October 20, 2020

News Briefs

Posted

Metacomet Proposal Continues to Dominate Council Attention

Marshall Developers Put The Brakes On…
The pending sale of the Metacomet Golf Course by the Brad Faxon group to Marshall Properties, LLC, has dominated much of the City Council’s attention and that of many residents.  On August 24th Marshall requested a delay in their request for a zoning change that has raised the ire of many city residents.  Marshall Properties wants to delay the process for 60 additional days.  The developer wants to return to the council with a revised plan.  “We want to address community changes and feedback,” said Marshall in a statement to the council.  A continuation of the August 11th meeting to August 26th in a Zoom only meeting was canceled.  However, some members of the city council seem interested in voting on the zoning variance during September.  It is unclear as of this writing if a formal council vote will take place this month.  

Marshall has a purchase and sales agreement but has not actually closed on the deal yet.  Marshall is in the process of seeking a zoning variance away from the current open space restriction, which will allow them to build a combination of residences and commercial property.  An original plan calling for a large hotel was a lighting rod for those opposing any loss of open space on the site.  About 75 people attended an in-person August 11th public hearing at Martin Middle School, to discuss the proposal.  There was near universal opposition to the plan with three or four people speaking in favor.  Many residents have formed an opposition grass roots group called “Keep Metacomet Green.”  Organizer Candy Seel addressed the council at the August 11 hearing.   “The members of the organization share an overwhelming concern that the iconic Metacomet golf club, which has been a fixture along the scenic Veterans Memorial Parkway for decades, will be destroyed for the sake of an unneeded and unwise commercial and residential and development. We share in the belief that green space is vital to the wellbeing and vitality of our community and that wanton destruction of that open space will not draw new residents but will repel them.  There are a number of reasons for our opposition to this proposal - increased traffic, stress on public services, loss of wildlife habitat and mature trees, the negative impact on existing owners of hospitality businesses and vacant commercial property, and the destruction of the peaceful culture of our City,” said Seel.  “The Marshall team has frequently claimed that the development will be a work in progress, and that actual plans will roll out in a long process. They have consistently suggested: “We’re only looking for rezoning now. Just trust us. We’ll work it all out together as the process moves along.”  That puts the cart before the horse. Let Marshall divulge its plans first; then rezone if appropriate.  Unless an angel investor comes along or the city itself purchases the property, we know that the current 18-hole golf course may not remain intact. That would be our preference, but we are not naïve. We realize that some development may well occur. We also realize that destroying the open land as it now exists in order to build a concrete jungle in the midst of a residential community—complete with an elementary school and the iconic Pierce Field, is just not right.” said Seel.

Lianne Marshall, an owner and former East Providence resident, spoke to the gathering along with Marshall’s attorney, Senator William Conley.  “I want to continue to dialogue and to listen respectfully.  This can work for all of us,” said Marshall. She did end her comments with some stern advice.  “If you are attacking our integrity than please look me straight in the eye and have a conversation.  Let us make sure everyone is working with facts when decisions are made.”

The public hearing allowed everyone in the room to speak who wanted to, including a couple of repeat speakers.  The zoom part of the meeting experienced technical difficulties and not all those wanting to speak via zoom were able to do so.  Therefore legal counsel for the city recommended a continuance to August 26th for just a zoom audience. 

City 2020-21 Funding Process Begins with $88M School Budget
As the East Providence City government readies its fiscal planning for Fiscal Year 2020-21, the School Committee received a tentative spending plan of $87,925,000 from Superintendent of Schools Kathryn Crowley last month.  Crowley and Finance Director Craig Enos told the committee that the amount requested is about what they asked for last year.  The projected budget is inclusive of hoped for revenue, grants and state and city funding.

Enos and Crowley said that the district is struggling to meet the needs of schools due to the unanticipated Covid 19 pandemic.  Crowley told the committee in the virtual zoom meeting that “School safety is the most important thing in our minds … for everyone.  I share the fears that you and all of us have,” Crowley said.

Enos stressed that their budget currently doesn’t “hurt any students,” but noted that any cuts would cause the school administration to return with a revised budget.  Crowley noted how state aid is contingent on the receipt of more Covid19 stimulus funding.  “This budget is very fair,” added Crowley.

School Start-up Still a Concern
Much of the August meeting was also about how students and teachers will return to class this fall.  “Sometimes we think we have a solution and then we have to step back,” said Superintendent Crowley.  Administrators have said that reopening schools is like a “puzzle with a lot of moving pieces.”

“Many residents are expressing their concerns about opening schools, and rightfully so.  As it stands, the district is preparing to offer a hybrid opening that allows students to be either in person, or do distance learning, all while following State guidelines,” said school board member at large, Joel Monteiro.  “Our administration is obligated to meet the State’s directive. I can’t say enough about how well they’re following the State, but also providing the safest possible environment.  As of now, the Governor has school opening September 14, 2020. She has this opening being in-person or hybrid. We currently have over 40% of our students choosing distance learning, and our district is preparing for that.  The high school, under the staggered schedule, would have roughly 1/4 of its student body in the building at one time. That’s a testament to the work the administration is doing,” added Monteiro.  As of this writing, some 2000 East Providence families have opted to begin the school year by “distance Learning.”

EPHS to get New Principal:
Veteran school administrator Shani Wallace has retired in mid-August as high school Principal.  Wallace has worked in East Providence for about 28 years.  Initially a teacher at Martin Middle School, Wallace was a House Leader and Assistant Principal at Martin and then worked at the high school.  The district is leading a search for a new high school Principal.  Wallace’s retirement was effective immediately.

New EPHS Still on Track and Under Budget:
As reported in this paper previously, the state-of-the-art new East Providence High School remains on schedule both physically and fiscally.  Building committee chairman Joel Monteiro said that the new building “will be some 33% more energy efficient.”  Monteiro pointed out that the building is starting to take shape with interior wall construction and exterior construction.   the East Providence School Committee accepted the recommendation of the building committee 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.

Ward Three City Councilman and former School Committee member Nathan Cahoon co-chaired the building committee with At-Large School Committee member Joel Monteiro.  “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 and Monteiro added.

American Wind Week Proclaimed in August:
The Mayor’s office issued a proclamation last month as the City seeks to embrace ‘wind energy.’  “Our community has recognized the impact and benefits of wind energy in Rhode Island and we look forward to seeing further development of wind energy here in the state,” Mayor DaSilva said.  Wind energy is the largest provider of renewable energy in the country. The state of Rhode Island has contributed to renewable energy in the nation by providing a home to 22 renewable energy wind projects with two added wind-related manufacturing facilities. Wind developments in the state have generated 500 jobs for Rhode Islanders. It has also generated enough electricity to power more than 20,000 homes and has created $380 million in total capital investments since 2006.

“The city of East Providence has recognized the importance of wind energy and its effects both locally and nationally. The city of East Providence has always been, and will continue to be, a willing partner and participant in seeking and considering potential means of alternative energy resources,” said the Mayor’s statement.

East Providence Fire to receive $700,000 in Grants for equipment:
The Rhode Island congressional delegation has issued a statement in which U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and Congressmen Jim Langevin and David Cicilline announced $3,884,710 in new federal funding for seventeen fire departments across the state.  The delegation says the cities, towns, and fire districts are receiving federal funds to purchase vital equipment, including fire hoses, trucks, high-tech breathing equipment, and personal protective equipment (PPE).

The federal funds are made available through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program and will help local fire departments prioritize operations and safety during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

“These federal grants will help firefighters across the state enhance public safety and protect themselves as they can continue to serve and perform their essential work,” said Senator Reed.

“Our firefighters put their lives on the line to keep us safe. This federal funding will help provide the tools they need to protect themselves and all Rhode Islanders. Congratulations to the departments for winning these grants,” said Senator Whitehouse.  East Providence will receive $691,336.36 for mobile radios and firefighter breathing apparatus.

Mayor appoints members to new Community Advisory Board:
Several East Providence residents were appointed and officially sworn in as board members of the newly-formed Mayor’s Community Advisory Board.  The board, which was created by Mayor Bob DaSilva in an effort to bring varying racial and ethnic backgrounds with differing views together, held its first meeting on Wednesday, August 12, 2020.

The board, overseen by Municipal Integrity Officer Elmer Pina, was created to promote communication between communities within the city and the administration, to reduce systemic racism and bigotry and to promote the values of diversity and inclusivity within East Providence.

“It is time for change in East Providence and I know this group of diverse and talented individuals will work tirelessly to implement necessary change to our city as it relates to inclusion.

The board, which meets on a monthly basis, consists of 17 East Providence residents from a diverse background within the community including: Christine Alves, Rachel Braga, Pamelia Byrd, Keith Cabral, Tatiana DosSantos, Maryann Fonseca, Elizabeth Fox, Rodrigo Pimentel,  Christopher Francesconi, Cendhi Arias Henry, Marlon Henry, Noele Hosley, Patrick Kelly,  Krista Moravec, Michelle Nuey, David Rangel and Onna Moniz – John.

East Providence Ward 1 Democratic City Committee Endorses
The East Providence Ward 1 Democratic City Committee released a public statement last month:   “The Ward 1 Democratic City Committee endorses and supports candidates for the upcoming September 8th primary and the November 3rd elections.  The committee voted unanimously to endorse Charlie Tsonos for re-election to the East Providence School Committee.  Mr. Tsonos is a lifelong resident and small business owner in East Providence.  Charlie served in the U.S. Army for 28 years retiring as a Lt. Colonel. A current member of the East Providence School Committee, Mr. Tsonos has served on this governing body for a total of 8 years. Mr. Tsonos is presently chairman of this body.  He is personally committed to the health and welfare of our children’s education and constantly fights to enhance their educational opportunities. His strong belief in the value of public education is evidenced by the fact that he, all his four children, and his grandchild have all attended the East Providence public schools.

The committee also voted unanimously to support Val Lawson for re-election to the Senate District 14. Val is a teacher at East Providence High School. As a Senator she has worked hard to support women’s equal pay for equal work. She sponsored legislation for life saving measures for drug impaired students in school and financial aid for families with children stricken with catastrophic illnesses. Currently, she is sponsoring minimum staffing numbers to assure that our nursing homes are well equipped to handle the needs of all their residents in this time of need.

The committee also voted unanimously to support Senator William J. Conley for re-election to Senate District 18. Billy is an attorney who is also chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, where major financial decisions are made that significantly impact our city and state. He is a strong advocate for increased financing for public schools, works diligently for the rights of public employees and working families. He works tirelessly to protect economic fairness and financial equity.

The committee also voted unanimously to support Representative Katherine Kazarian for re-election to the Rhode Island House of Representatives district 63.  Katherine worked to help secure funding for our new East Providence High School, co-sponsored gun safety legislation, supported extending home health care for seniors, and a successful effort to reduce car taxes. She has also worked to reduce the tax burden on small businesses. Recently she has supported eliminating the waiting period for unemployment benefits and prohibiting utility shutoffs during these difficult times.  The Ward 1 Committee urges all registered voters to vote in the upcoming September 8th primary and the November 3rd elections.”

Weaver Library Farmers Market open
The Weaver Library Farmers Market will be open from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursdays, offering fresh food and live music for a pleasant, lively, outdoor shopping experience. Local farmers and producers will be selling vegetables, eggs, baked goods, honey, beeswax candles, cheese, fish, salsas, jams and more. Come and see the local bounty of summer and meet new vendors too. The public is encouraged to stop by the Market Table for Sacred Cow Granola, Rhed’s Hot Sauce, Hilly’s Soaps, Market bags and beautiful veggie-themed masks selling for only $2. One of our favorite local musicians, Rumford’s Justin Marra, returns to the Market and will be performing tunes in a blend of Americana, Folk, Blues and Rock.

The Weaver Library Farmers Market welcomes customers with SNAP/EBT, WIC, Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Program coupons and credit or debit cards. Thanks to a grant from Farm Fresh RI, SNAP customers get a FREE dollar in Bonus Bucks for fruits and vegetables for every dollar swiped.

The Market remains committed to precautions to avoid the spread of COVID-19/Coronavirus. Everyone must wear a mask. The market has one entrance and exit. Physical distancing is a must, especially while in line. Sanitizer is available at the Market Table and the SNAP/EBT Table. No eating while at the market.

For more information about the Weaver Library Farmers Market, please contact Joyce May at 401-434-2453 / jmay@eastprovidenceri.gov. Also, visit the Market Facebook https://www.facebook.com/weaverlibraryfarmersmarket.

Comments

No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment
Share!
Truly local news delivered to every home in town