EAST PROVIDENCE — Parking concerns on Taunton Avenue and who exactly has authority over the Looff Carousel were two of the topics up for discussion at the East Providence City Council meeting Tuesday night, Jan. 8, in the City Hall Chamber.
Both issues coming from the prodding of Ward 4 Councilor Chrissy Rossi, who did most of the talking during each debate, nothing definitive was decided Tuesday on either subject.
City Manager Peter Graczykowski tasked Public Works Director Steve Coutu with doing a traffic study in regard to the two-hour parking limit on spots along Taunton Avenue. The Council urged both men to return back to the next Council meeting in two weeks with possible solutions to the matter.
Through Mrs. Rossi, a business owner on the street where parking is limited for both he and his customers asked for temporary special dispensation from the ordinance.
East Providence Police Chief Joseph Tavares objected to the request, saying he would not allow the “integrity” of his department to be called into question, “but at the same time we will try to be reasonable.”
The chief added, “We can be flexible, but at some point we can’t satisfy everybody.”
The discussion about the Carousel also went unresolved. For several months, the East Providence Budget Commission has questioned whether the city or the Carousel Commission ultimately is responsible for the oversight of the historic venue.
Two things have been established recently, including Thursday. Under the original land agreement, the city owns the property while the Commission was established to operate the Carousel. How money is spent on the building and who controls it remains to be determined more thoroughly.
Mrs. Rossi asked Mr. Graczykowski to put the Carousel issue on the next Commission meeting docket, which would be for the Jan. 17 agenda.
Fire station updates
Acting East Providence Fire Department Chief Oscar Elmasian updated the Council of the status of the construction projects on Stations 1 and 4.
Chief Elmasian said the two contractors are “repricing” the projects in an effort to keep costs down. He said he hopes to have the figures back and the contracts updated in time to give them to Mr. Graczykowski within the next week.
At a preconstruction meeting, Chief Elmasian said he told the contractors they have a “small” amount of time to complete the projects due to federal grant requirements and that there is “no room” in the budget for cost overruns.
In addition, Stark Associates, the architects for the project, are overseeing construction on both stations. One EPPD battalion chief, with input from the captains of each station, will work with representatives from Stark and report directly to the chief.
The Council authorized a change to the city’s annual street sweeping schedule, which should come at no additional expense. All streets and municipal parking lots will now be swept twice a year instead of once and main roadways will be swept three times a year rather than twice.
Mr. Coutu said of the matter, “The extra costs are somewhat marginal and should be able to be absorbed in the current budget.”
A recent attempt by the ChoruS of East Providence to rent the East Providence High School Auditorium for its annual holiday performance was back up for discussion Thursday.
The ChoruS opted not to use the facility as costs, per the School Department’s rental guidelines, would have reached over $2,000. A rental fee of $85 per hour for 12 hours came with a price tag of $1,020. A separate $300 charge would have been needed for a lighting director.
Add in maintenance fees and the costs of state-mandated fire and police protection and the amount became exorbitant to the local group, who instead opted to use the nearby Seekonk High School Auditorium for a substantially smaller fee.
Ward 3 Councilman Thomas Rose has been the most vocal on the topic, saying he had a “huge” problem with the fee scale for city organizations. Mr. Graczykowski said he would bring the situation to the attention of Interim School Superintendent Dr. John DeGoes, whose department has authority over all school building policies.
Mr. Graczykowski told the Council the recently shuttered Rumford and Fuller Library branches are expected to be permanently closed over the next week.
Neither building has been operating for several months, however books and other inventory remains in each. According to Mr. Graczykowski, City Facilities Manager Ed Catelli said both buildings should be cleared and closed for good in short order.