EAST PROVIDENCE — Quick and to the point, the East Providence Budget Commission met for just about an hour Thursday afternoon, June 14, in Room 306 of City Hall.
After hearing the litany of non-compliance and inaction in regards to the findings of the annual city-wide audit for 2011 conducted by Bacon & Company at its last gathering on May 31, the Commission this Thursday took swift action.
The state-appointed body agreed to propose a new ordinance that would require both the City Manager and the Superintendent of Schools to prepare and present a written response to the City Council and School Committee, respectively, within 45 days.
Though it is unrealistic to believe any and all concerns raised in future audits can be corrected during that span, the Commission feels it important for the City Manager and Superintendent to inform their respective overseers of their thoughts and plans of action on those matters in a timely manner.
City Hall business
After getting their submissions in order following a couple of missteps at the May 31 meeting, Public Works Director Steve Coutu and City Clerk Kim Casci each had their offerings approved by the Commission.
Mr. Coutu submitted a request to go out for bid for City Hall Sprinklers and Fire Alarm upgrades. That, however, was tabled for further exploration.
He received approval for a request to use $200,000 currently budgeted for the project to design Water Distribution System improvements. In addition, Mr. Coutu got the go-ahead to use state-grant money toward efficiency improvements to the city’s Energy Management Project.
Ms. Casci along with City Informational Technology Director Kelly Ahrens sought approval from the Commission to renew for five years a contract with ACS Enterprise Solutions, which hosts the city’s land evidence (deeds, maps, etc.) processing system.
One of the Commission’s concerns on the matter was the automatic roll-over clause in the city’s contract with ACS. To counter that, the Commission instituted a new policy which calls for a review of expiring contracts at 90 days before they’re scheduled to end or continue.
The Commission saw the first draft of the city’s revised Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action Policy, which hadn’t been fully updated since being instituted in the early 1970s.
The Commission, likewise, saw the first draft of a revised Cell Phone Use Policy for city employees. Workers are strongly discouraged from using the city-issued phones for personal use. If they do, they must reimburse the city at a rate of 15 cents a minute.
Interim School Superintendent Edward Daft was granted the authority by the Commission to recall Assistant Principal Cherie Guerra back to work following the recent resignation of former Martin Middle School Principal Glenn Piros. Mr. Piros is leaving his position locally for one in Florida.
Though it wasn’t on the docket, the topic of proposed contractual bonuses/raises for several School Department administrators was brought up by Ward 2 Councilman and Commission member Bruce Rogers.
Councilman Rogers asked Commission Chairman Michael O’Keefe why the request from Mr. Daft was not on the meeting agenda. Mr. O’Keefe answered, saying the Commission had yet to be provided with all the material in requested on the matter.
Mr. O’Keefe then jokingly asked if Councilman Rogers was “anxious” to the pay out the raises. The latter replied he was “anxious not to” pay them.
Mr. O’Keefe, however, explained to Councilman Rogers and his other cohorts that if everything is in order, then it’s likely the raises will have to be given because of the city’s contractual obligation with the employees.
School Department move
With all of the day’s scheduled business concluded, Mr. O’Keefe concluded the meeting by talking about the proposed move of the School Department from its location at Burnside Avenue to the third floor in City Hall.
“It’s not news,” Mr. O’Keefe said of the move, “and I know it incites some craziness and immature behavior by some,” but the Budget Commission supports the decision and it is the correct managerial move, especially with the position of Finance Director being consolidated to include both the city and school sides.
Mr. O’Keefe also noted the future sale of the Burnside-area property basically meant an entire city block will be available for purchase. East Providence should expect to make back the money it costs to move the School Department to City Hall and then some with the sale.
Mr. O’Keefe continued, saying he had faith in the abilities of Mr. Daft and City Manager Peter Graczykowski to make the move as easy and comfortable for all involved.
He concluded by saying the decision to bring the School Department to City Hall was an example of “how to best manage the city, not how best to make public employees happy.”
The move to City Hall also entails the building of a new parking lot in the wooded/grassy area behind the Weaver Library across Grove Avenue. Mr. Graczykowski said that process will be open to the public at all stages.
The next Budget Commission meeting takes place Thursday, June 28, in Room 306 of City Hall at 3 p.m.