Council holds discussions on fire station renovations, police applicant qualifications
EAST PROVIDENCE — The East Providence City Council, at its Tuesday, Feb. 20, meeting, received an update on the renovations taking place at two fire stations and continues a discussion on the qualifications required for applicants of the police department.
Acting East Providence Fire Chief Oscar Elmasian was asked by the Council to brief it about the on-going $6 million-plus construction projects at Station 1, the department's headquarters on Broadway, and Station 4, located in the Kent Heights section of the city on Wampanoag Trail.
Chief Elmasian noted the work on Station 4, which is taking up temporary residence down the Trail on Amaral Street during renovations, is farther along than its counterpart. The chief said the rear portion of the structure has been "completely demolished" as has the second, outer truck bay on the left side of the building. In addition, contractors are beginning to dig the footings for a third bay, which be added to the station.
In contrast, work has been slow to materialize at Station 1, according to the chief, who said he was "concerned" by the lack of progress at the building. Some structural and mechanical issues have hindered the efforts on the building. Chief Elmasian noted work there could be considered several months behind.
However, the chief said construction remains on budget and should meet its target conclusion date of late August, a time frame mandated by guidelines for use of the grant money paying for the renovations. He added it's imperative for department administrators to maintain proper oversight of the project to keep it on pace towards completion.
East Providence Police Department Chief Joseph Tavares and new Human Resources Director Kathleen Waterbury explained the rationale behind what some councilors believe are stringent requirements to apply for a position on the force.
At previous meetings, both Councilmen Thomas Rose and Chrissy Rossi questioned the necessity of one qualification in particular, that of a prospective applicant needing to have a minimum of 60 college credit hours in the study disciplines of either criminal justice or law enforcement. Each said it limited the pool of applicants and wasn't indicative of whether an applicant was able to perform the job.
Both Chief Tavares and Ms. Waterbury challenged those assertions to a point. Chief Tavares said while he agreed some without college credit could be proper officers, it was a matter of placing "quality over quantity" of applicants. He and Ms. Waterbury noted by limiting the pool of applicants, it saved both time and money in the process.
Chief Tavares also pointed out other requirements that could nullify the need for a prospect to have college credits. The chief said applicants with military service, who have been correctional officers and those who have served previously in other police departments also meet the criteria for consideration.
No movement was made on the subject Tuesday. City Manager Peter Graczykowski tasked the chief to put together some statistical and comparative data from other police departments in the area for further review by the Council.
The Council held a special session eight days previous to show its support for two issues; repairs at the Looff Carousel and the return of live video streaming of municipal meetings on the internet.
The special meeting was deemed necessary so as to get the matters on the Feb. 14 East Providence Budget Commission meeting docket. The Commission has complete oversight of city matters.
The Council unanimously approved both measures seeking funds for each. The Commission, in turn, easily approved the request for repairs to the Carousel, but tabled giving its consent of video streaming's return. The Commission questioned how it would be paid for on an annual basis.
Mr. Graczykowski told the Council a permanent set-aside in the fiscal budget must be established to show how streaming would be paid for and from where the money would be derived.
City Clerk Kim Casci and City Solicitor Timothy Chapman both advised the Council the funds could be used according to state law from the monies the city receives in recording fees for documents. The law requires municipalities set aside 10 percent of recording fees it receives annually towards preservation and technological upgrades.
The projected costs of bringing back live streaming has been pegged at $7,000 for the first year then $6,000 each year after under a contract with a service provider. Mr. Graczykowski said the city, on average, receives some $3,300 per month and about $39,000 per year in recording fees.
The city manager, who doubles as a Commission member along with Council President James Briden, said the subject will be addressed once again at the Feb. 28 meeting of the state overseers. Both said they could continue to press the Commission to approve the measure.