East Providence Budget Commission curbs contract, Oldham closing discussions
EAST PROVIDENCE — The East Providence Budget Commission tabled talks about the possible closing of the James R.D. Oldham Elementary School and also carried a conversation about contracts into an executive session as part of a lengthy agenda for its meeting on Thursday, Jan. 17, in Room 306 at City Hall.
Interim School Superintendent Dr. John DeGoes offered a brief overview of his recommendation to close the elementary building on Bullocks Point Avenue at the end of the current school term, then asked the Commission not to consider any action pending a public hearing on the matter hosted by the School Committee on Wednesday, Jan. 23, at Riverside Middle School.
Dr. DeGoes, with input from a local study committee in addition to the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE), has proposed closing Oldham is the most effective way to meet cost-saving aims from his department deemed necessary by the Commission.
According to figures compiled by the superintendent, Oldham, which has the smallest enrollment of any elementary school in the city, is in need of over $2 million in repairs to meet safety and building standards required to reopen in the fall.
The Commission, again with the advice of RIDE, has long targeted Oldham for closure, citing the city's declining school population and fiscal woes.
Following a likewise brief public discussion, the Commission opted to take its talks regarding the proposed contract agreements between it and the Steelworkers and the East Providence Professional, Managerial and Technical Employees unions into an executive session at the conclusion of Thursday's open meeting.
Commission member Michael O'Keefe questioned some elements of the agreements. He was also reluctant to have the settlement made public while the Commission's negotiator, Providence Attorney Joseph Whelan, continued to bargain with the several other unions representing city employees.
The Commission did, however, accept three other "gap" agreements negotiated by Mr. Whelan between it, teachers, school secretaries and the East Providence Police Department. The gap agreements are meant to keep members from all three unions on the job and to continue negotiations uninterrupted.
The Commission approved a request from city Library Director Eileen Socha to reinstate an extension of Sunday hours at the Weaver Branch.
The proposal came to the Commission previously, but there was some concern of the budgetary impact it could present. Ms. Socha had since presented documentation the money necessary to open Weaver from 1 to 5 p.m. on Sundays from Jan. 20 to May 19 and again from Sept. 8 to Oct. 27 would come from state aid.
The Commission approved several other requests from various city departments presented Thursday, including:
- An extension of a contract with Accounting Management Solutions Inc., which keeps accountant John Cimino as a temporary employee of the City Finance Department for another four-week period. Under the terms, AMS is to receive $95 per hour for between 96 and 160 hours for the use of Mr. Cimino's services.
- An extension of a contract with Wainwright Investments as the financial advisor to the Police & Fire Pension Board for a period ending on April 30, 2013 and at a maximum cost of $35,000.
- To assist Rhode Island Family Services in the purchase of a minivan and an generators by the East Providence Police Department with asset forfeiture funds. Total funds to be used is $40,000.
- To advertise for the purchase of a compost screener by the East Providence Public Works Department. The one-time expenditure is expected to be $105,676, which would come from money derived from the city's recycling revenue sharing agreement with the state.
- To release $40,000 in funds for an economic development loan between the city's Waterfront Development Commission and SD Concept Engineering towards its relocation to East Providence from West Warwick. The loan is earmarked for energy efficiency improvements to a building located at 65 Dexter Road. The term of the loan is 84 months.
The next meeting of the East Providence Budget Commission is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 31, at 3 p.m. in 306 of City Hall.