May 9, 2021

February News Briefs

Posted

Covid 19 Vaccines Come to East Providence
The City has received only about 250 vaccines as of the very end of January as Rhode Island begins to roll out the much-awaited vaccination process.  The mayor’s office anticipates getting more vaccine and more specific procedures to the public at large.  In a statement released on January 28th, the Mayor stated that “the city was made aware this week that it has been allocated 250 doses of the COVID19 vaccine.  Our EMA team has put a plan in place to get the vaccine out to those residents 75 and older who had already been registered on the RI Special Needs portal.  You can find more information about the RI Special Needs portal here. https://eastprovidenceri.gov/departm.../emergency-management.  The city has been informed that we will be getting more vaccine during the week of February 14 at which time we hope to be engaging in a much more comprehensive vaccination program,” said Mayor Bob DaSilva.

Captain John Potvin from the East Providence Fire Department issued an alert message to City residents.  “We understand that you may have many questions regarding COVID-19 and specifically the distribution of vaccines to our East Providence residents.  The City has received its first batch of vaccines, totaling 250 and will be distributing those vaccines to a portion of our most vulnerable population, our 75-plus residents this weekend. The City has already identified this specific population based on residents who were PREVIOUSLY registered with the Rhode Island Special Needs Registry. If you are on this list to receive these first vaccines, you do not need to take any action. Identified residents will be contacted by city personnel in the coming days to schedule their vaccination.

The City is slated to receive additional vaccines in the coming weeks and is currently working on a plan to distribute those vaccines to all populations. The distribution will be based on need and with guidance from the RI Dept. of Health.

Additional information on which populations will receive those future vaccines, when they will receive it and how, will be posted on the City’s website at eastprovidenceri.gov, and on the City’s Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter social platforms in the coming weeks.  We ask that you continue to remain patient as the City begins its rollout,” added Captain Potvin.

Amore, Lawson Seek State Help to Acquire Metacomet
Rep. Gregg Amore and Sen. Val Lawson call for state help in acquiring Metacomet
A joint press release by Amore (D-Dist. 65, East Providence) and Lawson (D-Dist. 14, East Providence) declared that the two will be introducing resolutions calling for the state to help the City of East Providence with the costs of acquiring Metacomet Golf Course for the purpose of protecting urban public open green space in the city.

The Amore – Lawson Press Statement:
“Urban public open green space is an extremely limited resource in our state and during the rare scenarios when this land becomes available to the public, we as elected leaders must do everything in our power to protect and support urban public open green spaces for the betterment of our residents.  The historic and beautiful Metacomet Golf Course in East Providence is one of these urban green spaces and the state, under existing law, has a duty to protect this island of urban green space from demolition and development.   The research is clear that urban public green spaces such as Metacomet provide a litany of positive attributes for the surrounding community, including climate change prevention, rising property values, outdoor recreation, improving an urban climate, and the overall general wellbeing of residents with access to urban public open green spaces.  Simply put, the community of East Providence would be best served with the preservation of Metacomet Golf Course for public use and I will continue to work with state officials in order to protect this rare urban public open green space,” said Representative Amore.

“Preserving the urban green space of the Metacomet Golf Course is a once in a lifetime opportunity for the residents of East Providence that will greatly benefit our community and the many generations to come.  Green open areas in our urban core such as the Metacomet Golf Course are disappearing rapidly and we must preserve what we still can so that our all of our residents have access to urban public open green space and its proven benefits,” said Senator Lawson.

The resolutions will direct the Director of the Department of Administration to take all necessary steps to prepare and budget the state’s share of the costs, as provided in Chapter 4 of Title 32 of the Rhode Island General laws, for the acquisition of the Metacomet Golf Course by the City of East Providence.”

At last month’s city council meeting, the council voted to hire an attorney who will hire an appraiser to set an independent market value to the property, as required by eminent domain law.  The appraisal process is expected to take several weeks.

In response to the Amore-Lawson proposed legislation, operators of the ‘Keep Metacomet Green’ (KMG) social media page, issued a response.  The KMG statement said, in part, “This is a great step forward and we owe a big debt of gratitude to Rep. Amore for his leadership.  Rep. Amore’s resolution encompasses nearly every argument that Keep Metacomet Green! (KMG) has been setting forth since July 2020 in its grassroots effort to preserve the open and green space of Metacomet. As such, KMG totally supports Rep. Amore’s resolution and calls upon the legislators representing East Providence residents in both houses of the General Assembly to not only support the resolution, but to advocate for its passage with their State House colleagues and the leaders of the House and Senate,” said the KMG statement.  The statement also thanked Senator Val Lawson for jointly sponsoring the bill in the RI Senate.

Clarification on Marshall’s Initial Variance Request on Metacomet
In last month’s edition of the Reporter, a story on the request from the Marshall Corporation to rezone Metacomet stated that the City Council had rejected that petition.  A leader of the KMG group, Candy Seel, wrote to say the story was incorrect and asked for a correction.  “Marshall pulled its petition before the Council’s scheduled vote on September 25,” said Ms. Seel.  Seel maintained that there was no Council vote.  Councilman Bob Rodericks, who supplied the content of that article to the Reporter, responded.  “Candy Seel is correct.  I did answer Mrs. Seel regarding her concern. While the council that night did not formally vote because Marshall withdrew their rezoning request, we were asked to explain how we would have voted. Each council member gave an opinion, and the tally was 4 would have voted against, while 1 would have approved. So, it wasn’t a formal recorded vote but it served to inform everyone. The bottom line of the article was that 4 were against, 1 in favor of the Marshall plan.  Thank you, Mrs. Seel, for seeking specific clarification,” said Rodericks.  “The distinction matters because having withdrawn their petition, Marshall cannot come back before the Council with substantially the same request for 18 months. Had there been a vote to deny, that prohibition would not be in effect,” added Ms. Seel.

City Council Supports Resuming Normal Business Hours in City
(At press time the State of RI has relaxed much of the restriction on restaurant dining, gyms, spas and some other facilities.  Restaurants can now operate at regular business hours. However, restaurant bar areas must remain closed to patrons, disappointing owners of small venues who depend on that bar business.)

The City Council approved a resolution last month asking the Governor and General Assembly to adjust closing time restrictions for local businesses.  The resolution sponsored by Ward Three Councilman Nate Cahoon, received unanimous council support.  “I think it’s time for these businesses to return to somewhat normal operating hours, with proper social distancing in place,” said Cahoon.  “We need to provide as much economic relief to these businesses as possible,” Cahoon said.  The resolution said, in part:

  • in response to the global pandemic related to COVID-19 the State of Rhode has implemented several executive orders and health directives to control the rate of infection.
  • one such measure of November 8, 2020, mandates closing times for businesses of 10:00pm on weekdays and 10:30pm on weekends.
  • while these measures were well-intentioned, the East Providence City Council has not been presented with any report, study, or scientific evidence indicating that such measures effectively control the spread of the Coronavirus or reduce the rate of positive COVID-19 tests, or related hospitalizations and deaths.
  • East Providence businesses are compelled to implement all enacted measures related to facial coverings; social distancing; etc., regardless of their hours of operation.
  • restrictions on closing times have caused significant harm to East Providence businesses already reeling from the economic impacts of COVID-19.

In the unanimous vote, the Council resolution urged the Governor and the Rhode Island General Assembly to “take immediate action to allow East Providence businesses to resume normal operating hours, in accordance with state law; and that the Governor and General Assembly take immediate action to provide additional, substantial financial relief to those East Providence businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the resulting prevention measures.”  The Cranston City Council and some others have passed similar resolutions.  Lt. Governor Dan McKee is known to also favor such requests.  Except for ‘sitting at a bar’ it now appears that the restrictions have been relaxed.

City pitches RIDOT on proposal for connection between three Communities
The City has issued a press release regarding a proposal for the Henderson Bridge.  The state is in the process of rebuilding the Henderson or “Old Red Bridge” which carries traffic between Providence’s East Side and East Providence.  “The city of East Providence under Mayor Bob DaSilva’s direction is working on a proposal that would create connectivity between the East Side of Providence, Rumford and Seekonk.  The proposal is to take the existing Henderson Expressway (which is slated for improvements in Phase II of the Henderson Bridge replacement project) and develop it into two lanes of travel. The proposal features a center parkway/walkway/bikeway dividing the east and westbound lanes and connection to the Seekonk River Crossing parcel via a roundabout (to replace the Broadway Bridge) allowing travelers to continue on to Pawtucket Avenue.”

An original plan called for the Henderson Bridge to continue East and connect to I 195 or Pawtucket Avenue.  It was never completed.  The DaSilva plan is to “create a new route of travel for pedestrians, bicyclist, motorists and even mass transit via a potentially new Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) bus route,” Mayor Bob DaSilva wrote in his letter to RIDOT Dir. Peter Alviti.  The City has also made its pitch to RIPTA seeking its input and potential support in creating a new transit hub in the vicinity of Pawtucket Avenue and has outlined the potential the specific project has for enhancing transit connections within the City.

“Mayor DaSilva also believes a partnership between East Providence and RIDOT, with support from federal and state delegation, could provide the city and state with federal grant opportunities to fund the project,” continued the statement from City Hall.

Schools On Site Testing for Students and Staff that are Asymptomatic
Kathryn M. Crowley, Superintendent of Schools has announced that the East Providence School District will be providing asymptomatic testing to students and staff in the coming weeks.  Consent letters were to be emailed to all parents and “must be returned to your child’s school no later than Friday, January 22, 2021. Tests will be administered during school hours to those students with signed consent slips only starting the week of January 25th,” said Crowley.

“We will also schedule one night of testing at your child’s school if you would like to accompany your child.  This Binax test antigen card is a one-minute test and results will be available within 15 minutes. If your child is positive, the school nurse will call you.”

The BinaxNow COVID-1 Antigen Test is a voluntary self-swab test. Students 12 years old and older can swab themselves but observed by a trained staff. Younger students will be swabbed by the school nurse. These cards take less than one minute to administer and are NOT the “deep nose” swabs that are found at other state testing sites. The BinaxNOW swabs work by swabbing the inside of each nostril five times in a circular motion and placing the swab on an antigen test card for results. This is an asymptomatic test designed to detect COVID-19 where no symptoms are present, helping to further prevent the potential spread of the virus within all schools.

School winter athletics will be required to participate in the testing and will be observed by the athletic trainer, Amanda Moran.  Athletes will be provided more information from our Athletic Director.  Students will receive more information from their Principal regarding testing dates.

Rep. Gregg Amore Supports School COVID-19 Vaccination Plan
Rep. Gregg Amore (D-Dist. 65, East Providence) is supporting an effort by the East Providence School Department and School Committee to have teachers and support staff included in the state’s Phase One COVID-19 vaccination plan.  Currently, only hospital workers, first responders, and residents and employees of long-term care facilities are included in Phase One of the plan.  “As we continue to grapple with this pandemic, the vaccine has brought hope to so many that returning to our normal way of life is within reach, but in order to accomplish this, we must make the best use of our limited amount of vaccine doses.  It is within this spirit that I am supporting the East Providence School Department and School Committee by urging health officials to include teachers and educational support staff within the Phase One COVID-19 vaccination plan,” said Representative Amore.

“The Department of Homeland Security considers educators ‘critical infrastructure workers’ but they have been left out of the vaccination plan.  And with so many children returning, or have already returned, to in-person learning, we must protect the health and safety of our educational staff who are so crucial to the healthy development process of our youth.  I support the East Providence School Department’s efforts by urging the Department of Health to protect these crucial members of our community by adding them to the Phase One vaccination plan – they and our children deserve it,” concluded Representative Amore.

Council Adopts Ordinance on Large Donation Boxes
The City Council approved an ordinance in January which would regulate the placement and monitoring of exterior donation boxes within the city.  The ordinance was introduced by   Council President Robert Britto & Council Vice President Bob Rodericks.  “The purpose of this article is to regulate the placement of unattended donation boxes within the city,” said President Britto.  Council members related that donation boxes are often not monitored well and show visible signs of “overflowing debris and in some cases actual trash.”  “We want to ensure that unattended donation boxes do not pose a hazard to pedestrian and vehicular traffic; and that material is not allowed to accumulate outside of the unattended donation boxes where it can be scattered by adverse weather conditions, animal contacts and human activities; and

Establish criteria that avoid attracting vermin, unsightliness, and public health hazard,” said Britto and Rodericks.

The ordinance stated in part that, a person, entity, association or organization who places, maintains or operates unattended donation box(es) to solicit donations of salvageable personal property must get a permit and be responsible for such donation boxes. It shall be unlawful for any person, firm, or corporation to erect, place, maintain or operate any collection bin without first obtaining a permit issued by the Building Official.   An unattended donation box means any unattended container, receptacle, or similar device that is located on any property within the city used for soliciting and collecting donations of clothing or other salvageable personal property.

It shall be unlawful for any person, firm, or corporation to erect, place, maintain or operate any collection bin without first obtaining a permit issued by the Building Official.  A permit issued under this article shall be valid for one year and renewable for one‐year periods thereafter. The operator who will maintain or operate the unattended donation box must be qualified to solicit donations of salvageable personal property pursuant to Rhode Island General Laws.

The proposed location and placement of an unattended donation box on the property owner’s real property must be in compliance with all applicable laws and will not impede pedestrian, bicycle, site distances onto adjacent streets or vehicular traffic.  This ordinance, along with the new trash receptacle policy in the City, “will go a long way to keeping our streets and properties safe and clean,” was a sentiment of the Council.

Martin Middle School Teacher Recognition
Paul Tarasevich of Edward R. Martin Middle School in East Providence was chosen among K–8 educators nationwide for “best-in-class use of i-Ready® and/or Ready®” teaching.  In a January 6, 2021 press release from Curriculum Associates, LLC, the research-based entity, said “Curriculum Associates has named Paul Tarasevich of Edward R. Martin Middle School in East Providence, RI to its 2021 class of Extraordinary Educators, an annual program that celebrates and connects exemplar teachers from around the country.  Tarasevich is among 44 teachers from 26 states and Washington, DC chosen for this honor that recognizes educators who exhibit best-in-class use of i-Ready and/or Ready, illustrate growth and achievement via formal assessments, demonstrate innovation and engagement practices for students, are evangelists for high standards and student achievement, and have been teaching for at least two years.”

“It goes without saying that this has been an unprecedented school year that has challenged educators, students, and families alike,” said Rob Waldron, CEO of Curriculum Associates. “However, this group of Extraordinary Educators - like so many other educators across the country has more than risen to the occasion. We are proud to recognize Paul for his hard work, dedication, and innovative best practices that continue to positively impact the students they serve.”

This year’s Extraordinary Educators, who were chosen from among hundreds of nominations, will have access to a network of peers from around the country to collaborate, connect, and learn from throughout the year, as well as receive unique professional development opportunities from Curriculum Associates. They will also be invited to participate and present at the Extraordinary Educators Leadership Summit, as well as other professional learning events throughout the year.

“I’m excited to be named an Extraordinary Educator because I want to learn from fellow educators and share successes that I’ve had in my classroom,” said Tarasevich. “Teaching is a reflective practice in which we are constantly looking for ways to improve student outcomes. I’m eager to open up and share the accomplishments we have had at Martin Middle School over the past few years, as well as learn, network, and share with educators around the country.”

Today, Curriculum Associates’ programs are used in almost half of Rhode Island school districts.  Founded in 1969, Curriculum Associates, LLC designs research-based print and online instructional materials, screens and assessments, and data management tools. The company’s products and outstanding customer service provide teachers and administrators with the resources necessary for teaching diverse student populations and fostering learning for all students.

Rep. Kazarian elected House Majority Whip
Rep. Katherine S. Kazarian (D-Dist. 63, East Providence) was elected to the position of House Majority Whip last month at a virtual House Democratic caucus.  The Majority Whip is the third-highest ranking position within the Rhode Island House of Representatives and Whip Kazarian is only the second woman to hold the position.  Kazarian will work closely as part of the Democratic Leadership Team headed by Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi and Majority Leader Christopher Blazejewski.  “To say this is a tremendous honor would be an understatement and I thank Speaker Shekarchi, Leader Blazejewski, and my colleagues in the House for their votes of confidence in my ability to be the new House Whip.  Our state is facing significant challenges over the course of this year and I am eager to work with my fellow legislators in order to set Rhode Island on a path to recovery,” said Whip Kazarian.

In a State House statement, a Representative spokesperson said that Kazarian was first elected in 2013.  “She has a strong background in the tech field, having previously worked at both Upserve and Virgin Pulse, and was previously a Senior Planner for the City of Pawtucket.  Whip Kazarian received a bachelor’s degree in urban studies and economics from Columbia University’s Barnard College and was inspired to run for office by President Barack Obama’s commencement address to her graduating class in 2012.”

Sen. McCaffrey, Rep. Kazarian to introduce legislation to streamline marriage solemnizations, remove legislature from process:

Senate Majority Leader Michael J. McCaffrey (D-Dist. 29, Warwick) and House Majority Whip Katherine S. Kazarian (D-Dist. 63, East Providence) plan to introduce legislation that would authorize the governor to designate any person to solemnize a marriage.  As it currently stands, only the General Assembly can authorize individuals to solemnize a marriage.

“It is an inconvenience to the people of Rhode Island that they need to seek a formal act of law just because they want a friend or family member to officiate at their wedding,” said Leader McCaffrey. “Votes and committee meetings are also a very inefficient way to handle what amounts to a clerical task. Getting married should be a joyous occasion, and there’s no reason the state needs to bog it down with red tape.”

The act would allow the governor to designate any person who is eligible to vote to solemnize a marriage within the state on a particular day and within a particular city or town. The authorization would expire upon completion of the marriage. A fee in the amount of $25 would be a prerequisite and would be payable to the secretary of state, or a fee of $20 for applications that are submitted electronically.

 “This bill will modernize the process by placing it online and ensuring that it’s available to all Rhode Islanders year round,” said Whip Kazarian.  “Some time ago, I was contacted by a constituent in July about their nuptials scheduled for September.  Unfortunately, the General Assembly had already concluded its session for the year and there was no other alternative possible.  It broke my heart when I had to tell my constituent there was nothing I could do to ensure their perfect wedding with the officiant of their choice and this is why this legislation is needed to modernize our system in Rhode Island.”

Sen. Lawson named Senate Deputy Majority Leader
Sen. Valarie J. Lawson (D-Dist. 14, East Providence) has been appointed by Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio to serve as a deputy majority leader in the Senate for the 2021-2022 legislative session.  “To be appointed to the leadership of the Senate is a true honor, and I thank President Ruggerio, Leader McCaffrey and the rest of my colleagues in the Senate for trusting in my abilities to execute this important role in the chamber. Rhode Island is facing substantial challenges this year, but I am confident that through collaboration and hard-work, we will weather this storm. The Rhode Island Senate is eager to tackle these significant problems for the betterment of our state and its residents,” said Senator Lawson.

Senator Lawson, who is serving her second term in the Rhode Island Senate, is also the Secretary of the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services and the Secretary of the Senate Committee on Special Legislation and Veterans’ Affairs.

Senator Lawson is a Social Studies teacher at East Providence High School and is Vice President of the National Education Association Rhode Island. In addition, Senator Lawson is the former President of the East Providence Education Association.

City rolls out two initiatives to address residents’ housing needs
The City of East Providence has rolled out two new initiatives to assist residents negatively impacted by COVID-19.  Mayor Bob DaSilva, together with the City’s Finance Department and Office of Community Development, has rolled out a Housing Assistance Program and an opportunity for Tax Sale relief.  The Housing Assistance Program will provide assistance to eligible tenants/homeowners who are facing financial hardship, specifically due to the pandemic and are at risk of eviction or foreclosure.  In addition, Mayor DaSilva also signed Executive Order 2021-004, which postpones the annual tax sale process to December 2021. With the tax sale scheduled for May 1, 2022, this will allow the taxpayer additional time to become current and therefore not be subject to the $300 levy fee.

“Our City’s residents are facing challenging times during this pandemic,” Mayor DaSilva said. “With these two initiatives, we are able to provide our eligible resident tenants, landlords/homeowners with some of relief from financial hardship during a difficult time.”

The Housing Assistance Program is designed for eligible tenants/homeowners who are experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19 and are at risk of eviction or foreclosure that might result in becoming homeless. Owner occupied landlords are eligible for this program and may also initiate on behalf of their tenants.  Applicants should prepare a short explanation of how COVID-19 has caused a financial hardship that has put them at risk of eviction or foreclosure.

For more information or to apply:
Call the Community Development office at (401) 435-7536, visit us online at www.eastprovidenceri.gov under Departments/Community Development, or email jcollins@eastprovidenceri.gov or dbachrach@eastprovidenceri.gov.

Pre-K Lottery in May 2021
The Rhode Island Department of Education will be holding a lottery in early May 2021 for the East Providence Pre-Kindergarten Program. To receive notification when the lottery opens for registration, please call 401-270-7571 or email eperez@epschoolsri.com.

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