EAST PROVIDENCE — Heeding the advice of past director Alba Curti as well as the insistence of community members, the East Providence City Council voted to reject the proposed consolidation of management positions for the Recreation Department and Senior Center. The Council made the move Tuesday night, Oct. 15, during its final meeting prior to the public hearing on the proposed Fiscal Year 2013-14 Budget next week.
City Manager Peter Graczykowski’s budget had a provision that would get rid of the Rec Department director position, moving oversight of the division to the auspices of the Senior Center director considering there is much overlap of duties. The change would have increased the Senior Center manager’s salary by $11,000 annually. The City Manager said the position, currently held by Rob Rock, would be opened up to applicants within the city to find a permanent consolidated director of what would be called the “Community Services” Department.
None of those aspects sat particularly well with Ms. Curti or some in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting, including Candy Seel, the former City Council candidate from Ward 3 who initiated the discussion with a lengthy, in-depth statement on the matter.
Ms. Curti, who retired as Rec director last year, told the Council the move was unwarranted for a couple of reasons. First, in her estimation a city the size of East Providence needs a separate Recreation director to fully meet the needs of the department and residents. She said it was also an important factor in how prospective businesses and home buyers view a municipality when looking to move. And second, changing the department name would create confusion for outsiders.
Also, Ms. Curti said the current staff, led by Diane Sullivan, is more than capable of continuing management of the Rec Department. Lastly, Ms. Curti said she the job required a significant amount of institutional knowledge to fulfill the duties required for the expanded position.
With the mention of specific employees by name and also due to union contracts, Mr. Graczykowski attempted to change the direction of the conversation while also trying to support his proposal. He said since Ms. Curti’s retirement he has had final say on Rec Department matters and that eventually the existing set-up will not be beneficial to the city.
“We’re not eliminating services or programs or employees,” Mr. Graczykowski said. “We’re not consolidating the operational aspects of the Rec Department. We’re really just combining the management of it and the Senior Center.”
Seemingly moved by the conversation, Council President and Ward 1 representative James Briden sought out Ms. Curti’s opinion on the proposed changes to which she responded, “I don’t think it needs to be done at this point and time. You would be saving the taxpayers $11,000. It’s not necessary to do this year.”
The only Councilor to speak in favor of the consolidation was Ward 4’s Chrissy Rossi, who noted her volunteerism at the Rec Center in Riverside. She said she was satisfied no programs or residents would be affected by the move.
Mrs. Rossi, however, wound up being the lone vote in favor of the proposal with Mr. Briden, Ward 2’s Helder Cunha, Ward 3’s Tommy Rose and At-Large Councilman Tracy Capobianco opting to reject the move, leaving it out of the final budget to be presented to residents at the public hearing on the document scheduled for Wednesday night, Oct. 23, in the City Hall Chamber at 7 o’clock.