Editor's note: The following is a roundup of votes and discussion from the City Council's regular meeting on May 26 and the June 1 meeting of the council's Finance Committee. School bond question sent to Assembly A $147 million bond question to fund an
School bond question sent to Assembly
A $147 million bond question to fund an ambitious five-year facilities improvement plan for Cranston Public Schools is now in the hands of state lawmakers.
The City Council on May 26 unanimously approved a resolution asking the legislature to place the question on November’s election ballot. The funding request for the school facilities plan, which has been in the works for roughly two years, was expected after it garnered unanimous approval at the committee level last month.
The request involves $133 million for five projects – continued renovations at Eden Park Elementary School; the modernization and expansion Garden City Elementary School; the replacement of Gladstone Elementary School; additional renovations at Park View Middle School; and improvements at Cranston High School West – as well as $14 million meant as a contingency fund for other buildings needs while the work is ongoing.
Citywide Councilman Ken Hopkins called the planned building upgrades “as urgent as anything that we have to do in the next 10 years.” City Council President Michael Farina said the process of developing the improvement plans and bringing the bond question before voters has been a “truly collaborative effort.”
Council calls for rescheduling state primary
A resolution calling on the General Assembly to move the date of the statewide primary, which is currently scheduled for Sept. 8, also received the council’s unanimous approval on May 26.
Cranston Registrar Nicholas Lima said changing the date of the primary is a “critically important” issue for the city’s Board of Canvassers. The current Sept. 8 date falls on the Tuesday after the Labor Day holiday, which Lima said will be costly to the city and create a number of logistical concerns.
For example, state law provides a mail ballot deadline of 4 p.m. on the day before an election. Because that day would be a holiday under the current schedule, there is concern over the ability of elections officials to collect and track those ballots.
Lima also said the need to prepare polling places on a federal holiday would result in an “extraordinary cost” to the city, likely requiring $10,000 more than a typical primary election. He said even a one-day shift in the primary date, to Wednesday, Sept. 9, would resolve all of the concerns.
Citywide Councilman Steve Stycos applauded Lima for his “detailed and complete” presentation of the issue. Ward 6 Councilman Michael Favicchio also praised the registrar for “looking out for the best interest of the city and the taxpayers.”
Given the current pandemic, mail balloting figures to be in high demand for the statewide primary and the November general election. Lima on May 26 told council members that his office had processed 12,000 mail ballots for the June 2 presidential preference primary in the preceding three weeks.
Panel recommends green energy bond
The council’s Finance Committee on June 1 unanimously recommended sending a $5 million bond question for renewable energy projects before voters at the November ballot.
The measure, co-sponsored by Stycos and Ward 3 Councilman John Donegan, had drawn questions last month over its scope and the kind of projects it could be used to fund.
Stycos on Monday said he has spoken with a number of municipal department heads about potential uses for the money, including solar panels, LED lights, temperature controls and electric vehicle charging stations.
He also stressed that the measure is designed merely to give future mayors and councils the authority to bond for renewable energy projects – an additional “tool” with which the city may work to reduce its carbon footprint.
“It doesn’t mean we have to borrow anything,” he said.
Donegan echoed Stycos, saying: “It’s not the only thing we need to do, but this is a really important first step.”
Several council members, including Council President Michael Farina, Ward 2’s Paul McAuley, Ward 4’s Ed Brady and Ward 5’s Chris Paplauskas, said they have heard overwhelming support for the bond proposal from constituents. Several asked to be co-sponsors of the proposal.
Elsewhere during the recent meetings:
* The council unanimously approved an ordinance, originally introduced by Donegan, to waive penalties, interest and fees for late fourth-quarter tax and sewer payments.
* The council on a 5-3 vote approved a resolution introduced by Donegan calling for additional steps on the state level to “protect families and small businesses” from economic hardship resulting from the COVID-19 crisis.
* The council unanimously approved a pair of ordinance amendments sponsored by Stycos aimed at providing broader monitoring and enforcement tools for noise and vibration violations at industrial operations.
-- Daniel Kittredge