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Pawtucket is a city of 71,148 residents founded in 1671, at the strategic falls of the Blackstone River and the upper tidewaters of Narragansett Bay. It is a city with a special place in the industrial history of the United States. For it was here at the Slater Mill Historic Site that Samuel Slater successfully constructed and operated machines for spinning cotton yarn in 1793. Besides textiles, a variety of machines and iron working shops grew up alongside the textile industry.
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The Pawtucket Parks & Recreation Department will be hosting the 42nd Pawtucket Open Tennis Tournament at the Kenney Tennis Courts located in Slater Memorial Park. Matches will begin Thursday, August 27 and will continue through Sunday, August 30.
Divisions for this tournament will include 3.0-3.5 and 4.0-4.5 singles events, in addition to a Doubles and Seniors 50+ Division for men. Women's divisions will include a Singles and Doubles event. Singles events are $15 for residents and $19 for non-residents, while doubles events are $20 per team consisting of two residents or $25 for a non-resident or mixed resident team. One doubles team participant is responsible for including their partner on the submitted registration and payment for the team. Participants must be 18 years of age or older and may enter for two events only.
Matches start between 5:30 and 6:00 pm during the weekday events with weekend match times to be determined by participation. All match times will posted on Tuesday, August 25 at 6:00 pm at the Slater Park tennis courts. Participants will be called or emailed by 8:00 pm on Tuesday with the time of their first match.Registrations are available at the Slater Park Office Monday through Friday 8:30a.m. through 4:30p.m. or, on the City of Pawtucket website at www.pawtucketri.com by clicking the "Departments" tab, followed by the "Parks & Recreation" option. The tennis registration form will be located in the right hand column. Questions may be forwarded to Dennis Corain at 508-667-1940 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The registration deadline is Friday, August 21, at noon, with no exceptions. A free t-shirt will be made available for the first 40 entries.
Continuing Mayor Donald R. Grebien's efforts to create a more business-friendly City Hall and to revitalize its historic downtown, a Washington, D.C.-based professional development organization has provided assistance to Pawtucket. Under a grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration for disaster recovery and economic resilience, the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) brought a volunteer team of experts to advise the City on downtown development strategies, real estate financing, and combating vacancy and blight. IEDC is a membership organization of over 4,600 economic development organizations and professionals.
Hosted by Mayor Grebien, the Department of Planning and Redevelopment and the Pawtucket Foundation, the IEDC team met in February of this year with local and state officials, business owners, the financial and arts communities and other downtown supporters to discuss and find ways to move the city forward.
"Strengthening Downtown," the final technical assistance report, brings customized recommendations to the city and its partners for progress in reshaping and reinvigorating Pawtucket's center. The report lays out steps for a clear development strategy, suggests ways to organize, engage and attract new market segments and insists upon strict code compliance and safety. "Pawtucket is a gem," said project manager Sarah Garcia of IEDC. "It's tight urban layout along the river is perfectly suited as a gateway to the Blackstone River Valley National Park to the north and as a satellite neighborhood to Providence."
"We are eager to put these strategies into action," stated Mayor Donald Grebien. "Pawtucket has had great success with the renovation of its historic mills and its 307 acre Arts & Entertainment District. We look to connect and bring that energy into the City's downtown." Aaron Hertzberg, Executive Director of the Pawtucket Foundation, welcomed the release of the report. "We are step by step putting together the changes that open up and expand the downtown. Our partnership with the city is strong, and we look forward to increasing focus on this area and results."To receive a final copy of the report or to submit comments, please email Herb Weiss, Pawtucket's Economic & Cultural Affairs Officer at email@example.com.
The Pawtucket Arts & Culture Commission announces two new awards, created by the Pawtucket-based VSA Arts Rhode Island, to recognize Rhode Island youths with disabilities who make a difference in their communities. The awards ceremony, hosted by Mayor Donald R. Grebien and Pawtucket's Arts & Cultural Commission, is scheduled for Friday, August 14, 2015, at 1:15 p.m. at Pawtucket City Hall, City Council Chambers, 137 Roosevelt Avenue, 3rd Floor.
Two awards will be given to young, disabled youths, one for making a positive difference in the Blackstone Valley and the other for statewide contributions. The deadline for submitting nominations is Friday, July 31, 2015.
According to Dr. Rosemary Burns, VSA Arts Board of Director President, the new awards are to celebrate and encourage young Rhode Islanders with disabilities, ages 15 to 25, attending high school or college, who are committed to positively affecting the lives of disabled individuals by creating opportunities to bring them into full participation in their communities.
Burns says examples of qualified applicants might include a young student who is advocating for equal access to quality education. Or a young artist who is creatively raising awareness about issues concerning people with disabilities through their art form. Even a volunteer changing the perception of people with disabilities in the workforce, or a young person actively inspiring better policies for people with disabilities through social media. "The nominee does not have to be a 'professional' advocate but should be effectively and creatively working to make a difference," she adds.
"While much has been accomplished in the 25 years since ADA passed, making it possible for those of us with disabilities to participate more fully in society, much remains to be done," stated VSA arts Director Jeannine Chartier. "And the creative work that our Rhode Island youths are doing to be positive role models and raise awareness certainly helps!"
Chairperson Miriam R. Plitt, Pawtucket Arts & Culture Commission, sees the importance of recognizing young, disabled adults who make a difference in their communities. "Creating a better society for Americans with disabilities takes both young and old advocates," she says. "The actions of these young nominees showcase what achievements young people can make."For details, e-mail VSA arts Rhode Island at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (401) 725-0247. Nominations forms, downloaded from www.vsartsri.org, may be either e-mailed or mailed to 500 Prospect Street, Pawtucket, RI 02860.
The communities of Pawtucket and Central Falls have agreed on a Memorandum of Understanding that would merge the Emergency Management Agencies from the two communities. This project would establish a two year cost-sharing, pilot program for Pawtucket and Central Falls. The two merged agencies would be responsible for maintaining not only day to day operations and disaster planning, but also managing emergency operations from one central Emergency Operations Center during a local or statewide declared state of emergency.
"This partnership between Pawtucket and Central Falls will increase public safety for the residents of our communities by improving response time, training and services," stated Pawtucket's Mayor, Donald R. Grebien. "Additionally, both of our communities will see increased savings and efficiency by merging the two agencies together. Through this partnership we are achieving a level of service neither of us could achieve on our own for a fraction of the cost," continued Grebien.
"During my administration, the City of Central Falls has consistently found Mayor Grebien and the City of Pawtucket to be a great collaborator on cost saving consolidation initiatives like this," said Mayor James Diossa. "Central Falls and Pawtucket have already achieved cost savings by consolidating our housing inspection department through a trial agreement. Our communities are leading the way on this front to the benefit of the taxpayers of our respective cities."Pawtucket Emergency Management Director, Norm Menard and Central Falls Director, Chief Robert Bradley, worked collaboratively on the process of exploring the merger of the two agencies. The process, which began about eighteen months ago, culminated with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding by Mayor Grebien and Mayor Diossa. Mayors Grebien and Diossa have also expressed interest in partnering with Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency to stage shelter supplies at the facility in Pawtucket.
Mayor Donald R. Grebien announced that extended hours of service at City Hall, an initiative to provide greater access to services for residents and businesses, will continue through October of 2015. The extended hours will again be available until 7:00 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month.
The increased availability for the public will continue to include the Board of Canvassers, City Clerk, Tax Assessor, Tax Collections, Mayor's Office, and Zoning & Code Enforcement Department.
The upcoming Thursday dates when City Hall will remain open until 7 p.m. are: July 16, August 20, September 17, and October 15.
"The extended hours program continues to provide access to City Hall services for people who may be unable to come to City Hall during regular business hours," Mayor Grebien said. "We are pleased to provide this added convenience to the public. This service upgrade is available for all Pawtucket residents and business who need to access their local government. Our staff is here to serve everyone, and for some it is easier to come to City Hall after work."For additional information, contact the Mayor's Office at 728-0500, ext. 281 or any of the City Hall offices that will be open for extended hours. Normal City Hall hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Gallery Exhibit Gives Tribute to ADA's 25 Year Birthday
The Pawtucket Arts & Culture Commission in partnership with Pawtucket-based VSA arts Rhode Island presents "Beyond Barriers" featuring the works created by local artists with disabilities in celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the 40th Anniversary of VSA's founding by Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith. The event will be held on Friday, June 12, 2015, from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., at Pawtucket City Hall, 137 Roosevelt Avenue, Pawtucket.
According to Jeannine L. Chartier, Executive & Artistic Director of VSA arts Rhode Island, "Beyond Barriers" is planned to bring attention to the efforts and accomplishments of those persons with disabilities, highlighting the major impact of the ADA law. "We want to raise the awareness of ADA and state efforts to ensure equal opportunity and access for all Rhode Islanders," she says.
"Many stories, events and artworks created by people with disabilities never make it into history, into books or shared public memories even though these individuals are America's largest majority," says Chartier. "The gallery exhibit gives them the recognition that they deserve," continued Chartier.
Mariam R. Plitt, Chair of the City's Arts & Culture Commission says, "This is a must-see art gallery exhibit showcasing ADA's impact on enhancing the life of those with disabilities over its 25 years of its existence. We're pleased to have so many artists with disabilities participating in our Summer exhibit, says Plitt, noting that participating groups include Blackstone Valley Chapter ARC's Flying Shuttles, Resources for Human Development's 1st & 2nd Sight, and United Cerebral Palsy of RI's Adaptive Art Program.
"Beyond Barriers" gallery exhibit sponsors include: Dutch Auto Body; Dupuis Oil; Fogarty Foundation; Fuzion Design; Independence Square Foundation; IOLABS; David Kerkorian, CPA; Pawtucket Rotary; Partridge Snow & Hahn; Pawtucket Credit Union; Providence Inner City Arts; Providence Officer Patricia Blake; Shah & Co; Rich Waltrous, Dawn Gallery.
Wheelchair accessible entrance and accessible parking spaces are located at the rear of Pawtucket City Hall. For more information call VSA arts RI at (401) 725-0247 or email, email@example.com.
The Advisory Commission on Arts and Culture is focused on the identification, expansion, and promotion of the arts, culture, and artistic features throughout the city of Pawtucket.VSA arts Rhode Island is a statewide, nonprofit, arts and education organization dedicated to providing opportunities for children and adults with disabilities to actively participate in the arts.
Mayor Donald R. Grebien is actively promoting the City of Pawtucket's new Tax Stabilization Ordinance, which was recently unanimously passed by the Pawtucket City Council. The ordinance will help spur economic development and provide an incentive for businesses to come to the City and invest, as well as promote reinvestment from existing companies already located in Pawtucket.
The Mayor and City Council collaborated to develop an ordinance that was fair and transparent for both taxpayers and businesses seeking to locate or expand their operations in the City. The new Tax Stabilization Ordinance will provide for a standard five-year administrative approval property tax stabilization for businesses undertaking a minimum of $250,000 in taxable improvements to a property. Upon satisfying the requirements and completion of the improvements, the Tax Assessor and Planning Director are able to authorize a five-year phase-in on the taxes attributable to the new investment.
"This ordinance provides yet another tool for the City to use to bolster economic activity in Pawtucket," stated Mayor Grebien. "While luring new businesses to the City, we are also able to help businesses that already call Pawtucket home and want to grow and expand their companies here within the City," Grebien continued. "We continue to hear from the business community that predictability and equity are at the forefront of their concerns in their decision-making processes, and this ordinance provides both."
Council President David P. Moran said, "The ordinance change represents a marked improvement in our economic development efforts. It adds a layer of predictability while maintaining high levels of accountability."
"As we talk with businesses and developers, we understand it's important to create as much predictability and transparency as possible in their dealings with the City," stated Aaron Hertzberg, Executive Director of The Pawtucket Foundation, a critical partner with the City on economic development issues. "The stabilization standardization helps to create a system that meets those goals and encourages development."
The ordinance also contains a process for a ten-year stabilization for businesses investing $5 million in taxable improvements. Businesses would need to complete a standard application and present it to the City Council for their review and approval. The new Tax Stabilization Ordinance was officially approved by the City Council, a willing partner in crafting this ordinance, and signed by the Mayor at the end of March.Further information on the ordinance can be obtained by calling the Department of Planning and Redevelopment at 401-728-0500 Extension 439 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Applications are available at the Department of Planning and Redevelopment at City Hall, 137 Roosevelt Avenue, Pawtucket.
This Wednesday, May 6th at 1:00pm, Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien will join Central Falls Mayor James Diossa in welcoming Zipcar, the world's leading car sharing network, with a ribbon cutting event to celebrate the launch of the company in the area.
The ceremony will take place in the Slater Mill parking lot adjacent from Pawtucket City Hall. Mayors Grebien and Diossa will join Zipcar Market Manager Chris Moulding to discuss the benefits of adding Zipcars to the cities of Pawtucket and Central Falls while showing off the Zipcar fleet. In total, six vehicles will be located in three locations throughout the area including:
Zipcar is the world's leading car sharing network and has operations in urban areas and college campuses throughout North America and Europe. Zipcar offers over 50 models of self-service vehicles to residents or businesses looking for smart, simple and convenient solutions to the urban and campus transportation needs.
Studies have shown that vehicle miles traveled per driver are reduced by 40 percent when car owners switch to car sharing, thus reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Studies also demonstrate that on average in North America, each car shared replaces at least 15 cars on the road.
The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the federal agency that administers AmeriCorps, today announced that Pawtucket will be one of 10 communities nationwide to become part of the agency's new Operation AmeriCorps initiative. The Connecting Futures Operation AmeriCorps project, led by the Pawtucket School Department, will support 64 AmeriCorps members over the next two years to improve graduation rates and connect more than 900 graduating Pawtucket seniors with one of five postgraduate opportunities: education at a two- or four-year college; employment; military service; national service, such as AmeriCorps; or a paid internship, registered apprenticeship, or job training program.
"I salute the City of Pawtucket, the Pawtucket School Department, Serve Rhode Island, and the business and community partners for this visionary project that will have a transforming impact on the community and its young people," said Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service. "Through Operation AmeriCorps, this city will come together to ensure more Pawtucket students graduate from high school and get connected to opportunities that help them reach their full potential in life."
"I commend Mayor Grebien, Superintendent DiCenso and the Pawtucket School Department, and Serve Rhode Island for working together to win this federal grant to help improve college and career opportunities for graduating seniors. Serve Rhode Island and AmeriCorps members really make a positive difference in our communities. This is a smart federal investment that will help open new opportunities for Pawtucket high school students. It gives more young people the opportunity to gain valuable skills while enriching local schools and our community," said Senator Jack Reed.
"The Pawtucket School Department should take great pride in earning one of 10 inaugural Operation AmeriCorps grants for 2015," said Congressman David N. Cicilline. "This funding will help ensure that young people in Pawtucket are able to continue their education beyond high school and move on to a successful career. The Pawtucket School Department on their successful grant application and thanks to Operation AmeriCorps for investing in Rhode Island's next generation."
"I am thrilled to see these stakeholders collaborate in order to increase graduation rates for high school students in Pawtucket," said Governor Gina M. Raimondo. "With this grant, AmeriCorps will help address workforce development and the skills gap in Rhode Island. This is a great step towards building the skills needed for a 21st century economy."
"I want to thank Wendy Spencer, the Corporation for National and Community Service and AmeriCorps for taking such a keen interest in the City of Pawtucket and our schoolchildren. I also want to thank the Pawtucket School Committee, School Superintendent Patti Dicenso and our community partners for their participation in this event today. This is a community that cares about one another and these grant dollars, which will help foster volunteerism and community service from our young people, will aid in keeping the positive momentum that Pawtucket has going for it right now," said Mayor Donald R. Grebien. "By allowing our kids access to mentors who can help them reach their goals of going to college, we are making a significant investment in the workforce of tomorrow as well as the future of Pawtucket," Grebien continued.
"The Pawtucket School Department is thrilled to receive this award that will provide mentoring to our students as they plan their futures beyond high school. AmeriCorps members will also model the importance of service to our community and country which is another invaluable lesson for Pawtucket children," said Patti DiCenso, Superintendent of the Pawtucket School Department. "I am grateful to our City and Mayor Grebien for building a bridge between our municipality and school department as we work together to serve our great city. Thank you Governor Raimondo, AmeriCorps and Serve Rhode Island for the incredible support and commitment to the children of Pawtucket."
The Pawtucket School Department is the third organization in the nation to receive Operation AmeriCorps funding, an initiative launched by CNCS last fall for local and tribal governments to use national service as a transformative catalyst to address a high priority community challenge. Additional Operation AmeriCorps grantees will be announced later this month.
Starting next fall, 16 AmeriCorps members will be based at William E. Tolman Senior High and Charles E. Shea Senior High Schools to work with juniors and seniors on career awareness, academic support and remediation, financial literacy, wrap-around services, higher education counseling, and ongoing mentoring support. In addition, six AmeriCorps VISTA members will coordinate with school officials, businesses, nonprofits, and other groups to develop college, work, service, and internship options for students. A team of ten AmeriCorps NCCC members will also serve in the summer to engage high school students in service projects.
The federal agency's investment includes $826,000 in AmeriCorps program dollars over two years, contingent on appropriations and performance. In addition, AmeriCorps members completing their service are eligible to earn a total of $252,000 in Segal AmeriCorps Education Awards to pay for higher education or pay back student loans. This federal investment of $1.078 million is projected to generate an additional $450,000 in local cash and in-kind matching contributions, making the total two-year investment total worth more than $1.5 million.
The Connecting Futures project will involve many state and local partners including the Governors Workforce Board, the Workforce Partnership of Greater Rhode Island, RI Department of Labor and Training, Youth Center of Pawtucket, Boys & Girls Club of Pawtucket, Blackstone Valley Community Action Program, the Pawtucket Foundation, Rhode Island institutions of higher education, the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals, The Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce and local businesses.
CNCS CEO Spencer and Mayor Grebien made the announcement today at Tolman High School. Rhode Island received additional good news this week, when the Corporation for National and Community Service released new data that ranked the state as #6 for residents who enroll in AmeriCorps. Providence, R. I. made an appearance in the rankings as well, coming in at #2 for midsize cities.
The Operation AmeriCorps funding builds on CNCS' existing investment of $7.8 million in communities across Rhode Island. These federal dollars leverage an additional $3.4 million in other resources. This funding supports more than 4,000 AmeriCorps members and Senior Corps volunteers to serve at 525 locations in the state. These citizens tutor and mentor children, support veterans and military families, provide health services, restore the environment, and more. The Pawtucket School Department will begin recruiting individuals for these new AmeriCorps positions that will start for the 2015-2016 school year. These full-time AmeriCorps positions provide a living allowance, training, health coverage, a $5,730 college scholarship, and the opportunity to make a difference for Pawtucket and its young people.
Work is well under way at 175 Main Street as Pet Food Experts Inc., a leading distributor of pet food, supplies and products, prepares to open the doors at its 24,000 square foot location in the City of Pawtucket. The company is bringing around one hundred jobs to Pawtucket and the building provides opportunity for expansion as Pet Food Experts poised for future growth and expansion. This relocation of office personnel, allows Pet Food Experts to remain within six miles of its 200,000 square foot New England distribution center.
"We are very excited to be welcoming Pet Food Experts to the heart of our downtown," stated Mayor of Pawtucket Donald R. Grebien. "Pet Food Experts is a homegrown, Rhode Island company with a commitment to corporate citizenship. They will be a great partner for the City as we continue to build a bridge to progress here in Pawtucket," continued Grebien. "The jobs and activity being added to our downtown will help us continue to move Pawtucket forward and improve our economy."
175 Main Street, the former Peerless Building, was purchased by the Pawtucket Redevelopment Agency (PRA) in 1992. The PRA had been actively marketing the building in recent years and looking for a buyer like Pet Food Experts that would bring good jobs and a great business model to this strategic downtown building. The building was purchased on December 31, 2014, for $2 million.
Currently, Pet Food Experts delivers to over 3,400 independent retailers in 28 states. In 2012, the company was recognized for their efforts and awarded the 2012 Ken Chancey Distributor of the Year Award by the Pet Industry Distributors Association (PIDA) as well being named one of the best places to work three times this decade by Best Places to Work in Rhode Island.Owner's Representative Colin Kane, of Peregrine Group LLC said, "The City of Pawtucket and the Pawtucket Redevelopment Authority were exceptionally sophisticated partners in supporting Pet Food Experts' decision to move its national corporate headquarters. Peregrine works throughout the country helping companies and institutions realize their facility objectives, and Pawtucket offered a perfect combination of pro-business sentiment, strong community values, and capable leadership. Mayor Grebien, the City Council, and the PRA deserve much credit for helping Pet Food Experts expand its business in RI."
Monday night, Mayor Grebien presided over the swearing in ceremony for members of the Charter Review Commission. The commission will be tasked with updating and modernizing Pawtucket's founding document, the City Charter.
Once the members were sworn in, an organizational meeting followed. With many city directors in attendance, an open discussion amongst the newly sworn in members of the commission took place. The meeting culminated with the election of Officers of the commission. Raymond Spooner was elected as Chair of the commission. Melissa Brusso was elected Vice Chair and Sandra Bachini-Goboriault was elected as Secretary.
"The commission and I are excited to get to work updating Pawtucket's City Charter to ensure that it is up to date with best practices, state and federal law" stated Charter Review Commission Chair Ray Spooner.
Other members of the Charter Review Commission include:
Michael Cassidy, Michael Leshinsky, Joseph Clark, Kristen McGill, Carolina Correira, Karina Pelaez, Patricia De-Dora St. Germain and Lisa Savickas
City of Pawtucket employees from every department attended a daylong seminar at Bryant University, focusing on interoffice communications and communication between departments.
The seminar was conducted by Dr. Lori Coakley, an associate professor of management with expertise in organizational studies, management communication and women in leadership. The training was provided under a gift to Bryant from Hassenfeld Family Initiatives, Inc. at no cost to taxpayers.
"Technology and methods of communicating are constantly advancing and evolving and the City of Pawtucket needs to be at the forefront of those advances to ensure that City Hall is operating at the highest level of capacity and efficiency for taxpayers," Mayor Donald R. Grebien said. "Bryant University and the Hassenfeld Institute for Public Leadership, continue to be a valued partner with Pawtucket. The high level of training and instruction that we receive at these seminars is critical to the professional development of our employees," Grebien continued.
The seminar continues a relationship with the City that began in late 2010 with the formation of what is now the Hassenfeld Institute for Public Leadership at Bryant. Prior seminar sessions have included department directors led by Grebien along with mayors from other cities, as well as School Committee members and top school officials from Pawtucket and other communities, among others.
"The City is very grateful to Alan Hassenfeld and Hassenfeld Family Initiatives for making this type of training available to our community," stated Grebien.
Long-Term School Deficit Eliminated, Grebien: Pleased by Progress, Focused on the Challenges Ahead
The final audit for fiscal year 2014, released earlier this month, shows that the City of Pawtucket ended the year with a total surplus of $4.8 million and the Pawtucket School Department had an operational surplus of over $500,000.
The City's revenues were $2.7 million higher than budgeted, largely due to greater than anticipated prior year tax collections, and increased rescue service revenue, partially due to the implementation of the City's third rescue. "We have worked to implement best practices and be more aggressive in pursuing delinquent taxpayers and we are seeing the results," said Mayor Donald R. Grebien. "These practices have helped position the City so that we have not had to raise taxes two years in a row."
Additionally, the City's expenditures were $1.7 million under budget. "As we work to improve services to our residents every day, we continue to watch our bottom line closely. Through the hard work of our employees and sound management, we came in under budget again last year," said Mayor Grebien. The City had budgeted a surplus of $400,000.
The City's "rainy day fund" now sits at roughly $10.7 million. "We continue to rebuild our previously-depleted reserves, and remain focused on improving our overall financial position and bond rating," said Grebien. Finance Director, Joanna L'Heureux has previously said that 10% of budget is a national standard for reserves that the City targets. "With City and School spending of around $200 million, we are about halfway there," said L'Heureux. "It's a matter of sustaining the growth and positioning ourselves to be able to react to any unforeseen emergencies."
Grebien thanked U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and U.S. Representative David Cicillene for their role in securing the SAFER Grant which is currently helping to offset Fire Department expenditures. "The City owes a great thank you to our federal delegation as the SAFER Grant is saving Pawtucket $4 million over the life of the grant and, in turn, is helping us rebuild our reserves."
Grebien cautioned that the City still has a lot of work in front of it, "We have a stronger financial foundation but still need to continue to reinforce it and build on the work that has been done to date. There are still many financial challenges in front of us. The safer grant is ending this year, most negotiated contracts are in place but some are still pending, the OPEB liabilities still need to be controlled, reinvestment in our infrastructure needs to begin in earnest as we can no longer afford to defer maintenance, and there are concerns about what could happen to municipalities with the looming projected state shortfalls."
The audit also shows that the combination of the School Department FY 2014 operating surplus and the City's early payment this year toward a lingering school deficit payment plan from FY 2010 resulted in the first overall positive fund balance for the Pawtucket School Department since FY 2005."We have come a long way since the city was on the brink of bankruptcy four short years ago, but we still have a long way to go. We will continue to work to improve our city's finances and bond rating, while balancing the impact on our taxpayers. I am heartened by the progress we have made and excited about the road ahead," concluded Grebien.
Mayor Donald R. Grebien announced that his administration is seeking letters of interest from Pawtucket residents who wish to serve on one of the city's boards and commissions.
"We are fortunate to have so many dedicated residents who are committed to giving back and serving our great city. It has been and will continue to be a priority of my administration to open our city government up to all members of our diverse community," Grebien said. "I believe our boards should reflect the diversity of our community – by culture, gender and every other measure – to the greatest extent possible, and I encourage everyone's involvement."
A full list of the boards and commissions is available on the city's Web site at www.pawtucketri.com. Anyone who wishes to serve is required to be a Pawtucket resident and at least 18 years of age. All appointments are subject to available openings. Submissions should be received by Friday, Jan. 16, 2015.
Letters of interest and resumes should be mailed to the Mayor's Office, Pawtucket City Hall, 137 Roosevelt Avenue, Pawtucket, Rhode Island, 02860 or sent by email to email@example.com. In the body of the letter please state on which board or commission you would like to serve and your general availability."I encourage every Pawtucket resident to consider public service. Together, we can further the progress we continue to make every day and build an even brighter future," Grebien said.
City of Pawtucket's Prudent Financial Management, significantly improved finances, restoration of reserves, elimination of the School Deficit and pension-OPEB reform are major factors in rare two notch upgrade.
Pawtucket Mayor Donald R. Grebien today announced that the City has been upgraded two notches to BBB+ from BBB- by Fitch Ratings. The upgrade comes after a thorough review of the City's financial and managerial operations by the rating agency earlier this month in connection with Fitch's annual surveillance review of Pawtucket. The upgrade is expected to result in a lower cost of borrowing for the City on future debt.
"I am very pleased that Fitch recognized the hard work we have done in improving the City's financial position, working collaboratively with the School Department and City Council managing our operating budget and future obligations. We have been working hard to improve the City's and School Department's finances while delivering high quality government services efficiently and effectively. While this is great news, the rating upgrade also serves as a reminder that we have a great deal of work still ahead, especially with regards to long-term obligations like our pension and other post-employment benefits, as Fitch points out," said Mayor Grebien. "Fitch's decision to upgrade the City's bond rating reinforces the direction we have taken and shows that our efforts are paying off. We will continue to focus on improving service and operating more efficiently to ensure our bond rating continues to improve, which in turn will lower our borrowing costs."
The Mayor was joined in the presentation to Fitch by Director of Administration Antonio Pires, Finance Director Joanna L'Heureux, Deputy Finance Director Jeannine Bourski and the City's financial advisors, Maureen Gurghigian and Adam Krea of FirstSouthwest. The Mayor said he "commends the Director of Administration and Finance Director for the comprehensive presentation made to Fitch. Our thorough preparation clearly presented a full picture of the City's progress and was critical to achieving this excellent result."
The Fitch report listed as rating drivers to result in the upgrade: Pawtucket's significantly improved finances, restoration of reserves, elimination of the School Deficit, prudent financial management, moderate debt burden and pension and OPEB reform.
Finance Director L'Heureux said, "the BBB+ rating incorporates the City's strong management practices, improved financial position and elimination of the School Deficit a year ahead of schedule. The rating also considers our conservative approach to debt and recently implemented pension and OPEB reforms."
Maureen Gurghigian, FirstSouthwest Managing Director said, "A double notch upgrade is rare and is a real recognition of the strides the City has made over the past few years. Rating Agencies usually take much longer to upgrade communities than to downgrade them." She noted "the City has experienced improved market access over the last two years as evidenced by successful general obligation bond and note sales, but with a double upgrade from Fitch, we expect the City to see continued improvement in rates offered by investors." She noted that investor acceptance of the issuer is an important consideration in the pricing of municipal bonds. "A rating upgrade can be expected to increase the universe of potential buyers for the City's bonds. As with any product, more buyers will result in a more competitive price for the City," Gurghigian added.
City Officials Listen to Mill Tenants' Needs
The City is working with RIPTA to address some of the issues at the current Pawtucket hub location, 175 Main Street. A public hearing was held on Tuesday, October 28, 2014 to discuss some of the study's initial findings and some potential solutions.
Pawtucket Foundation Provides Expertise to Create Visual Tool
Providence Business News Supplement
To take maximum advantage of a new state law that allows municipalities to potentially save hundreds of thousands of dollars annually on distribution and energy costs for street lights usage, the City of Pawtucket is taking a detailed look at joining a consortium of cities and towns being set up for that purpose.
The Partnership for R.I. Streetlight Management (PRISM) is an initiative of the Rhode Island League of Cities and Towns, which has led the way on efforts to allow municipalities to purchase their street lights from National Grid.
Figures reported by PRISM show potential initial annual savings in Pawtucket of approximately $544,000 on maintenance fees in the first year by joining the consortium, which would assume maintenance responsibilities for the streetlights.
Purchase of the streetlights would also allow such money-saving measures as upgrading all lights to LED lights which are more cost efficient and last much longer, offering further potential savings of approximately 40 percent, or approximately $200,000 a year in Pawtucket.
PRISM would assist communities with purchase of their street lights and provide required maintenance on the lights after the purchase, including organizing and administering the professional technical services needed to maintain the lights.
The city in an initial step before proceeding further has requested that National Grid verify current inventory, maintenance and distribution costs, a process expected to take up to 30 days.
"The PRISM initiative is an exciting prospect for Pawtucket as well as other communities who could save significant dollars on their streetlights for years to come," said Mayor Donald R. Grebien. "We are now in the due diligence phase and will examine all facets before making a final decision."
Public Works Director Lance Hill noted LED conversion would also offer efficiency and quality of life improvements beyond cost savings. "Individual lights could be brightened to enhance public safety such as during storm emergencies, or adjusted up or down to accommodate nearby residents. Controllers can also adjust light intensity in off-peak hours such as just before dawn, and be metered so that the city pays just for what it uses or to detect any malfunctions," Hill said.
The R.I. League of Cities and Towns said PRISM would function similarly to its successful REAP program, a consortium of 36 Rhode Island cities and towns begun in 1999 to purchase electricity and other energy related services from power suppliers at the lowest possible prices with the highest quality of service.
Courtesy of The Pawtucket Foundation
What's known as the "statistical revaluation" of city property values, a state-mandated process conducted every three years, will be getting underway on Tuesday, Aug. 12 and continue over the next several months.
"It only happens every three years so it's important to emphasize what the representatives of the appraisal firm hired by the city will be doing, and what they won't be doing," said Tax Assessor Robert Burns.
"They're not going to go door to door to every home. They will be reviewing city records of property sales, and looking at those houses, and just driving by other houses. They may want to verify building permit work and take a photo of that," Burns said.
Burns added that such permit work would typically include larger ticket items such as home additions, but not kitchen and bathroom remodeling or repairs to windows, doors and roofs, which the city does not consider in assessing home values.
After a competitive bid process the city hired Vision Government Solutions Inc. of Northborough, Mass. to develop and implement the state-required valuation update. The assessment will be through Dec. 31, 2014 and reflect the 2014 real estate market.
The project will begin with data collection of sale properties and building permits. Vision staff will measure the exterior and inspect the interior of all qualified sale properties where permission is granted by the owner or tenant. All Vision employees will carry photo identification and a letter of introduction from the Tax Assessor's Office and will be registered with the Pawtucket Police Department.
Property owners will be sent a "sales questionnaire" asking them to check the accuracy of the data recorded for their property. Additionally, income and expense questionnaires will be mailed to owners of commercial and industrial properties in the city. The data collected will be used to analyze the rental market in Pawtucket.
Residents will be notified of the new proposed assessments once the valuation work is completed in 2015. Anyone wishing to discuss their valuation with Vision staff will be able to schedule a review in Pawtucket. Once the review process is completed, the new assessments will appear on the tax bills issued during the summer of 2015.
"The Vision data collectors just collect data. They are not appraisers so they can't give you any information on property values," Burns noted. He said anyone with questions or seeking more information can contact him at 401-728-0500 ext. 333 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.General information on the reassessment process is available on the Vision Government Solutions website at www.VGSI.com under the "Taxpayer Information" link.
Pawtucket Police expand "Lock It or Lose It" campaign
Responding to a recent rash of larcenies from unlocked autos that often go hand in hand with opportunities presented by warmer weather, the Police Department has expanded its "Lock It or Lose It" campaign including with an emphasis on spreading the word through social media.
Police Chief Paul King said the "Lock It or Lose It" campaign is using his department's Facebook and Twitter accounts as well as other city websites to alert residents citywide of incidents in the shortest amount of time.
Police are also pro-actively deploying bike patrols in problem areas as shown by their CompStat analysis, which maps crimes by area, type and time of day, and have assigned two additional officer patrols in unmarked vehicles to affected areas.
King noted the bike patrols, which were provided for in the new city budget, besides expanding response also serve as a consistent visual deterrent.
On one recent night, King said larcenies to seven cars – all left unlocked – occurred on a single street off Newport Avenue in incidents currently being investigated. Police have also issued news releases warning residents that "crimes of opportunity" like thefts from unlocked cars are up recently but can be easily prevented.
"Locking your vehicle sounds like a simple idea and it is, but it's surprising how many people fail to do it especially in the warmer weather. So we've stepped up our efforts to remind them, which in turn makes our job easier by preventing crimes from happening," King said.
In a recent tally, larcenies from autos were up by 39 occurrences compared to the same time last year, when that crime was down by more than 13 percent from the prior year and overall crime in Pawtucket declined by about 10.3 percent.
King said the city administration has continued to upgrade public safety and crime prevention, including hiring new officers, increasing bike patrols and upgrading the fleet of patrol vehicles, and that enhancing communication with the public is part of that mix.
"A well informed public is a safer public. The ultimate goal of these strategies is to combat crime and educate the public about what they can do to help," King said.The police department website (www.pawtucketpolice.com) offers several ways for the public to communicate with the department, including links to the Citizens Online Police Reporting System, public records requests, the Crime Mapping tool, the ability to file accident reports online, and registration for the CodeRED system. CodeRED allows immediate contact with the public – by landline or cell phone, text and email – on critical matters from parking bans to locally targeted or citywide emergencies.
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Pawtucket, RI 02860
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