Council backs grant applications for East Providence rec projects

Proposed soccer field at Grassy Plains, water splash pad at Piece could get RIDEM funding

By Mike Rego
Posted 12/4/19

EAST PROVIDENCE — Continuing its review of projects proposed under the “Capital Improvements” header in the Fiscal Year 2019-20 budget earlier in the fall, the City Council at its December 3 …

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Council backs grant applications for East Providence rec projects

Proposed soccer field at Grassy Plains, water splash pad at Piece could get RIDEM funding

Posted

EAST PROVIDENCE — Continuing its review of projects proposed under the “Capital Improvements” header in the Fiscal Year 2019-20 budget earlier in the fall, the City Council at its December 3 meeting supported two more initiatives suggested by the Planning Department, but contingent upon receipt of Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management grants funding.

Key to the timing of the approvals was that both efforts require the submission of applications to RIDEM seeking monies to potentially augment a significant amount of the costs associated with each. The deadline for the applications is December 12. It should also be noted neither project would likely come to fruition if state assistance wasn’t included.

The council at previous meetings during the budget season and subsequent gatherings has backed a number of requests included in the overall $3,690,897 allotted for Capital Improvements this fiscal year, though a large chunk of that amount remains available.

In bringing the measures to the floor last week, At-Large Councilor Bob Rodericks said he was doing so to keep some of the more important and anticipated projects on the front burner while allowing his cohorts an opportunity to discuss any proposals it wanted to see fulfilled.

“I know the sentiment on this council is to, and I mean this in a positive way, to clean up the list of projects that have been in the hopper for years,” Mr. Rodericks said. “It’s getting confusing to all of us, I know, because we have a long list and a lot of dollar signs. Some maybe were started. Some maybe haven’t been looked at yet. And some have been completed. My intent tonight is to look at the list…I don’t want to see them die on the vine, which could be the case.”

Both projects, to construct a soccer field at the Grassy Plains playground in Riverside and to purchase a water splash pad, would be funded through Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management grants.

According to the description provided by the Planning Department in the FY19-20 budget, the anticipated cost of the soccer field at Grassy Plains would be $300,000. The grant, if awarded to the city, would fund half or $150,000 of the total. A $150,000 match on the part of the city would be necessary and was requested in the Capital budget. The RIDEM grant program specific to this project, Large Recreation Development, backs cities and towns in the acquisition, development and renovation of outdoor recreational lands and facilities. “The development of additional soccer fields has been identified as a high priority in the city,” was the statement on the proposal included in the Planning Department notes.

“It’s just such in bad disrepair. I was surprised to see how huge that area is and it could really be developed into something that is usable,” Ward 3 Councilor Ricardo Mourato said of Grassy Plains, which is in his district.

The splash pad would be funded mostly through the RIDEM’s Small Recreation Development program, which supports up to 80 percent of the cost and requires just a 20 percent municipal match, The estimated price tag for the project is $130,000 with $104,000 coming from the state and the remaining $26,000 from the city. According to the Planning Department notes on the proposal, a similar splash pad placed at the Onna Moniz-John Park/Central Avenue Playground last summer “was a huge success and proved to be very popular.”

The second splash pad is expected to be situated on the Pierce Field grounds. Pierce is the only location with city-run activities for youth during the summer months.

Council president and Ward 1 representative Bobby Britto balked at approving both resolutions, even though doing so only allowing the Planning Department to submit applications and no expenditures were included. Part of his displeasure of the process, he said, was the lack of specificity included in the documents presented to the council and the amount of Capital Improvement funds planned for use in FY19-20.

Ward 2 Councilor Anna Sousa suggested the money didn’t need to be taken from the $3.69 million set aside in the Capital budget, but rather from an account tied to the city’s contractual agreement with Bold Point Park concert promoters Live Nation, which pays the city a portion of ticket sales from all events. During prior budget sessions, the council was told some $70,000 had accrued in the account from the three seasons of operations to date. None of that money, which is specifically earmarked for recreation, has been used previously.

Mr. Mourato said he shared Mr. Britto’s sentiments, especially about the scale of the projects approved this fiscal year and by preceding councils. However, he backed Ms. Sousa’s suggestion of paying the city’s match for the splash pad out of the Live Nation account.

Asked for an update on the amount of Capital Improvement appropriations to date in FY19-20, City Finance Director Malcolm Moore said only about $1.6 million has been allocated with nearly $2 million in requests still outstanding. Many of the submissions from the Department of Public Works/Highway Division have yet to be approved.

The vote on the Grassy Plains proposal was 3-1, with Messrs. Rodericks and Mourato joined by Ms. Sousa in support while Mr. Britto dissented. Because the council took the decision to tap into the Live Nation account for the splash pad proposal, it did not need formal approval at this time. Just four votes were cast because Ward 3 Councilor Nate Cahoon was absent from the proceedings due to work commitments.

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