EAST PROVIDENCE — The readers of The East Providence Post’s page at eastbayri.com spoke with their mouses and touch pads over the last 12 months, displaying varied interests as one might expect on topics of note throughout 2013.
Untimely and sad deaths of two residents were among the list of most viewed stories from January to December. Others receiving interest dealt mostly with crime and punishment matters, though one involved very positive national exposure a local business received.
Overall at the site, which includes offerings from the seven weekly titles owned by East Bay Newspapers as well as its Life section, the suicide of an elderly woman by jumping off the Mt. Hope Bridge in January received the most views with 18,302. Stories chronicling the unseemly situation regarding brothers charged with child molestation in Bristol were second (9,809) and third (8,806).
The top East Providence story, the death of Christiano Tré Barbosa, Jr., ranked fourth overall at eastbayri.com with nearly 8,000 page views.
The reader’s choices of the top 10 most important stories of 2013 are as follows:
1. East Providence teen dies in Bryant University area car accident
Mr. Barbosa, a 2013 East Providence High School graduate, died as a result of a single-car accident early Thursday morning, Oct. 24, on the Bryant University campus in Smithfield.
Mr. Barbosa was one of five Bryant students in the vehicle at the time it careened into a tree on Physical Road at approximately 1 a.m., according Smithfield Police.
Mr. Barbosa was the most seriously injured of the young people. He was air-lifted to Rhode Island Hospital where he was later pronounced dead from the injuries he suffered. The four other students were treated for various injuries and each was released.
7,700 page views
2. NEASC affirms decision to place East Providence High School on probation
The New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) affirmed its decision to place East Providence High School on probationary status, doing so in a letter penned to principal Janet Sheehan and submitted by Superintendent Kim Mercer to the School Committee at its meeting Tuesday night, Dec. 10.
Mrs. Mercer, who read the NEASC letter into the record, said she was “a little disappointed in the response, but I do understand.”
EPHS has been on “warning” status for the last five years, ever since a group representing NEASC visited the facility for a 10-year accreditation review back in early 2008.
5,800 page views
3. ‘Tackling trafficking’: East Providence Police Vice Unit takes down drug dealers in ‘Operation Blindside’
East Providence Police Sergeant Diogo Mello and members of the department’s Vice Unit gave The Post an “all-access” look at what it takes to interdict the local drug scene.
The unit worked the undercover case, which it dubbed ‘Operation Blindside’ with a nod to the football season, for over six months. The efforts of the officers culminated with over two dozen arrests.
5,200 page views
4. State Police are in fact taking a regular tour of duty in East Providence
The curious case of what many deemed an unprecedented Rhode Island State Police presence in the city took place in late August.
The Staties were taking a regular patrol and conducting normal law enforcement activities including traffic stops in the city, which Superintendent Colonel Steven O’Donnell would later say was part of his department’s effort to curb drunk driving around the Labor Day holiday.
EPPD Chief Joseph Tavares disputed claims he requested the State Police presence. Events eventually led to terse email and in-person exchanges between Col. O’Donnell and then-City Manager Peter Graczykowski.
2,400 page views
5. East Providence’s Italian Corner gets Fieri, Food Network exposure
Though it was originally posted following its debut broadcast back in late 2012, the Italian Corner Deli’s appearance on on Guy Fieri’s hit Food Network television program “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” still ranked among the most well-received for the last 12 months.
The story proved an example of the power of publicity as well as how the internet works. The first version of the post followed the Italian Corner’s segment that debuted back on Oct. 15, 2012 during the episode entitled “Handcrafted” and was well received at the time. However, after periodic re-airings of “Diners” throughout 2013, it continued to gain hits and maintain traction.
The Italian Corner, owned by Osvaldo Pirro, along with his brother-in-law, chef and store manager Massimo Dellolio, got the full “Fieri” treatment with two segments showing off its cuisine. And there’s no doubt the exposure likely helped the already success local business that much more prosperous.
2,200 page views
6. East Providence teen Barbosa remembered as fine young man, student
Again, the reaction to the passing of young Mr. Barbosa drew great interest from the readers. The son of former School Committee member Shannon Barbosa, was remembered as a “really nice kid, a smart kid” by EPHS Advanced Placement History teacher Gregg Amore.
EPHS Science teacher and boys’ volleyball coach for the Townies Keith Martinous, for whom Mr. Barbosa played, echoed the sentiments of his colleague, saying “Chris was an extremely upbeat and emotional player. He brought a lot of heart to the team.”
Mr. Barbosa was also a member of the EPHS swim team.
“It’s a terrible thing,” Mr. Amore concluded, noting this is the fifth former EPHS he’s known personally to have past during his time as a teacher. “I was shaken up by it. I found out during a class, and I had to compose myself.”
2,100 page views
7. East Providence Police identify fatality in accident on Bullocks Point Avenue
The sudden death of a city woman in mid-November drew great interest.
Laurie Rozen, 53, of 25 Bullocks Point Ave., was struck and killed on Bullocks Point Avenue, between Willett and Pawtucket Avenues. Witnesses said she ran into oncoming traffic and was hit by a 2003 Nissan Altima.
The operator of the striking vehicle, a 39-year-old female also from East Providence, had been traveling north on Bullocks Point Avenue in the left lane when she suddenly saw Ms. Rozen standing in her lane of travel, possibly attempting to cross the road, at which point the collision occurred. No charges were filed in the case.
1,985 page views
8. East Providence Fire Department accepts registrations, recruitment period begins
The East Providence Fire Department’s recruitment of 12 new firefighters ranked among the top stories of 2013. The 12 probationary hires would bring the department close to full employment levels and help end a long practice of paying current firefighters significant amounts of overtime.
“This is the first step in a long process,” EPFD Chief Oscar Elmasian said at the time. “We hope to fill 12 spots. We’re going to start with a recruitment process. Then there’s applications. The recruits will have to take a written test. They’ll be an oral interview and background checks. Those we accept will then have to go through the (fire training) city school for between 13 and 16 weeks. It’s a long process.”
The funds to pay for the hires would come from the savings the department would get from the reduction in overtime pay as well as potential Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grants from the federal government. The “probies” are expected to begin the academy shortly with actual deployment to active duty by May of 2014.
1,975 page views
9. Barrington woman arrested for making threats at East Providence High School
A Barrington resident with a history of incidents in the city turned herself into police Wednesday morning, Jan. 30, after she allegedly made a threat of gun violence at East Providence High School two days earlier.
After a brief investigation, a warrant was issued Cynthia Balcewicz’s arrest. She turned herself in at the East Providence Department headquarters early Wednesday. She pleaded not guilty in Sixth District Court later that same day.
The incident began innocently enough it appears with Ms. Balcewicz’s son calling her to say he was sick and to ask to be picked up from school. He did so from his cell phone, which is against school policy. A student is required to notify the school nurse of any illness. The nurse then calls the parent.
Notified of the transgression of school rules, Ms. Balcewicz became upset and “stormed” out, according to a report made by EPPD School Resource Officer Doug Borden. As she left the building, Ms. Balcewicz walked past two school aides and allegedly said she should come back and “shoot up the school.” The aides immediately went to Officer Borden to report the incident. He began the investigation by taking statements from each and reviewing security video where he was able to establish Ms. Balcewicz’s presence in the building and identify her.
It was not the first time Ms. Balcewicz has run afoul of local authorities. She was charged by the EPPD with possession of a firearm back in 2001 after her apartment was raided for drugs. She has also been a party to, but not charged, in a number of events since. City officials are also looking into how Ms. Balcewicz’s son goes to EPHS while she currently lists her residence in Barrington.
1,950 page views
10. ‘Operation Blindside’ mugshots photo
The compilation of photographs taken of the those arrested during the East Providence Police’s “Operation Blindside,” which accompanied the story on the sting received quite a few hits.
1,885 page views
Honorable Mention. East Providence Police Chief Tavares put on administrative leave, Parella takes top spot
The long-standing drama involving the the city’s “top cop” and the rank-and-file took one of its more dramatic turns in April when just after the state-appointed Budget Commission returned day-to-day operations of East Providence back to local administrators, City Manager Graczykowski placed the chief on leave pending an investigation into complaints from with the department. Major Christopher Parella was tabbed as the interim chief.
The move backfired on Mr. Graczykowski as State Director of Finance Rosemary Booth Gallogly immediately reinstated the Commission. Following its own investigation, Chief Tavares was reinstated about a month later. Major Parella returned to his role as second in command.
The state appointees would remain in place through the summer, eventually hiring Paul Luba to continue oversight of the city before it once more disbanded. The situation and his actions in it served as one of the reasons for Mr. Graczykowski’s dismissal by the City Council in November. Former City Manager Pail Lemont was hired on an acting basis, where he remains as of the New Year.
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