Commentary: Time to set the record straight on East Providence's Pond View recycling site
Apparently it is insufficient to work hard, play by the rules, risk capital, create jobs, pay taxes, be a responsible business operator and hope to enjoy a modest measure of success.
My name is Ken Foley. My wife, three sons, and I started Pond View in 1998 at 1 Dexter Road in Providence located in an I-3 zoned (heavy industry use). Pond View’s mandate was to operate in an environmentally conscious manner, to provide a cost competitive service, and to significantly reduce the amount of material destined to landfills. With the exception of the period that TLA-Pond View operated the facility (2008 to fall 2012 - bankruptcy), the Foley family has lived up to that mandate The aftermath of the TLA-Pond View failure left a 25,000 cubic yard pile of debris that my family has since cleaned up and has restored our property to its original condition.
While we operated the facility and most recently during the clean-up, we have been accused of everything from the decline in property values, a polluter and the cause of respiratory ailments, dust, snow-like particulates, soot, excessive noise and other incredulous, defamatory, and slanderous attacks. I am the most scrutinized individual in East Providence, if not the state, which I view partially as harassment and also as a vindication.
Our security cameras have recorded numerous trespassers on the property. An abutter has allowed other neighbors access to photograph our operations. City officials sit in police cruisers with decibel meters outside our entrance-way. Through out the clean-up phase, the R.I. Department of Environmental Management (DEM) has inspected the clean-up twice daily during the week and once on Saturday ( see DEM link below).
These individuals are objective, impartial and professional engineers that understand environmental science, regulation and law. Their inspections and reports include concerns for water run-off (and potential impacts to Omega Pond), dust, odors, hydrogen sulfide gas, and overall performance A sizable body of data, reports, documentation, inspections, photographs, (Ed Pimental – East Providence zoning officer; decibel readings) etc. has vindicated, exonerated and otherwise proven that Pond View and Foley operations, from day 1, have been responsible and law abiding.
The creation of a recent law by the general assembly designed specifically to close my company, which required a certificate of compliance from the zoning board as a condition of permitting, has given the City of East Providence the perceived ability to regulate beyond their purview of its authority (commerce and environmental regulations) and to erroneously (purposely I believe) interpret their own zoning by laws to satisfy a parochial, political vendetta. It was successful in putting TLA-Pond View out of business; however, had TLA the ability to wait, their patience would have been rewarded.
Once again, the City of East Providence lost, this time in Superior Court – August 2, 2013, whereby the court reversed the decision of the East Providence Zoning Board. This recent loss in court by the City of East Providence is part of a succession of losses against my family’s business, part of the vindication I mentioned earlier. Hundreds of thousands of tax payer dollars have been spent by the City of East Providence in court against my family’s business with the same outcome. As an inquisitive East Providence tax payer, one might ask what entity is in the right; The Foley business or the City of East Providence?
At the City of East Providence Council meeting of August 20, various opponents provided public comment, anecdotal, and unsubstantiated accusations regarding what my company has done to them without an ounce of proof, data, picture (in this age of cameras on phones, social media), cause and effect connection, etc. I am not insensitive to their concerns and health issues, particularly to the extent that my company is the cause. However, the causes are easily revealed. Instead of wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars on attorneys for the current political witch hunt, environmental monitoring can be purchased for several thousand dollars.
That suggestion has been made several times in the past with the same apparent belief that the facts might get in the way of opinion. Given the purpose of the meeting and public comment was to determine whether the City of East Providence should appeal the Superior Court Decision of August 2 to the State Supreme Court..mostly the testimony was questionably relevant. One proponent commenter outlined the City’s losses in court against my family, the wasted tax payer dollars and wondered from where the incompetence might originate: the City zoning office, the City’s hired attorneys or both? Good question. As one might expect, the Council voted 3-2 to spend hundreds of thousands more to appeal the decision to the State Supreme Court, while two very brave councilors declined to appeal and chose to be good stewards of tax payer dollars. I hope you re-elect them.
Could the Rhode Island DEM’s inspections, data, reports, environmental engineers, documentation have gotten it all wrong? Or could the Rhode Island judicial system having heard numerous cases and false claims against Pond View, be completely wrong? Or is it certain East Providence politicians that believe they are so correct in their vindictive pursuit of my family’s business? I believe there are certain arrogant, East Providence politicians that believe they are in a position to choose winners and losers and wastefully spend the tax payer’s dollars at a time when the economy is still slow (the reason for lower property values), vacancies are high, unemployment is high, taxes are high, and the message to business is. We are not open for business in East Providence and certain other small businesses may be at political risk.
I made the following offer to the City of East Providence a while ago, most recently at the City Council meeting of August 20, 2013, and I will reiterate it: while the 1,500 ton per day permit is pending in bankruptcy court and the appeal to the State Supreme Court has yet to occur, I will accept a negotiated 500 ton per day permit, enclose the recycling operation within a prescribed period of time, and provide a host fee to the City of East Providence of $1 per ton for all materials that travel over the scale. Prior to the sale of Pond View to TLA in 2008, Foley businesses contributed well in excess of $1mm to the East Providence economy in the form of vendor purchases, provided 45 good paying jobs, and paid $100,000 in annual real estate taxes.
I am asking the citizens of East Providence to please consider the facts, call or write to your city councilors, ask that they rescind the decision to appeal the Superior Court decision, and stop the wasteful spending of tax payer dollars.
— By Ken Foley
Editor's note: Mr. Foley, through Kenlin Properties LLC, is owner of the 1 Dexter Road land and former operator of the Pond View recycling plant.