Council appropriates carousel, several other East Providence capital improvement requests

Revisits previous discussion, Rec and Pierce Field projects gain approval

By Mike Rego
Posted 10/31/19

EAST PROVIDENCE — Revisiting a discussion it during talks pertaining to the recently approved Fiscal Year 2019-20 budget, the City Council at its Tuesday, Oct. 29, meeting gave approval to two more …

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Council appropriates carousel, several other East Providence capital improvement requests

Revisits previous discussion, Rec and Pierce Field projects gain approval

Posted

EAST PROVIDENCE — Revisiting a discussion it during talks pertaining to the recently approved Fiscal Year 2019-20 budget, the City Council at its Tuesday, Oct. 29, meeting gave approval to two more key elements of the process of improving the grounds around the historic Looff Carousel at Crescent Park.

Last week’s conversation, based on the $3,690,897 Capital Improvements package associated with the FY19-20 budget, centered mostly on the potential acquisition and installation of an ice skating rink at the carousel along with the construction of new year-round concession building there.

Those items, like several others voted on, ultimately received unanimous council approval.

At the end of a lengthy back-and-forth between members and city administrators, the council backed the request of $100,000 for the seasonal ice rink, including the laying of the 110-foot by 100-foot concrete pad, the rink itself with cooling/freezing elements, a “Zamboni” ice resurfacer and an inventory of rental skates.

According to city Community Development office director David Bachrach, who along with Carousel director Tracy Johnson made the project presentation to the council, negotiations with the current proprietor of the rink and apparatus remain ongoing with the hope of shortly concluding. The city will become owners of all items related to the rink once the transaction is concluded.

Also, the council agreed another request of $150,000 to reconstruct the concession stand currently occupied and operated by Blount’s Seafood during the summer. Included as well in the new building would office space used by carousel staff, a gift shop and a storage garage.

One of the more contentious items being sought in the FY19-20 Capital Improvements plan was potentially adding $100,000 to a previously approved allocation of $250,000 towards the construction of a parking lot between Riverside Middle School and the Riverside Recreation Complex. The initial request, supported by previous councils in separate years, was aimed at alleviating traffic in the densely populated Somerset Avenue neighborhood where the Rec complex is located.

The new administration of Mayor Bob DaSilva subsequently asked for the added expenditure to include the construction of a new soccer field while decreasing the size of the proposed parking lot, bringing the total requested amount for the revised project to $350,000.

The council eventually backed the request on a 3-2 vote under the working assumption the plan would have to be presented to it again before it could move forward. Per the City Charter, any spending agreement in the amount of $50,000 and over needs separate council approval.

Ward 1 representative and council president Bobby Britto and Ward 4 member Ricardo Mourato, in whose district the Rec facility is located, opposed the added expenditure, voicing their preference to see the previous allocations spent. Ward 2 rep Anna Sousa, noting the need for future council acquiescence of the project, joined Ward 3’s Nate Cahoon and At-Large member Bob Rodericks in voting for the extra money.

In contrast, with little debate, the council backed another significant capital expenditure at Pierce Field seeking $250,000 to renovate the existing basketball courts there while adding two more in the space currently reserved for tennis. The project also includes replacing all fencing surrounding the courts, new sports lighting and creating additional spectator seating. The tennis courts will not be rebuilt.

The council previously passed a $50,000 request from the administration in support of structural improvements to the carousel. The money will be used specifically to replace the support foundations to stabilize the carousel's main mast.

A city Finance Department ask for $127,500 to purchase an upgrade to the Vision Tax platform, the program it uses for tax collection and assessment matters. Also from Finance, the council approved $125,000 towards the purchase of new accounting system, which would be able to process all accounting, purchase orders, payroll and Human Resources functions

The council also approved an amended request by the East Providence Fire Department for $80,000 in matching dollars to a federal grant earmarked for the purchase of existing cardiac monitors, defibrillators and automated external defibrillators.

Rolling over a contract negotiated in previous years, the council went about the formality of passing a line item of $247,966 requested by the EPFD towards the lease agreement for three engine trucks. The payments are being spread over a period of seven years.

From the EPFD as well, $84,431 was backed to replace the flooring in the day area and hallway along with the air conditioning system at Station 3 in Rumford. Monies from the same item would be used to install a ductless AC system for the locker room in Station 1 on Broadway.

A $50,000 request was already approved to oversee planning and implementation of a city-funded grant program to promote the arts, including installation of works of public art.

Two earlier requests by the East Providence Police Department, $100,000 to expand the parking lot at its Waterman Avenue headquarters and $200,000 to purchase four new cruisers, was previously supported by the council.

The body also backed several requests by the Department of Public Works, including $100,000 to improve the Runnins River channel in the State Street neighborhood and $50,000 for the installation of new pedestrian and cycling signage at the Kent Heights School on Pawtucket Avenue.

Last week, the council also approved $125,000 for a project aimed towards improving drainage at the intersection of Commercial Way and Taunton Avenue. The plan includes the installation of 400 feet of drainage pipe, a pre-treatment unit and manholes to help eliminate flooding.

A number of capital requests remain outstanding and were expected to be taken up at the council’s next scheduled meeting for Tuesday night, Nov. 5.

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Mike Rego has worked at East Bay Newspapers since 2001, helping the company launch The Westport Shorelines. He soon after became a Sports Editor, spending the next 10-plus years in that role before taking over as editor of The East Providence Post in February of 2012. To contact Mike about The Post or to submit information, suggest story ideas or photo opportunities, etc. in East Providence, email mrego@eastbaymediagroup.com.