EAST PROVIDENCE — At its meeting Thursday, Feb. 14, the East Providence Budget Commission finally backed funding for needed repairs of the Looff Carousel in Riverside, but put a hold bringing back live streaming of municipal meetings, two issues at the fore of the recent City Council agenda.
The Council held a special meeting earlier in the week to make sure the matters were up for discussion on the Commission docket Thursday, advocating for both by consensus 5-0 votes.
The Budget Commission, having concerns over the status of Carousel employees and hiring practices resolved to its satisfaction, quickly agreed to allow a request by the Planning Department, which oversees care of the landmark, to release additional funds upwards of $90,000 to repair “windows, doors and cladding.” The money for the project comes from the Carousel Commission’s restoration account.
The process began in the fall of last year. The matter of repairs has taken on greater urgency with the impending seasonal re-opening of the Carousel slated for Easter weekend in late March.
Also as part of its meeting earlier in the week, the City Council had City Solicitor Timothy Chapman write an opinion on all matters surrounding the carousel.
Mr. Chapman recommended the Carousel Commission close all its existing monetary accounts and create one trust fund. He also wrote the Carousel Commission should work with the City Finance Director annually to form a spending budget. In addition, he was of the opinion the Carousel Commission must answer to the highest authority in the city before making any decisions. Usually that would mean gaining approval from the City Council, but currently it means making its requests of the Budget Commission.
As for the Budget Commission, its qualms with the Carousel operations had much to do with the oversight of its employees. Mr. Chapman wrote they are under the jurisdiction of the city. With that in mind, hiring practices must follow those used to fill all municipal positions. The jobs will be advertised, recommended and filled by the city Human Resources department with final approval given by either the Budget Commission or the City Council, whichever has ultimate authority.
The return of live streaming of Council and School Committee meetings was also on the early-week agenda of the former, but it did not enjoy the same swift approval from the Budget Commission as did the Carousel matter.
The Council accepted the advice of City Clerk Kim Casci and City Information Technology Director Kelly Aherns that bringing back live streaming could be viewed as part of a state law mandating the use of 10 percent of annual recording fees for preservation or technological improvements. Some $6,000 of those monies would be aimed towards restoring streaming, which ended via budget cuts about a year ago.
The Commission, however, did not accept that opinion so quickly. They questioned why Ms. Casci did not use the state mandate position when asked to makes cuts in her department last year and if the language existed in the statute why video streaming in the past had been paid for out of the Clerk office’s general fund.
City Manager and Commission member Peter Graczykowski, who ran Thursday’s meeting in the predetermined absence of Chairman Diane Brennan, ended the discussion by asking all parties involved to bring back more details on the matter and be ready to present the results to the Commission at its next meeting on Feb. 28.