East Providence City Council passes resolutions advocating return of streaming, carousel fixes

Steven Shuman and daughter, Calico, 2, play on a carousel horse.

EAST PROVIDENCE — As expected, the East Providence City Council unanimously passed a resolution aimed at restoring the live video streaming of its meetings and those of the School Committee while also supporting measures directed towards repair and finances of the Looff Carousel. The Council did so at a special session held Monday night, Feb. 11, in the City Hall Chamber.

The need to call the special forum was due to the urgency of both matters so as to get each on the docket of the next East Providence Budget Commission meeting Thursday afternoon, Feb. 14. The Commission has final approval on these and all spending issues.

By a 5-0 vote, the Council approved a recommendation from City Clerk Kim Casci and Information Technology Director Kelly Aherns to bring back live, on-line streaming of municipal meetings.

Ms. Casci told the Council she and Ms. Aherns received three proposals from various companies before settling on the one offered by Clerkbase, which currently serves as the database supplier for the city.

Clerkbase’s offer costs $6,000 per year. The first year includes a $1,000 installation fee.

“The IT director and I both agree Clerkbase is the best option,” Ms. Casci said Monday night. “It’s not the cheapest, but the city has had a contract with them and they’re locally based (in Cranston).”

Ms. Casci explained the bid from the firm of IQM2 wasn’t acceptable because it is located in N.Y. and she has had difficulties communicating with the company in the past. The offer by Vimeo, while significantly cheaper than either of the other two, did not include live streaming. Ms. Casci noted it was “IT intensive” and would divert daily resources to make up for the lack of the program’s built-in capabilities.

In backing Ms. Casci’s recommendation, City Manager Peter Graczykowski also noted the price tag vs. labor required.

“Even though the cost (of Clerkbase) is fairly high, much less money would be spent by the city compared to if we needed to allocate (workers’) time to perform these tasks,” Mr. Graczykowski.

The money to pay for live streaming would come from income the Clerk’s office receives from fees paid to access city records. State law mandates cities and towns put 10 percent of those fees received towards record preservation and/or technological upgrades. Both Ms. Casci and Mr. Graczykowski said live streaming fits into the latter category.

East Providence municipal meetings haven’t been streamed on-line for over a year when the Budget Commission asked for each department to cut upwards of 30 percent from their respective expenditures.

Said Ward 3 Councilman Thomas Rose in supporting the resolution, “This is something the Council has been lacking for a year…We need this. It’s not an option. It’s important to the transparency of city government.”

If approved by the Budget Commission, Ms. Casci said live streaming could once again be available as soon as the first Council meeting in March, Tuesday the fifth.

While live streaming was deemed important, the condition of the Looff Carousel appears to be a much more pressing issue.

The relative weak state of some of the landmark’s stained glass windows requires immediate attention, City Planning Director Jeanne Boyle told the Council Monday.

“Time is of the essence,” Ms. Boyle said. “The Carousel is a historical gem. And the nature of the carpentry work needed can not afford any longer of a delay.”

The Council, Tuesday, also unanimously approved three Request For Proposals (RFPs) regarding the Carousel; one each for carpentry work, painting and the hiring of an accountant by the Carousel Commission to oversee its financial matters.

The latter has drawn the most attention from the Budget Commission, which questioned how the Carousel Commission handled its books and who exactly was ultimately responsible for its care and employees.

City Solicitor Timothy Chapman presented the Council with an in-depth opinion on all pertinent topics.

Mr. Chapman recommended the Carousel Commission set up a new trust fund where all of its monies would be placed. In addition, the Carousel Commission should formulate a yearly budget, working closely with the city finance director. He also noted employees at the Carousel are the responsibility of the city. Those part-time or seasonal employees do not receive benefits, but do get workers compensation protection.

When asked if he was confident the concerns of the Budget Commission were have been addressed, Council President and Budget Commission member James Briden said he was. He also noted Mr. Chapman will be on hand for Thursday’s meeting to answer any questions the Budget Commission may have.

“Tim reviewed all of the issues and will be present at the Budget Commission meeting Thursday,” said Mr. Briden, who is entering his fourth month as the Council’s representative on the Budget Commission.

Mr. Briden added, “He’ll address any concerns the Commission may have and I will also be there advocating for the Commission to get the RFPs out, so we can get moving on these projects.”

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