Valley Breeze

The Valley Breeze Pawtucket 07-01-2020

The Valley Breeze Newspapers serving the Northern Rhode Island towns of Cumberland, Lincoln, Woonsocket, Smithfield, North Smithfield, Pawtucket, North Providence, Scituate, Foster, and Glocester

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2 PAWTUCKET JULY 1-7, 2020 | VALLEY BREEZE | PAWTUCKET EDITION PAWTUCKET – School Committee members are expressing great frustration with Supt. Cheryl McWilliams after her applica- tion to the state to take part in its WorkShare program was denied. Thirty-six non-teaching school staff had signed up to take part in the cost-saving program after city offi- cials asked the district to take part in it. City officials cited extensive ques- tion marks over funding in the next year or two. During a special meeting last Thursday, June 25, school board members described the failed appli- cation as an embarrassment that didn't have to happen. Despite McWilliams and Chairman Jay Charbonneau signing a memo- randum of understanding with school staffers on June 11, a docu- ment describing imminent layoffs, McWilliams then filled out a one- page application the next day stating that the district wasn't anticipating layoffs. Subsequently notified of the denial on June 15, McWilliams then declined to fix the application to state that layoffs are imminent, and Charbonneau decided against step- ping in for a replacement signature. Explaining himself during last week's meeting, Charbonneau said he did not feel comfortable stating that the district was laying off employees when it's running a $2.6 million sur- plus for the fiscal year ending this week. If he's running a business, said Charbonneau, there's no way he's contemplating layoffs when there's a $2.6 million surplus. The loss to the city in once-poten- tial savings is between $150,000 and $200,000. The City Council on Monday, at Councilor Mark Wildenhain's request, sent a letter to the School Committee asking what steps WorkShare, a program offered by the Unemployment Insurance Division in the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training, allows qualified employers to reduce the hours of work for employees rather than lay them off completely during a time of economic hardship. Asked about the apparent contra- diction between the memorandum and application this week, and why she signed the memorandum stat- ing there were anticipated layoffs, McWilliams responded that the WorkShare program was presented to the School Department "as a pro- gram that we needed to offer our employees in collaboration with the city." Chief of Staff Dylan Zelazo said this week that the state's WorkShare program provides communities with a tool to offset costs to taxpay- ers. The city opted in, which will save more than $500,000, he said, employees helping meet the obliga- tion to save dollars wherever pos- sible. "The city encouraged the Pawtucket School Department to participate in the program as well," he said. "Public revenues have taken a dramatic hit in recent months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, partic- ularly state revenues to municipali- ties and school districts. State fund- ing will continue to be depressed over the coming months as the state reopens gradually to keep everyone safe. School departments are largely dependent on state aid in order to fund their operations. With state rev- enues to fund the budget in doubt, there is likely to be significant cuts across state spending in order to adjust to the current reality." Zelazo said officials are confused as to why McWilliams and the School Committee "have chosen not to participate as well as the inconsis- tencies with the filings." School officials wrote down "N/A" under a question on anticipated lay- offs. School board members last week, particularly Kim Grant, similarly expressed frustration with leader- ship, questioning why McWilliams didn't make changes after a June 16 phone call with the state. She told them that the word "imminent" came up several times related to lay- offs, which simply isn't the case. McWilliams said it's now a matter of taking the money from the origi- nal bucket of the school budget to pay the staffers. But Grant questioned why McWilliams didn't realize that there was flexibility on the timing of the program, saying that officials didn't have to rush the application through as they did. Grant also noted that many staffers likely made plans around their days off over the coming 12 weeks, and will now face the inconvenience of having to change them. Responding to Grant's criti- cisms of a rushed special meeting, Charbonneau pledged to do better in the future, taking responsibility for the hurried nature of the applica- tion. School board members also want- ed to know why it took a full week to announce that the district didn't qualify for the program. School attorney Jon Anderson placed the blame for the situa- tion squarely on the shoulders of McWilliams, saying she didn't con- sult with him on filling out the appli- cation after working with him on the memorandum. After July 1, said Anderson, the program becomes much less attractive to employees from a financial incentive point of view. He said McWilliams didn't understand the law but still filled out the application and met with the state without consulting him for legal advice. Grant noted that while Anderson is there to consult with McWilliams, it is ultimately the superintendent who is hired as the person the com- mittee trusts to make final decisions. She questioned the decision to keep going back to McWilliams to con- vince her to fix the application if McWilliams didn't feel comfortable doing so. With all the debate back and forth about the failed application, said Charbonneau, it's still worth noting that this isn't an enormous amount of money in the grand scheme of the budget. The savings essentially would have paid off the district's school lunch debt, he said. School board upset over failed application By ETHAN SHOREY Valley Breeze Editor ethan@valleybreeze.com PAWTUCKET – A $43 million mixed-use residential and commer- cial project took a large leap forward Monday when the City Council approved a 20-year tax stabilization agreement. The project from the Peyser Real Estate Group, to be located a block from a coming new train station, on a vacant parcel at 71 Dexter St., will include 20,300 square feet of ground floor convenience retail, two restau- rants, a coffee shop, a bank, a fresh market, wellness-related retail, a state- of-the-art fitness center, and about 170 parking spaces to support tenants, retail patrons, and retail employees. Commerce Director Jeanne Boyle said the project will be transformative for the Conant Thread District area, setting the tone for new development here. This is probably the largest proj- ect the city has seen in decades, she said, and she's excited to see it move forward. Tax Assessor Bob Burns agreed that the project, located near the Central Falls line, will be great for an area that's been largely devoid of private investment. While much of the city's economic development goes largely unnoticed within its mills, he said, this project will be very visible as a large building goes up on a private lot. The developer told the council Monday that the project will hopefully be done by September 2022 when the train station is set to come online, though it could be done a bit earlier. Councilor John Barry III, head of the council's finance committee that first approved the agreement to gradually phase in the new value of the property, said this project is a positive for the city and will create a much better situ- ation for Pawtucket as a whole and its taxpayers. Council President David Moran hailed "excellent work" by all involved in planning financing for the project. "I'm excited about it. I think it's a great opportunity for the city," he said. Council approves tax agreement for $43 million project By ETHAN SHOREY Valley Breeze Editor ethan@valleybreeze.com Summer camp registrations this week PAWTUCKET – The city has announced that on-site registrations for Slater Park Summer Camp are being held this week. The Parks and Recreation Division received supplemental funds from the Rhode Island Departments of Education and Human Services to help provide the additional resources required under coronavirus guide- lines to ensure the safety of youth. "Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, cities across the state have had to cut down on the recreational activities that they can provide," said Mayor Donald Grebien. "We con- tinue to work alongside the council to ensure that youth across the entire city have the opportunity to partici- pate in camps and recreation. We are pleased to have received these funds in order to provide children a safe and enjoyable environment." The Pawtucket Parks and Recreation Division is holding on- site registrations to assist those who do not have access to transportation. These will be held on: • Today, July 1, from 4 to 5 p.m. at the Woodlawn Community Center parking lot; • Today, July 1, from 6 to 7 p.m. at the rear parking lot of Nathanael Greene School; • And this Thursday, July 2, at the John Street Playground from 5 to 6 p.m. The cost for the camp is $30 for a three-week session with two sessions of camp over the summer. Guardians See SUMMER CAMP, Page 10 FRESH GRADE A ChiCken TenDeRLOinS $ 1.99LB Michael ' s Meats ' M M A Family Tradition Since 1972 www.Michaels-Meats.com 2130 Mendon Road, CuMbeRland 401-305-5555 Thursday, July 2nd - Wednesday, July 8st FRESHLy GRounD 80% LEAn gROunD ChuCk OR paTTieS $ 4.99LB Look for updates on our Facebook page • New Temporary Hours 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday - Saturday cERtiFiED AnGuS BonELESS SheLL TOp SiRLOin STeak $ 6.88LB FRESHLy MADE MicHAEL'S TRi-COLOR paSTa SaLaD $ 2.99LB happY 4Th OF JuLY oPEn tHuRS & FRi. JuLy 2 & 3 9 A.M.-6 P.M. SAt. JuLy 4tH 9 A.M.-2 P.M. cERtiFiED AnGuS FLank STeak $ 8.88LB FRESHLy SLicED BoAR'S HEAD ameRiCan CheeSe $ 3.99LB kAyEM SkinLESS FRankS $ 4.99LB FRESHLy GRounD ExtRA LEAn gROunD TuRkeY $ 4.77LB MicHAEL'S MARinAtED ChiCken CuTLeTS $ 3.99LB ExtRA LEAn BonELESS PoRk SpaRe RiBS $ 3.88LB FRESH SLicED BoAR'S HEAD/LoW SoDiuM ham $ 7.99LB FRESH ExPRESS 12 oZ PkG. icEBERG gaRDen SaLaD 99 ¢ EA SWEEt ViDaLia OniOnS 99 ¢ LB FRESH - Pint BLueBeRRieS OR STRaWBeRRieS $ 2.49 EA LARGE SWEEt CheRRieS $ 4.99 LB

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