EAST PROVIDENCE — Having had three of its previous four meetings this calendar year canceled due to inclement weather, the East Providence City Council certainly made up for lost time during a special session held Wednesday night, February 26, in the City Hall Chamber, a three-and-a-half hour marathon meeting harkening back to forums of the past.
Besides a long discussion on the operational status of the East Bay Tavern located on Lyon Avenue, a somewhat disjointed look at the proposed ballot initiative changing the city to a mayoral form of government and an updated presentation by City Planner Jeanne Boyle about economic development, several of the other items on the agenda were addressed at a brisk pace.
Among the more notable included an announcement that the Council voted by a 4-1 count in executive session authorizing City Solicitor Tim Chapman to negotiate a purchase and sales agreement with the Rhode Island State Association of Firefighters for the purchase of the former Fuller Library located on 260 Dover Ave. The property was last appraised at $309,000, the land alone being $79,100.
The Council unanimously authorized the Carousel Commission to move forward with a plan to install and operate a train ride on the grounds of the Looff Carousel.
“Durfee’s Depot,” as it is referred to in the proposal would include a 600-foot x 4-foot oval set of tracks constructed in the rear of the Carousel. The project also includes the construction of the depot and huts expected to be rented for retail use during the season of operation.
No taxpayer money would be required. The project would be paid for through private donations and would not only be self-sufficient but its profits would also augment costs of maintaining and operating the famed Carousel. The Commission must next seek approval from the Rhode Island Historic Preservation and Heritage Society to go ahead with its plans.
Acting City Manager Paul Lemont recommended the Council approve a bid from Tasca Ford in Cranston to lease seven new trucks for the Public Works Department. Tasca’s offer of $220,678 was the lowest of four bids received. Five Ford F250s ($122,230) and two Ford F550s ($98,448) will be leased from Tasca through Webster Bank.
Also from Mr. Lemont, the manager said he recently hired three new police cadets and expects to add a fourth in short order. The public safety hires join the 17 firefighters who entered the academy in January. Both moves were made to bring the police and fire departments up to near full capacity and relieve the city of burdening over-time costs, Mr. Lemont said.
In addition, he noted all city employees who use cell phones recently received upgraded models, that all police cruisers are now equipped with laptop computers and that building permits will soon be available on-line.
East Providence Police Lieutenant Raymond Blinn, speaking on behalf of International Brotherhood of Police Officers Local 569, publicly inquired about the standing of Chief Joseph Tavares with a series of rhetorical questions in regard to complaints made by the latter to the former Budget Commission and investigated by the Rhode Island State Police.
Lt. Blinn also asked about the chief’s human rights complaint filed against the city and how the chief could continue to work in what the latter alleged in the filing of a “hostile workplace.” His questions and comments went by without a response from the Council or the chief sitting in the audience.
Rumford resident, East Providence High School teacher and union president Valerie Lawson’s nomination by Mayor Briden to the city’s housing authority was the only one of 14 appointments not to be approved by the Council. Mr. Briden and Mrs. Rossi voted for her appointment while Messrs. Rose and Cunha along with Mrs. Capobianco voted against. It should be noted the 13 other appointments were approved by unanimous 5-0 votes.
The Council heard from a representative of Red Flex Corporations, a company that sells and maintains traffic cameras, about the possibility of installing the devices at some of the city’s busy intersections. Chief Tavares said the thought behind installing the cameras was not to raise revenue through tickets, but to condition motorists not to speed or ignore traffic signs and to improve the overall safety of the city’s streets.
The next Council meeting takes place Tuesday evening, March 4, in the City Hall Chamber. The public portion starts at 7:30 p.m.