EAST PROVIDENCE — The long-standing issues pertaining to repairs at the Looff Carousel in Riverside and the live streaming of meetings was addressed briefly at the East Providence City Council meeting Tuesday night, Feb. 5, with an eye towards a special session to be held early next week.
Ward 1 representative and Council President James Briden gave a short update to his peers Tuesday on the pressing matters, saying he has been working on both for quite some time and believes he has a resolution to each.
Mr. Briden said he has worked with new City Solicitor Timothy Chapman on determining who has ultimate responsibility for maintenance of the carousel. He said an RFP (request for proposal) for its repair has been written and is ready to be issued.
Mr. Briden is also seeking Council consent for a resolution to bring back live streaming on the internet of both Council and School Committee meetings, which was cut out of last year’s fiscal budget. Mr. Briden said the streaming, which estimated to cost between $3,000 and $6,000, is an important aspect and something residents rely upon. Mr. Briden said he is working with City Solicitor Tim Chapman to determine if a RFP is needed to reactiviate the service.
In order for the issues to be formally approved in a timely manner by the Budget Commission, which is required, he requested a special session of the City Council convene on Monday evening, Feb. 11, at City Hall at 6 p.m.
Ward 3 Councilman Thomas Rose began discussions on two issues, the implementation of Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) in certain heavily trafficked city-owned buildings as well as the decline of support for local businesses.
Mr. Rose had previously asked if it were feasible to install ATMs in City Hall and other spots like the Senior Center for both convenience and as revenue generators. It could also save the city money on swiping fees it pays. Mr. Rose was told by City Manager Peter Gracyzkowski and Finance Director Malcolm Moore the plan has merit and should be looking into further.
In addition, Mr. Rose said he was disappointed to learn of Standard Hardware’s recent closure at its Taunton Avenue location, and noted it was “sad” to see another local business close its doors. He implored all residents to support local small businesses whenever possible and also requested the city also keep a portion of its purchases with retailers based in the city.
Ward 2 Councilman Helder Cunha discussed what he termed a “myriad” of complaints he’s received from residents about living standards in the city, specifically trash disposal and aging cars. Mr. Cunha noted areas in his precinct on streets such as Walnut, James and Vine where strewn trash was a constant problem. He said “trash is everywhere and it needs to be addressed.”
Mr. Cunha suggested some kind of “hotline” at be created at City Hall where residents, by name or anonymously, could file a complaint.
Mr. Graczykowski reminded the Council and the general public the city currently has a system in place similar to what Mr. Cunha proposed. It’s called the “Q Alert” system and can be called at 435-7722.
The city manager encouraged residents to use the system, saying the city does not regularly check problems and usually only finds about these types of situations when notified by concerned residents. He also said the city would be open to any needed changes or “additions to the repertoire” of the system.
Mr. Cunha also opened a discussion on street lights, introducing an expert in the field to discuss the possible savings the city can gain by changing its lighting from standard bulbs to more efficient and cost-effective LEDs (light-emitting diodes).
Mr. Rose and Mr. Briden signaled their strong support on the matter, which has been brought to the fore with the recent start of a street light reduction plan implemented by the Budget Commission.
Mr. Briden said “less lighting” for city streets wasn’t desirable and that any alternative plan that keeps as many lights as possible in service “should be a priority.”
Ward 4 Councilman Chrissy Rossi requested updates on receipt of Google asset forfeiture money to be put towards closing the gap in the police retirement plan as well as one on the new actuarial report regarding funding of the city’s Annual Retirement Contribution (ARC) to the pension fund.
Mr. Graczykowski noted the Google money, which is to be released by the U.S. Department of Justice, hasn’t yet been received. Mr. Moore told the Council with the Google money taken into consideration, the city’s yearly ARC payment should drop from roughly $8 million per year to less than $6 million or by approximately $2.5 million. He qualified those numbers as being estimates until the final actuarial report is complete.
Both Mr. Rose and Mrs. Rossi balked at a qualification for prospective candidates to have 60 college credits with an emphasis on criminal justice in order to apply for the East Providence Police Department. The Councilors said it limited the pool of possible candidates and asked the qualification be reviewed.
The Council reached a compromise agreement on proposal to change time allotted to park on certain portions of Taunton Avenue. At the behest of Councilman Cunha, the Council gave its initial approval to changing parking time from John Street to Russell Avenue on both sides from two to six hours between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.
The rest of Taunton Avenue parking would remain as it currently is with a two-hour limit between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. The changes will not take effect until new resolutions are drafted and approved by the Council and the minutes from its meeting are approved by the Budget Commission.
School Department move
The superintendent’s office and parts of the finance division are the last pieces of the School Department to complete its move from the former Burnside Avenue location to the third floor at City Hall, according to the city manager.
In response to a question from the public, Mr. Graczykowski told the Council the Planning Department is nearing completion of its move from the third floor to the second floor at City Hall, the last hurdle to clear to finish the overall changes in the building. He said it will ultimately cost less than $50,000 for the moves and some physical changes to City Hall to accommodate the influx of personnel.
Three appointments and two licenses were given initial approval by the Council Tuesday.
Joe Gibson was re-appointed as tree warden while Mark Tetreault and Lori Prew were appointed to traffic control positions.
A full privilege operating license was transferred to CMG East Providence doing business as Cilantro Mexican Grill on 430 Newport Ave. at the request of John Palmieiri, 142 Lancaster St., Providence. Also, Carl A. Winquist, 38 Mallard Cove Way, Barrington, was granted a license to operate as a private detective in the city.
It should be noted, the appointments and licenses do not take effect until the Budget Commission receives and formally approves the minutes of the City Council meeting.