News Digest

Posted 6/9/21

Sockanosset vaccine site to remain open As the state prepares to close mass COVID-19 vaccination sites at the Dunkin' Donuts Center in Providence and former Benny's in Middletown later this month, state officials last week announced the former Citizens

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News Digest


Sockanosset vaccine site to remain open

As the state prepares to close mass COVID-19 vaccination sites at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence and former Benny’s in Middletown later this month, state officials last week announced the former Citizens Bank office building on Sockanosset Cross Road will remain open and in use as a vaccination site into the fall.

“We’re going to have that location into the winter. We want to make sure we’re prepared,” Tom McCarthy, executive director of the state’s COVID-19 response, told members of the meeting during a briefing at the State House.

The closure of the mass sites comes as the state moves toward a more community-focused approach to reaching unvaccinated Rhode Islanders, including pop-up clinics at sporting events, farmers markets, Roger Williams Park Zoo’s food trucks night and other locations.

The closing of the Dunkin’ Donuts Center site will also allow the facility to move toward a reopening for large events. Gov. Dan McKee indicated officials hope to resume events at the Rhode Island Convention Center in August and have major events at the Dunk by the fall.

The continued use of the Sockanosset site, which the state is leasing from Carpionato Group, will result in further delays in the start of construction for the Topgolf facility that has been approved for the location. The Citizens office building, which was vacated when the bank built its new Johnston campus, was previously used as a COVID-19 field hospital overseen by Kent Hospital.

Gregg Perry, a spokesman for Carpionato Group, said Monday that the lease agreement with the state runs through Sept. 30.

“At this point, I wouldn’t commit to a specific start date on Topgolf … Sometime this fall, we’re extremely hopeful that will happen,” he said.

In an email Tuesday, Department of Health spokeswoman Annemarie Beardsworth said approximately 185,000 vaccine doses have been administered at the Sockanosset site since it opened in January. The site continues to take walk-ins, while appointments can be scheduled via

“We plan to continue vaccination operations at the site through the end of September,” she wrote. “While we expect volume to be lower than what we have seen previously, our goal is to have the capacity to vaccinate any Rhode Islander at Sockanosset who wishes to be vaccinated. The lease is currently through September, and as we have throughout the pandemic, we will constantly assess the need to keep this site open beyond the current terms of the lease, as needed.”

Asked how the state is preparing to handle the potential need for booster shots to be administered in the months ahead, Beardsworth wrote: “The RIDOH team and all operational arms of the Rhode Island COVID response are prepared to handle any surges in demand that might be driven by a booster shot or other such announcements. We continue to be in close contact with federal partners and vaccine manufacturers as updates and details become available.”

Fung on Globe’s list of potential treasurer candidates

Allan Fung, who left office as Cranston’s mayor in January after 12 years on the job, has been cited as a potential candidate for the general treasurer’s office by one of the major publications covering the state.

The Boston Globe piece by Ed Fitzpatrick – published Monday under the headline “Who will be the next Rhode Island state treasurer?” – lists six potential candidates “considering a run” for the post currently held by Democrat Seth Magaziner, who term-limited and widely expected to pursue the governor’s office in 2022.

The list includes five Democrats – state Sen. Ryan Pearson, Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor, former Central Falls Mayor James Diossa, state Rep. Scott Slater and Nicholas Autiello, a former adviser to then-Gov. Gina Raimondo.

Fung, who served 12 years as Cranston’s mayor and was the GOP’s nominee for governor in 2014 and 2018, is the sole Republican on the Globe’s list.

Reached on Monday, Fung – who recently took a job with Johnston-based law firm Pannone Lopes Devereaux & O’Gara – declined to comment on the Globe’s report.

Cranston man sentenced to federal prison on child pornography charges

A Cranston man has been sentenced to 10 years in federal prison on child pornography charges, according to the office of Acting U.S. Attorney Richard B. Myrus.

Robert E. Soares, 41, pleaded guilty to one count each of possession and distribution of child pornography in November 2019. Last week, during an appearance before U.S. District Court Judge William E. Smith, he received the prison sentence followed by a lifetime of supervised release.

Soares has a lengthy criminal history, and his latest sentence will be served following his current term of incarceration at the Adult Correctional Institutions.

In 2018, he received a 15-year sentence – with three years to serve and the remainder suspended – after pleading no contest to state charges of domestic violence/child snatching and indecent exposure, according to Myrus’s office.

The state charges stemmed from a May 2018 arrest by Cranston Police. Soares, police alleged, had “forcibly confined a woman to a bedroom, exposed himself to others, and engaged in fighting and violent behavior. The investigation in that case also led to the federal child pornography charges.

The statement from Myrus’s office reads: “A subsequent investigation determined that Soares had persuaded a 14-year-old girl to allow him to take photographs and a video of her dressed only in her underwear. The images were created in a makeshift movie set Soares constructed in his basement. Additionally, from August 21, 2017, until September 22, 2017, and from mid-February 2018 through May 16, 2018, Soares repeatedly distributed images of child pornography and child erotica to a friend, often referring to these images of prepubescent children being sexually abused as his ‘pervy pic’ of the day.”

Administration: Yard waste pickup issues being addressed

Waste Management has indicated it will be caught up on yard waste pickup for city residents within days, Chief of Staff Anthony Moretti said earlier this week, while the city continues to levy a fine of $1,000 per day against the company due to the failure to meet the terms of its contract.

“I believe Cranston was out front,” he said. “Not that we’re happy to do it, but unfortunately we found it necessary.”

In the weeks since pickup of yard waste resumed in April, complaints have surfaced over delays, sometimes of more than week. The subject has been raised during meetings of the City Council.

On May 20, the administration of Mayor Ken Hopkins shared a message via the city’s website indicated that the “significant ongoing delays” in yard waste pickup were resulting from Waste Management’s staffing issues.

“Waste Management is making every effort to add additional staff for this work,” the message reads.

Moretti said during a meeting more than a week ago, Waste Management indicated it would be caught up by the end of this week. He said additional follow-up would be needed to “make sure we’re still on track,” although he believes delays in pickup have reduced “significantly.”

The City Council has scheduled an executive session for June 17 to discuss Waste Management’s performance.

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