East Providence council talks budget timelines, South Quay fill project

Updates animal care ordinances, approves appointments

By Mike Rego
Posted 12/5/19

EAST PROVIDENCE — Budgetary matters remained on the minds of City Council members at its December 3 meeting when the body talked about potential changes it could make to improve the process before …

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East Providence council talks budget timelines, South Quay fill project

Updates animal care ordinances, approves appointments

Posted

EAST PROVIDENCE — Budgetary matters remained on the minds of City Council members at its December 3 meeting when the body talked about potential changes it could make to improve the process before finance matters are formally discussed again next fall.
Placed on the agenda by Ward 4 Councilor Ricardo Mourato, the council was led through the topic by Assistant City Solicitor Dylan Conley. Mr. Conley told the council there were two ways to approach the subject. One is to formally amend the charter through a referenda item, a process that must be completed by August 5 to be placed on the ballot in time for an election the ensuing November. Specific to budgetary items, Mr. Conley said the council can implement changes through ordinance.
Mr. Mourato, elected to office for the first time in November 2018, called his initial budget season, a “huge learning experience,” especially the deadlines for action placed in the City Charter.
He urged his peers to consider changing the budget timeframe included in it, which mandates the mayor present a draft no later than 45 days prior to the end of the current fiscal year, annually October 31. He also suggested creating a year-end report on finances to be presented to the council well before the start of the next budget season.
“I felt I was at a disadvantage,” Mr. Mourato said about receiving the budget according to the mid-September date, adding the lack of time to prepare and review materials was “frustrating.”
Ward 2 Councilor Anna Sousa agreed with Mr. Mourato’s assessment, noting the most recent budget season was a bit labored in part due to the change in governmental form from manager to mayor. She also supported the assertion there were ways the council could make the process “smoother and more efficient with less meetings.”
“I’m inclined to have more specific wording to give the council more time,” Ms. Sousa added. “I think that it is best to look at some expansion in our time of getting materials so that we can have meetings at an earlier time than the First of October when the budget is due three weeks later for final passage.”
Council President and Ward 1 member Bobby Britto asked his peers to consider requesting proposed capital improvements be made in the early spring, which would lessen the load of items the council would have to review in the fall.
“I would think department heads would know what they want by that time,” Mr. Britto explained. “The more we do at the front end of this, the less we have to worry about doing at the back end of the process during the budget discussions.”
The members eventually agreed to submit any recommendations for improving the budget process to Mr. Conley for the purposes of preparing a draft ordinance in time for discussion at the body’s first meeting in January 2020.
Podium speakers
Mr. Mourato, in addition, previously requested City Solicitor Michael Marcello to opine about Rule 5 in the charter on how council meetings are conducted, which the latter did last week. The former has expressed reservations about persons, including Mayor Bob DaSilva, taking to the podium unannounced during proceedings.
“The end result as I suspected is the council president has the ability to limit the mayor or anyone from interfering or interrupting what is essentially a meeting of the city council. I’m satisfied with that,” Mr. Mourato said of the solicitor’s explanation.
He continued, “And if this becomes an issue down the road, we also have the ability as a council to change that Rule 5 to make it more specific and detailed to the way we wanted. That’s what I was looking for. I wanted clarification.”
Upon a unanimous vote of the council the solicitor’s opinion was placed into the public record.
South Quay fill
At the behest of At-Large Councilor Bob Rodericks, City Planning Director/Director of Economic Development Bill Fazioli updated the body on the Providence River dredging/South Quay fill effort being conducted under the auspices of the state’s Coastal Resources Management Council.
Approximately 22,000 cubic yards of road silt and sand that has accumulated at the bottom of the river is being dredged over the winter, the remnants, in part, being piped to the East Providence waterfront at the South Quay, which was recently purchased from Chevron by Live Nation where it plans to construct a permanent concert theatre.
Mr. Rodericks, he said responding to concerns of constituents, asked Mr. Fazioli to explain the situation a bit more thoroughly. Mr. Fazioli told the council besides the CRMC, the state Department of Environmental Management, Save the Bay, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Nature Conservancy are all involved in making the sure process is conducted properly.
“We have all assurances the material being sent over from the river in Providence to the South Quay is clean and in fact they (Live Nation) welcome it because they need material to help build up their property, obviously, to fortify it,” Mr. Fazioli added.
Ordinances
The council gave first and second approvals to separate ordinances in Chapter 3 of the charter, “Animals,” which essentially updates city oversight matters of healthy and safety to match state law.
Solicitor Marcello said sections of the charter and in Rhode Island General Law specifically related to dogs were once “very weak,” but that the General Assembly has taken action “to put a lot more strength in the care of dogs ordinance.”
In addition, he said by conforming the charter to state law, it allows any violations to be prosecuted in the city’s municipal court.
Updates to the charter provisions with immediate effect following passage last week include: kennels, licensure and inspection, fees; right of entry for inspection; revocation of license; and penalties for operation of a kennel without a license.
First passage was given to the section related to canine care, “sheltering, tetherings and nourishment of dogs.” Second and final passage is expected to take place at the council’s December 17 meeting.
More actions
The council approved the installation of a stop sign on Curve Avenue (southbound traffic) at Waterview Avenue off Pawtucket Avenue across from St. Mary Academy-Bay View. The neighborhood is familiar to history buffs as Boyden Heights.
The council also approved two appointments proposed by Mayor DaSilva, while tabling a third. John Pacheco was backed for Board of Assessment as was Marilyn Walsh for the Personnel Hearing Board. Each will serve terms expiring on December 2, 2025.
The appointment of John Braga to Zoning Board was held for further discussion in part due to the absence of Ward 3 Councilor Nate Cahoon from last week’s proceedings because of work commitments.

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