November News Briefs
City Council Approves Start to Community/Rec Center Process
At an October 26th City Council meeting, the council unanimously passed a resolution which authorized Mayor Bob DaSilva to begin the “process of constructing a community recreation center.” The resolution doesn’t mandate “a shovel in the ground” right away but asks the city administration to present a revised plan for a facility which would include a municipal pool. “Like all resolutions, this can be amended according to the final proposal and funds available,” council President Bob Rodericks told the council. The resolution read as follows:
- the City of East Providence is a residential community of approximately 48 thousand residents; and
- the voters of East Providence have twice voted to go to a bond for a Recreation Center, and
- prior City Councils did not follow through on those two votes, and
- the city does not currently have an indoor recreation facility to adequately provide services to the residents, and
- the City Council and Mayor seek to work together to achieve this goal, and
“NOW BE IT RESOLVED that the City Council authorizes the Mayor to seek all possible funding sources to construct this facility. The facility shall include a full court gymnasium, fitness area for strength, cardio, and flexibility training as well as program rooms and an administrative office for the recreation department and an aquatic center.”
The proposed center still has hurdles to overcome as differences in project and scope still exist between the council and Mayor. However, progress has been made as the two sides have moved closer and the project now awaits an architect’s revised proposal. The Mayor has some $6.8 million to use, which is not enough to build the center. The two sides will work to find the balance needed.
The resolution passed on a 5-0 vote, but a few questions remain. Ward Two councilwoman Anna Sousa had concerns about the traffic intersection at Pawtucket and waterman Avenues. “I have reservations about the senior center grounds unless there are other things taken care of prior (to building). I have been asking for that left turn signal on to Waterman Avenue (from Pawtucket Ave),” said Sousa. Currently there is a left turn signal on Pawtucket Avenue heading south but not north bound. Rodericks asked Administration Director Napoleon Gonsalves to push the administration to persevere the city request to the state DOT for the signal change. Ward One councilman Frank Rego offered his support saying, “I’ve been aboard from day one on this and the pool.”
Also at the October 26th meeting, the council ratified the recently approved East Providence teacher’s contract. This is a relatively new charter provision which mandates that the city council approve all school contracts before they can take effect. The council voted unanimously to approve the contract. The vote had to take place before November 1st.
Mayor Bob DaSilva signs FY 23-24 Budget
Mayor Bob DaSilva has signed the fiscal year 2023-2024 budget ordinance as adopted by the East Providence City Council by a unanimous vote of 5-0 during the October 17, 2023 City Council meeting. “The $218,914,964 budget reflects tight fiscal management while also providing the highest level of city services that our East Providence residents expect. I would like to thank the Council for taking the time to review the proposed budget, which I believe was a sound and fiscally responsible proposal,” Mayor Bob DaSilva said. “For many council members it was their first budget process and I appreciate their diligence. “The City Council’s changes to the budget will pose some challenges in our next fiscal year, but our administration will do its best to ensure this funding continues to provide the highest level of services for our community,” DaSilva added.
“A municipal budget of $218,914,964 requires a lot of review and compromise,” added Council President Bob Rodericks. “The Council did its due diligence and went through this budget during public hearings and asked many questions of administration department heads. No budget anywhere is a one-sided spending plan. This budget involved eventual compromise on all sides and serves the best needs of our community,” added Rodericks. “It also provides required payments for the new high school and major renovations to Martin middle, Waddington and Riverside middle schools.”
The mayor’s proposed increase of $7.5M related to the following were kept in place by the East Providence City Council:
- A $1.5M increase of voter-approved debt services – Martin Middle and Waddington Elementary Schools
- A $3M increase for the School Department ($2M - City & $1M - School State Aid)
- A $500K increase for the statutorily required property revaluation assessment
- $1.2M increase for municipal salaries, contractual obligations and related benefits
- $300K in Refuse/Recycling Tipping Fees increase
- $400K Other Post-Employment Benefits (OPEB) increases per the City’s Actuarially required Contribution (ARC)
- $600K Firemen’s and Policemen’s Pension Fund increases to meet the City’s ARC
- Inflation/Increase of cost of goods and services including utilities such as electricity, heating and gas.
The Council’s amendments to the Mayor’s FY23-24 budget include:
- The transfer of other line items of $311,647 to debt services for Martin Middle School
- A transfer of $150,328 from the public safety communications overtime line to the regular salaries line.
The Council also made the following reductions:
- A reduction of $175,000 from the legal services line
- A reduction of $152,347 from the professional services line
- A reduction in capital of $3,000
In total, the final tax levy represents an increase of 3.5 percent over last year’s levy. The increase for individual property owners will be determined later in the year, prior to tax bills being mailed out. The City’s new fiscal year begins November 1st, tax bills will be mailed in May 2024.
City kicks off roadway and sidewalk improvement program
The City has kicked off its roadway and sidewalk improvement program with major support from the State of Rhode Island. East Providence received a $675,858 grant/match of 33 percent in state funds toward the project which consists of roadways, drainage, sidewalk and other public improvements. The funds were made available to the city after the city and state entered into an agreement through the Municipal Road and Bridge Program.
The Municipal Road Fund Program is administered by the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT). The program was created by Governor Dan McKee and enacted by the General Assembly in the 2024 Appropriation Act with a funding of $20 million from the State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) program.
The program provides funding to municipalities for the construction and maintenance of roads, sidewalks, and bridges.
Through a bidding process, which began in May of 2023, the city has entered into a $2.4 million contract with Pawtucket Hot Mix Asphalt to complete a number of roadway, drainage, sidewalk and other public improvements in the city. The East Providence City Council adopted the resolution to enter into the contract with Pawtucket Hot Mix Asphalt in August 2023 and an agreement was signed with the state in early September 2023.
“We are thankful to the Rhode Island General Assembly and Governor Dan McKee for making these funds available to be used for our city’s roads and sidewalks,” Mayor Bob DaSilva said. “There has been a concerted effort between our city’s Public Works and Planning Departments and our engineering division to apply for these matching funds – doing so eliminates the burden of cost to our property taxpayers. We always want the most and best for our residents.” Work is slated to begin next week (third week of October).
Streets to be paved, in no particular order:
Mayfair Dr, Bicknell Ave, Catlin Ave, Rosemere Dr, Almeida Way, J Medeiros Wy, Alice St, Sanford St, Henry St, Wayland St, Lyon Ave Warren to Mercer, 5th St @Mercer, Martin St, So Blossom St, Fenmoor St, Brown St Warren Ave to Brightridge Ave, Intervale Ave, Hawthorne Ave, Outlook Ave Brightridge Ave to Hawthorne Ave, Windhurst Ave, Plaza Drive, Sachem Rd, Legion Way S'ly to dead end, Holland Ave Legion Way to Harrington St, Becker Ave Legion Way to Willett Ave, Breeze Way Legion Way to Glenrose Dr, Rowena Dr Legion Way to Glenrose Dr, Goodall Pl, Dartmouth Ave, Florence St, Ea Knowlton St, Hartford Ave, Cozzens Ave Providence Ave to E'ly 200', Sunset Ave, Dorr Ave Read St to W'ly to End, Commercial Way Taunton Ave. to Southerly 900’.
R.I. Dept. of Education Releases RICAS Scores
The Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) released the final results of the 2023 Rhode Island Comprehensive Assessment System (RICAS). The RICAS assessment, first conducted in 2018, was administered to students from grades 3 through 8 in March through May. Statewide data shows that in 2023 compared to 2022, there was an increase in participation in both content areas, a second year of significant growth in math proficiency with an approximate 2.7 percentage point increase this year, and an increase in English Language Arts (ELA) of approximately 2 percentage points. A presentation of the results is available at RIDE.RI.GOV.
“The 2023 RICAS results show that Rhode Island schools continue to move in the right direction as we work to improve achievement and meet our 2030 goals with our Learn365RI initiative,” said Governor Dan McKee. “Our students can perform at high levels, and we must stay the course and make sure our school communities have the support and resources to thrive. I thank the teachers, school leaders, and families who have worked hard to ensure students recover academically and are on paths to success.”
“The recent assessment results indicate that while much work remains, our students took an important step in the right direction,” said House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi and Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio. “Continuing to improve the quality of our education system remains a top priority for the House and Senate. For Rhode Island to succeed, we need to ensure that all students get a world-class education that prepares them to thrive in the classroom and beyond. The legislature is committed to working with our partners to make sure that our state education system continues to make progress.”
In addition to RICAS, 2023 PSAT and SAT, Rhode Island Next Generation Science Assessment (NGSA), Dynamic Learning Maps (DLM), and the Rhode Island Assessing Comprehension and Communications in English State-To-State for English Learners (ACCESS) assessment results can be viewed online on RIDE’s Assessment Data Portal.
“Rhode Island is committed to improving student outcomes and the latest RICAS results show that with our focus on accelerating learning statewide, we are on the right track,” said Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green. “With a second consecutive year of significant growth in math and an increase in ELA proficiency, we’re seeing momentum as we approach pre-pandemic levels of achievement and participation. In line with the priorities and focus areas of the Learning, Equity & Accelerated Pathways (LEAP) Task Force and Governor McKee’s Learn365RI initiative, and in partnership with our school and community partners, we will continue to work to expand access to high-quality learning opportunities and bolster support for our school communities to continue our upward trajectory.”
“The 2023 RICAS results reflect the hard work, determination, and resiliency of our students and educators,” said Chair of the Council on Elementary and Secondary Education Patti DiCenso. “As we applaud the progress made, we must continue to address achievement gaps, eliminate disparities, and provide our students with the tools and support they need to excel academically.”
Mayor Proposes “Cultural Museum” at Hunts Mills site
Mayor DaSilva and members of the city planning department presented a plan to build a Cultural Arts Museum at the site of the historic Hunt’s Mills in Rumford. The session was held before a large crowd of residents at City Hall on October 16th. The comments were evenly split by the assembled residents with some in support and some against with others willing to hear more details. The proposal would allow for the East Providence Historical Society and the Black-American museum artifacts collected for decades by Onna Moniz John, to be housed at the new center. While many in attendance supported the proposal there was also opposition due to the location because of limited parking and overall capacity. Suggestions were made to house such a cultural museum elsewhere in the city. One vocal supporter of a Cultural Center at Hunts Mills is Nancy Moore, Preservation Chair of the East Providence Historical Society. Moore spoke often at the forum in support of the mayor’s proposal. “With 40 years under my belt at Hunt’s doing hands-on restoration, gardening and just enjoying the open space, I think it is now time for other groups to join the Historical Society and the Ten Mile River Group in the education of this City as to their stories,” Moore wrote to local media after the meeting. Moore did not opine on a specific building plan but did add, “The possibilities of teaching about history, ecology, conservation and gardening techniques, alongside the cultural pieces are too numerous to ignore.”
A revised plan will be forthcoming which will downsize the proposed building from two stories to one. Funding is hoped to come from grant sources, not the city budget. Mayor DaSilva said that his staff is listening to all comments made at the forum and is revising and modifying the original conception design for a continued presentation to the public.
House Majority Whip Kazarian of EP Honored
House Majority Whip Katherine S. Kazarian and Senate Judiciary Chairwoman Dawn Euer were honored by Common Cause RI last month with the organization’s “Excellence in Public Service Award” for their sponsorship of the “Let RI Vote Act” in 2022. The awards were presented at the 2023 Champions of Democracy Celebration and Annual Meeting held on October 19 in Pawtucket.
The Let RI Vote Act (2022-H 7100A, 2022-S 2007A) expands voter access while ensuring the integrity of Rhode Island elections. To accomplish these goals, the bill makes permanent several elections provisions put in place in 2020 to protect voters during the pandemic, including wider use of mail ballots, which helped result in a record number of Rhode Islanders casting votes that year.
“I am humbled by this recognition from Common Cause and I thank them for being tremendous partners in making the Let RI Vote Act law. These changes empower the most amount of Rhode Islanders to participate in the electoral process while providing safe and secure voting options for the residents of our state, ensuring that every voice is heard and every vote is counted,” said Whip Kazarian (D-Dist. 63, East Providence, Pawtucket).
Common Cause of Rhode Island is a nonpartisan organization whose mission is to promote representative democracy by ensuring open, ethical, accountable, effective government processes at local, state and national levels by educating and mobilizing the citizens of Rhode Island.
Senator Valerie Lawson of EP New Majority Whip
President of the Senate Dominick J. Ruggerio today announced leadership and staffing changes to be made official soon. The Senate President plans to appoint Senator Valarie J. Lawson as the next Senate Majority Whip. Senator Lawson currently serves as Deputy Majority Leader; Vice Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Rules, Government Ethics & Oversight; Secretary of the Senate Committee on Health & Human Services; and Secretary of the Senate Committee on Special Legislation & Veterans' Affairs. A Democrat representing District 14, East Providence, Senator Lawson was first elected to the Senate in 2018. She has been an active voice on a range of issues, including education, public health, protections for senior citizens, and the East Providence community.
“Senator Lawson is already a valued member of our leadership team, providing counsel on matters ranging from politics to policy. She has earned the respect and admiration of her colleagues in the Senate. I know that Val Lawson will make an exceptional Majority Whip,” said President Ruggerio.
City Celebrations Underway
Veteran’s day Ceremony
The City of East Providence is hosting its annual Veterans Day Ceremony to honor local veterans at the Garden of Flags at Veterans Memorial Park, on November 11th at 10 am. Veterans Day, observed annually on November 11, is a tribute to military veterans who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces. The East Providence Police & Fire Honor Guards will be present including the City’s honored guest, Jean Laidler Kesner, a World War II USMC Veteran, also other local veterans and their families, members of Veterans Inc., music by Bristol County Fifes & Drums will also be in attendance. Also there will be brief remarks from Governor Dan McKee, Secretary of State Gregg Amore, Treasurer James Diossa, Sen. Robert Britto and City Council President Bob Rodericks and others.
In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: "To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…"
City Council Offers Free Dinner for Area Veterans
The newly formed East Providence Veterans Advisory Committee and the City Council will sponsor a free dinner on November 9th from 5pm to 8pm at St. Martha’s church hall. The event and the advisory committee were organized by city Ward Four councilman Rick Lawson. “East Providence is home to many proud Veterans and our hope is to create an atmosphere of fellowship and foster communication so we can reach those who may need help as well as to inform and honor all Veterans,” said Lawson. The November 9th event will feature a full pasta dinner and fellowship gathering. All veterans and spouses are welcomed, said Lawson. “This is a show of appreciation for all who have or are serving,” added Lawson. “I thank my fellow council members and the community for their support of our veterans.”
City Council has 1st Harvest Festival
The City Council is hosting its first ever “Harvest Festival.” The event will be held on Sunday, November 12th from noon to 4 pm at Pierce Field. The event will be held in the open area near the splash pad. “There will be games, arts & crafts, music, food trucks and more. We hope you join us for Harvest Festival fun,” said event organizer Councilwoman Anna Sousa. Music provided by Kate and the Mongrels. “Join in as we gather and celebrate Autumn!”
City's Annual Tree Lighting/Holiday Celebration – Saturday, Dec. 2nd
The city’s annual tree lighting holiday celebration will be held from 4pm to 6pm on December 2nd, with a rain date of December 3rd. The annual event is held at City Hall.
This year the tree lighting will be lit in memory of East Providence residents who were lost due to COVID-19. East Providence Residents: If you lost a loved one to COVID-19, residents are invited to donate one holiday ornament in their memory to decorate the City's COVID-19 memorial tree outside of City Hall. Residents interested in placing an ornament on the memorial tree, should bring it to the Mayor's Office located at 145 Taunton Ave. (Third Floor) not later than 5:30 PM - November 30, 2023.
The event will feature:
- FOOD TRUCKS
- MEMORIAL ORNAMENTS
- HOT COCOA
- MUSIC & PERFORMANCES
- SANTA’s ARRIVAL
- TREATS FROM SANTA
Also, if you are a food or craft vendor and would like to feature/sell your products at the Holiday Celebration, please register at Mayorsoffice@eastprovidenceri.gov.
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