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E.P. Council ‘firsts’: accepting a mayoral veto, approving one-off energy pact

Body backs new Charter Review Commission format, transfer of Kettle Point pier to city

By Mike Rego
Posted 6/19/20

EAST PROVIDENCE — For what has over the years been a typically nondescript date on the calendar, a couple of notable “firsts” took place during the June 16 virtual meeting of the …

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E.P. Council ‘firsts’: accepting a mayoral veto, approving one-off energy pact

Body backs new Charter Review Commission format, transfer of Kettle Point pier to city

Posted

EAST PROVIDENCE — For what has over the years been a typically nondescript date on the calendar, a couple of notable “firsts” took place during the June 16 virtual meeting of the City Council.

Mayor Bob DaSilva issued his first veto of a council-approved ordinance in the 18 months since East Providence’s form of government changed, the city’s elected chief executive officer declining to implement a series of laws intended to more clearly define the timeframe for submission, review and adoption of the fiscal year budget.

Following talks between the sides before and during the meeting, the council acquiesced, declining an attempt to override said veto, which would have taken a “super” majority tally of at least four of its five members.

The council and the mayor also found common ground on another matter deemed the “first of its kind,” an uncommon by industry standards one-year agreement between East Providence and Green Development LLC on the oft-discussed net metering credit savings program, which Mayor DaSilva and the company claim will lessen the city side’s energy bill by as much as $250,000 annually.

Veto
Mayor DaSilva, both in a letter to the body (see attachment) and during last week’s meeting, explained his rationale for penning the veto of the budget timeline ordinance, noting the “unforeseen circumstances” of the moment related to the novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic as the key factor.

The mayor said while the original legislation was a “piece of good governance,” these are “extraordinary times” and its implementation this year would be next to impossible.

Top among the alterations, the council was seeking to change the date the executive must submit the budget from 45 days prior to the end of the current fiscal year on October 31 to 70 days before.

Mayor DaSilva said it wouldn't be feasible for the city to meet that late-August criteria this summer because of the financial tumult created at both the federal and state levels due to the pandemic.

At-Large Councilor Bob Rodericks, noting the East Providence School District as well likely wouldn’t have its budget ready in time to meet the proposed new standards, was quick to say both the legislative and executive in city were of the same mind on the matter at the moment.

“This is not a dispute…We’re all on the same page and it makes sense for the budget process,” Mr. Rodericks said.

A motion was made and seconded by the council with a unanimous vote taken to accept the veto. 

The ordinance, however, is likely to be reconsidered shortly with language added to address similar future emergency situations such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Energy savings?
Mayor DaSilva emerged from the meeting touting the one-off, one-year contract with Green Development, which has long sought to enroll the city in its net metering credit savings program.

In a statement (see attached photo), the mayor said the short-term pact, which both sides said has never occurred between private and public entities, was a way for the city to “test the waters.” Both parties also hyped the potential to see reductions of costs between "215,000 and $250,000" a year.

For the last couple of years, Green solicited the city to engage with the program that provides credits from the energy generated by renewable facilities such as solar farms and wind turbines. There is no financial obligation on the part of the city. Green initially attempted to procure a multi-decade agreement before settling for the one-year deal.

Ward 3 Councilor Nate Cahoon as well as Ward 1 rep and Council President Bobby Britto both indicated updated language in the latest contract and provisions provided to the city swayed their decision to support the agreement. Ward 2 Councilor Anna Sousa has been a proponent from the start of the engagement years back. Councilor Rodericks also supported the deal, making it a 4-1 vote.

Ward 4 Councilor Ricardo Mourato was the lone dissenter. He cited litigation Green is involved in with other municipalities around the state and a general unease with the program as among his reasons for voting against.

Charter commission
The body, also of note, approved a resolution proposing to place on the November 2020 ballot an amendment to the City Charter implementing defined parameters around the seating of a commission to regularly review East Providence’s governing document.

Sponsored by Councilors Mourato, Sousa and Cahoon, the resolution creates a nine-person Charter Review Commission at the 2022 election.

The commission would sit for eight years, consecutively. Five of its members, one from each of the city’s four wards and one at-large, would be elected by voters. Two others would be appointed by the council and two by the mayor.

Mr. Cahoon said the amendment is “not an attempt to create piecemeal changes,” rather it was a “comprehensive” move to define the effort.

He continued, the “public will be very much involved in the process,” adding, “Anyone who wants to get involved with framing their local government…will have that opportunity going forward.”

Mr. Mourato said the amendment would allow “future councils and administrations to look at the charter every eight years” and that it was a “good well-rounded resolution.”

The resolution will be put into the form of a ballot question by the solicitor’s office and placed before the council for final approval to meet the state’s early-August deadline required for referenda items.

Pier goes public
Accepting a recommendation from the Planning Board to the council, the body last week backed the land transfer of a 2.9 acre parcel and 600 foot fishing pier at Kettle Point to the city from the current owners, Kettle Point, LLC/Churchill and Banks.

According to City Planning Director Bill Fazioli, who also doubles as the Waterfront Commission chair, only modest maintenance costs are associated with the transaction. He said the city will be responsible for annual environmental monitoring, a $2,500 per year expense. In anticipation of future costs, the city has established a $15,000 escrow fund specific to item.

Prior to taking hold of the land, Mr. Fazioli said new signage, bike racks, benches and fencing will be placed at the site by Churchill and Banks.

The revitalization of the property and the pier began with the mixed-use development of the Kettle Point property several years ago now. Mr. Fazioli said the transfer of the shoreline parcel and the pier was “always the plan to make it a part of the (city's) parks program.”

The agreement will need to be returned to the council for its final and formal approval through a resolution and for a review of a proper deed acknowledging the transaction.

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