Commission talks water rates, library hours, approves fire station funding
EAST PROVIDENCE — As part of a wide-ranging agenda, which included discussions on finding a new school superintendent and consolidation of legal services, the East Providence Budget Commission touched on several other topics of import during its bi-weekly meeting Thursday, Dec. 13, at City Hall.
Amy Santos, a Principal Consultant at Red Oak Consulting, which like Malcolm Pirnie is an arm of the ARCADIS group, told the Commission its initial water rate hike for Fiscal Year 2012 was correct and on the surface its projections for FY13 and 14 also appeared to be spot on.
When the commission decided to raise water rates earlier this calendar year it was asked to see if splitting rates would be fairer to taxpayers or if charging residential property at the same rate as commercial was proper. According to Ms. Santos' analysis, the latter remains the best option for the city.
East Providence has such a small commercial/industrial base, just 388 customers combined, that splitting the rates would put an undue burden on businesses.
Considering the small commercial base, Ms. Santos said, "There's really no difference in the cost. There's no attributable difference in the flow (of waste water). There is no discernible difference in the BOD (biochemical oxygen demand) or TSS (total suspended solids) between commercial and residential."
The new rates, which were determined in a 2011 study conducted by Malcolm Pirnie/ARCADIS, approved by the Commission back in April of this year were $8.64 per 100 cubic feet and $9.63 for Fiscal Years 2013 and 2014. FY2015 rates would rise to $10.74 per.
Fixed rates based on pipe size remain the same. The average homeowner will continue to pay a one-time yearly fixed charge of $60 and will see a monthly increase of $5.17 and $5.75 over the next two fiscal years.
While accepting Ms. Santos' report, the commission asked if the actual amount of usage from the just completed FY12 could be plugged into her statistical model, so as to determine if rates going forward were correct or if they can or should be changed. She is expected to provide the commission with those updates figures in the very near term.
The Commission tabled a request from Library Director Eileen Socha to extend Sunday hours at the Weaver and Riverside branches.
Ms. Socha asked to allow the branches to be open on Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m. for the period between Sept. 8 to Oct. 27 and Jan. 20 to May 9. It is policy city libraries have followed for some 25 years, according to the proposal.
The commission was hesitant to approve the request based on funding. There appeared to be a discrepancy in where the roughly $10,000 needed to open libraries on Sunday would come from. The proposal was therefore tabled until the next commission meeting.
The commission did approve the hiring of a mechanic to fill a vacancy at the Public Works Department's central garage. The position comes with a salary of just over $41,000 and a total budgetary impact, benefits included, of just over $57,000.
In the meantime, a recent retiree will return to the garage as a temporary replacement. Once a full-time hire is made, the part-time position immediately comes off the books.
Also from Public Works, the commission approved the city's gasoline and diesel fuel contract, which is based off a state-wide cooperative run by the City of Warwick.
The continued use of a temporary employee in the Finance Department was up for discussion Thursday.
The contract of John Cimino, employed by the city through Accounting Management Services, is fast coming to an end. The original agreement calls for an extension of three months. The commission, seeking a hire on a permanent basis, agreed to extend Mr. Cimino's contract for one month with the idea of finding a person qualified to handle both accounting and purchasing agent responsibilities.
Also from the Finance Department, the commission approved a request to fund an upgrade of software programing at a cost of approximately $60,000. The new software will allow all aspects of city finances to be integrated.
The commission approved one measure and tabled another concerning the East Providence Fire Department.
Renovation work at EPFD Stations 1 and 4 will commence shortly after the commission approved the awarding of bids for the project. Iron Construction Group of Warwick will do work totaling $2.888 million and The Bailey Group of Cranston will do work totaling $2.03 million. All funding for the project comes from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. William Starck Architects designed the renovations.
Also from the EPFD, the commission tabled a request to renew the firefighters' contract with its current uniform supplier, Leader Uniform of Providence, for a second year.
Two proposals from the City Planning Department were approved. The commission gave planning the authority to advertise separate Request for Proposals (RFPs) to find a real estate broker to assist in the sale of several city-owned properties and to do carpentry work at the Looff Carousel.
The real estate agent would handle the sale or lease of the former Union Primary and Tristam Burgess School properties, the Fuller Library, school administration buildings on Burnside and Hoppin Avenues, two vacant parcels on Harding Avenue, one vacant parcel on Bentley Street and the property at 35 Bentley St.
The commission extended the time in between meetings by a week to account for the Christmas holiday. The next budget commission meeting takes place Thursday, Jan. 3, at 3 p.m. in Room 306 at City Hall. The commission will continue its bi-weekly schedule from that point, which means the second meeting next month will take place on Jan. 17.