmark supports coastal resilience and preserve public access measures being implemented at the park, which notably is home to the historic Looff Carousel.

“Coastal communities across New England are looking for new, nature-based solutions to coastal erosion that preserve public access to the shoreline and enhance fish and wildlife habitat,” Sue AnderBois, Director of Climate and Government Relations at The Nature Conservancy, said in a press release issued on the funding. “TNC is grateful to Senator Whitehouse for his consistent leadership on climate and coastal resilience. We’re excited to see how we can continue to support East Providence.”

Added Ward 4 City Councilman Rick Lawson, in whose district the park is situated, "This funding, along with the $1.8 million received from the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank, will go a long way to reinforcing the southern portion of the seawall. I am very grateful to Sen. Whitehouse, Sen. (Jack) Reed, and Congressman (Gabe) Amo for their hard work advocating for East Providence. Crescent Park is a gem and any investment in the park is a worthwhile investment."

Lawson was referring to an influx of funding from the Infrastructure Bank and administration of Gov. Dan McKee, which provided the city the monies to install slope stabilization measures at the Crescent Park waterfront. The new monies support "Phase 2" of the project, scheduled to include construction of approximately 250 feet of hybrid shoreline protection measures to protect the bluff.

EP Finance Director to retire, City seeks to fill position
The City of East Providence is seeking to fill the position of Director of Finance.  East Providence Finance Director Malcolm A. Moore, who has worked for the City of East Providence since 2012, has announced his plan to retire. He will remain in the role until May.  “Not having Malcolm’s institutional knowledge of our municipal finances during what will be a challenging budget year will certainly be a loss to my administration,” Mayor Bob DaSilva said. “It is for this reason that we are immediately seeking to fill this position.  I would like to thank Malcolm for his years of dedication to the City of East Providence and wish him well in his retirement,” DaSilva added.

Moore has offered to stay during this period of transition.  “I would like to thank Mayor DaSilva and the City Council for their support over the years,” Malcolm Moore said. “It has been both an honor and privilege to work closely with them.  “We have worked tirelessly to improve the quality of life for the residents of East Providence,” Moore added. “It has been a great experience and I will never forget all the great people I worked with over the years.”

Moore served as finance director for both the city and the school department until he was named sole finance director. During his time with the city, Moore also served as acting city manager for the span of two months.  During his tenure as finance director, Moore was hired by the Budget Commission (in 2012) to help stabilize the City’s financial position. He also worked with the Charter Review Commission to implement a capital and fund balance policy, which resulted in over $40 million in capital funds and also helped to move junk bond status to a S& P’s AA rating with a stable outlook. In addition, Moore worked to set up the OPEB Trust, which is now more than 50 percent funded and has facilitated $428 million in bonds for the general fund, water and wastewater.

A City administration press release said that “… under the direction of Mayor Bob DaSilva, the Director of Finance is responsible for administering and coordinating the financial affairs of the City. The Director of Finance supervises the Purchasing, Accounting, Treasury and Tax Assessment divisions. Serving as a member of the executive leadership team, the Director of Finance is a principal planner of the annual City budget and is responsible for maintaining a healthy financial structure, a responsible tax rate, and other charges that ensure confidence from residents and taxpayers. Those interested in applying may do so by visiting our Employment Opportunities page on the City’s website: https://eastprovidenceri.gov/jobs/24-03-04/director-finance.”

City seeks Construction Manager at Risk for the Community Center
The twice voter approved and much delayed Community/Recreation Center is closer to fruition.  Late last month the City announced it was seeking qualified firms for the services of Construction Manager at Risk (CMaR) for the new East Providence Community Center located in the rear of the Senior Center property at 610 Waterman Avenue. The new Community Center will provide space for health services, education, workforce training, and recreation for residents of East Providence. The Senior Center will be fully operational during all construction phases. “Hiring a Construction Manager at Risk at this phase in the project allows the Construction Manager to oversee the project from design to construction close-out, ensuring the City meets grant funding requirements of a fully operational Community Center by October 31, 2026,” said City administration officials.  A non-mandatory pre-bid conference was scheduled for  Tuesday, April 2, 2024 at 10:00am at the Senior Center site.

Project questions can be directed to Dominic Leonardo, Senior Planner, at dleonardo@eastprovidenceri.gov  or Jessica Lamprey, Procurement Specialist at jlamprey@eastprovidenceri.gov  no later than TUESDAY, APRIL 9, 2024 at 4:00pm.  Specifications may be downloaded from the City’s website https://eastprovidenceri.gov/rfp.

Mayor Hires Tristan Jimerson as its new Opportunity Coordinator/Planner I.
Jimerson will work under the direction of the Planning and Economic Development Department Director Keith A. Brynes and will support the growth of the East Providence business community through partnerships with employers, educators, economic developers and other community-based organizations. Jimerson, together with other department staffers, will also guide small businesses through the challenges of the Washington Bridge closure as well as our several American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and grant funding opportunities.

“With the growing number of small and medium-sized businesses in East Providence, it is necessary to have a dedicated team on staff who can advocate for and collaborate with the businesses in our city especially during these challenging times of the Washington Bridge closure,” Mayor Bob DaSilva said. “The city’s Economic Opportunity Coordinator knows first-hand the challenges and excitement of running a small business as Tristian was himself a small business owner.” In his new role, Jimerson will be tasked with supporting our businesses at every stage of growth from startup to expansion and collaborate to provide businesses with the resources they need to succeed.” Jimerson, has spent the last 15 years working with small businesses in both advisory and ownership positions. He brings his hand-on experience to the City of East Providence by serving as a liaison between the city and local business sector. Prior to joining the City of East Providence, Jimerson worked as a Business Advisor for the Neighborhood Development Center and as an entrepreneur himself, he ran his own restaurant for eight years.  A recent transplant from Minnesota, Jimerson welcomes the chance to assist local businesses as well as the milder winter. In his free time, Jimerson and his family have been enjoying exploring all that his new hometown has to offer.

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