E.P. council recognizes Connors, hears of Newport Ave. development plan

Backs school funding change, approves liquor license transfer

By Mike Rego
Posted 2/20/20

EAST PROVIDENCE — Last week’s City Council meeting, held the evening of February 18, began with a feel-good moment as both the body and the community recognized the retirement of …

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E.P. council recognizes Connors, hears of Newport Ave. development plan

Backs school funding change, approves liquor license transfer


EAST PROVIDENCE — Last week’s City Council meeting, held the evening of February 18, began with a feel-good moment as both the body and the community recognized the retirement of Municipal Court Baliff Joseph Connors.

Mr. Connors, who has special needs, was feted for his many accomplishments, including 22 years as a city sergeant. It was noted as well Mr. Connors is an Eagle Scout and has been a Special Olympics athlete for over 40 years. He was also the first person ever with Down Syndrome to serve as a United States Senate page.

Joined by his mother, Barbara, he was lauded in-person by a litany of local dignitaries from U.S. Congressman David Cicilline to Rhode Island Special Olympics director Dennis DeJesus to Mayor Bob DaSilva to State Senator Valerie Lawson to State Representative Katherine Kazarian to East Providence Fire Chief Glenn Quick and E.P. Deputy Police Chief Christopher Francesconi. At-Large Councilor Bob Rodericks sponsored the proclamation.

Mr. DeJesus recollected Mr. Connors’ involvement in Special Olympics’ plans to celebrate the organization’s 50th anniversary back in 2018. The administrators pondered then who among those in the state organization should light the caldron at the start of the games that milestone year.

Mr. DeJesus said the officials gathered and posed the question, “Who would best represent the athletes of Special Olympics Rhode Island? And right around the table everyone said, ‘Joe Connors’…You are a giant of a Special Olympian.”

At the conclusion of the ceremony, Mrs. Connors and Joe took to the podium. Mr. Connors said, “I’m going to cry if I say anything…Just, thank you, thank you, thank you…Thank you, everyone.” Joe added, “Thank you very much.”

School funding change
Mirroring a measure approved by the School Committee and at the request of that board, the council approved a resolution seeking a change by the General Assembly on the frequency of how the district receives its state aid.

The School Committee passed a replica request at its February 11 meeting, seeking an amendment to state law allowing the East Providence district to access funding each month rather than in the current form of two bulk sums.

The impetus for the change, in part, dates to the mini-controversy last fall over state aid monies owed by the city to the school district. It had been a persistent practice of the city-side administration to receive and hold state assistance, then dispense the money to the schools on an as-need basis.

One of the reasons for this was to lessen the amount of Tax Anticipatory Notes (TANs) the city needed, and still does, to borrow annually because East Providence’s fiscal year isn’t aligned with that of state.

Last fall, after a series of council and committee meetings, all parties agreed the city was in possession of $6.5 million in school aid. They then agreed to disperse the cash in equal increments over a period of four years.

At the time of that discussion, Schools Superintendent Kathryn Crowley said the arrangement between the city and state dated as far back as the early 1980’s when East Providence, approaching insolvency at that moment, requested the General Assembly change Rhode Island General Law allowing the city to receive its share of state school aid annually in two increments, in October and April each year, rather than monthly as the rest of the municipalities did then and still do to this day.

Development update
Council President and Ward 1 member Bobby Britto provided a brief update on the potential development of a long-vacant parcel of land on Newport Avenue between New Road and Moore Street and Pine Grove Street.

Mr. Britto said the city has been approached about the possibilities of developing the eight-acre property into a mixed-use site. Currently, there are only two houses at the location, both fronted on Pine Grove.

The land has been dormant for decades. For many years it was known for serving as an auxiliary parking lot for Uncle Tony’s Restaurant before that operation moved down Newport Avenue to the former Scott Motors showroom.

Mr. Britto announced a community meeting on the matter will be held Saturday, Feb. 29, at noon at the current Uncle Tony’s location, 260 Newport Ave. The developers will present architectural renderings of their proposal and answer questions, according to Mr. Britto, who added they will also be seeking public input on their plans.

Whiteknact playground
Ward 2 Councilor Anna Sousa and representatives from Rhode Island Waterfront Enterprises LLC joined in presenting the Whiteknact Elementary PTA with a $750 check towards the on-going effort at the school to construct a playground.

The Bold Point Park concert promoters held a fundraiser at an event last October where money was donated by patrons and matched by the company.

License transfer
The council took up a pair of measures last week pertaining to Clift’s Liquors located on 191 Willett Ave. in Riverside.

The first was a “show cause” hearing in its position as the city’s licensing body. It was alleged the store had served an under-age customer. The proprietors acknowledged the incident and agreed to pay the associated fine.

The second dealt with the proposed transfer of Clift’s operating license to a new owner, Lintlop, LLC. The council approved the transfer pending the current owners paying the aforementioned fine.

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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.