East Providence Council meeting ends abruptly due to connectivity issue

Lawson states opposition to further Rec Center spending

By Mike Rego
Posted 5/21/24

The Tuesday, May 21, East Providence City Council meeting ended abruptly just under an hour into the session because of a technical issue with the live stream of the event, halting viewing access to …

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East Providence Council meeting ends abruptly due to connectivity issue

Lawson states opposition to further Rec Center spending

Posted

The Tuesday, May 21, East Providence City Council meeting ended abruptly just under an hour into the session because of a technical issue with the live stream of the event, halting viewing access of the gathering by the general public.

Ward 4 Councilor Rick Lawson said upon the advice of legal counsel the meeting was adjourned "mid-stream," pun intended. All remaining unfinished business, a good deal of items actually, will be continued and placed on the agenda for the body's next regularly scheduled forum on Tuesday, June 4.

The meeting was interrupted during discussions pertaining to several matters placed on the docket by Lawson, the last being an explanation by City Engineer Erik Skadberg about the Sabin Point Kayak launch and the Riverside Middle School Field projects.

Before the outage, the Council voted 4-0 to accept an new three-year contract collectively bargained by the administration of Mayor Bob DaSilva with the United Steelworkers Local 15509, backdated from November 1, 2023 to October 31, 2026. At-Large member and Council President Bod Rodericks. Rodericks was absent from Tuesday's proceedings.

The union represents employees of the Divisions of Water, Recreation, Highway, Parks, Central Garage, Traffic Engineering, and Engineering in the Division of the Public Works Department and East Providence Police Department Clerks, Police Dispatchers and Animal Control Officers.

Just prior to the interruption as well, Lawson made a jarring declaration, expressing his desire to divert some of the city's remaining and previously allocated American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) monies towards the former Oldham Elementary School building on Bullocks Point Avenue in his Riverside ward with the intention of turning the structure into a recreation center.

That, of course, would mean the $3 million the Council earmarked earlier to DaSilva's Rec Center project slated for the Senior Center property off Waterman Avenue would be recouped by the legislative branch and redirected to the Oldham site.

DaSilva's new Chief of Staff Patricia Resende made mention of how far down the line the administration is in terms of garnering funding, the location of the proposed center and the amount of resources that have been paid out to architects.

"Years of work and lots of grant money would be given back," Resende said at the thought of ditching the Senior Center locale. To date, the administration has garnered $3 million in federal grant dollars and $4 million from the state.

After a somewhat contentious back-and-forth with Resende, where the two exchanged some respectful points and counters, Lawson said flat out, "I'm saying I'm not voting to move forward on any new construction."

"I just don't see it being financially viable when we have this Oldham building, that, yes, it's going to cost millions, but we just talked to ARPA funding that could possibly get up to $5 million," he added. "No one was championing for that site except for the administration...We'll get more bang for the buck putting this ARPA money into Oldham building."

No action was taken on the matter.

In addition, the Council approved Joseph Medeiros and Michael Vierra for appointments to Recreation Board, sponsored by Rodericks. The vote was 4-0.

Most notable of the matters not taken up while the meeting was ongoing was the formal declaration of the Council's position on the settlement of a lawsuit brought against the city by former manager Richard Kirby. Kirby has been engaged in a near decade-old dispute over his termination by the then seated Council back in September of 2016. Kirby was the last full-time city manager in East Providence prior to the vote of the electorate to change governmental form to an elected mayor in November of that same year.

Kirby and the city agreed to a final number of $750,000. East Providence will pay $400,000 while its insurer, the Rhode Island Interlocal Risk Management Trust, will pay $350,000. The city is responsible for that sum of the settlement due to the Trust not covering costs associated with “lost wages and breach of contract.” At the time of his firing, Kirby had over a year left on his contract that paid him around $150,000 per.

The Council, as well,  took the following additional actions:
Approval for a One Day Entertainment A.C. Peri on behalf of Sacred Heart Church for its Annual Feast on May 31,, June 1 and 2; Mobile Food Establishment licenses for Michael Fahim for Pit Stop, Tiffany Manzi for Twisted T’s, Robert Baptista III for A Positive Atmosphere, Michael Leverone for Birds Nest, Joshua Burgoyne for Mings Asian Street Food, David Turner for Turner Bros. and Wanderson Goncalves for WBM Factory; Block Parties by Maureen Maloney for The Sacred Cow closing Cross Street between Summitt and North Brow on May 26 and Nina Guidaboni on behalf of Igus, June 8, at 257 Ferris Ave.; Special Events license, one-day and Class F, by Rita Vargas for St Francis Xavier Annual Feast, June 14, 15 and 16; and A Sundays and Holidays license for by Jim Bojko for Avalara Inc./Snipes.

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MIKE REGO

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.