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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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Wednesday, April 15th, the City will begin the transformation of the section of Main Street adjacent to Mineral Spring Avenue in Pawtucket, from one-way traffic to two-way traffic. This project will increase safety of travel for both vehicles and pedestrians while easing the flow of traffic downtown as part of the administration's "Pawtucket Downtown Design Plan".
Revitalizing the City's downtown is crucial to building on the economic momentum Pawtucket has seen in recent years and generating economic growth going forward.
On April 6th, Mayor Grebien said the following regarding the conversion: "The conversion of Main Street into two-way traffic is a project that removes the barriers and the obstacles that make it difficult to do business downtown. By increasing connectivity in the City, we open up opportunities and make our downtown more accessible to residents and visitors to Pawtucket. Increasing safety for residents, while revitalizing a key part of the City's downtown is a win-win for Pawtucket."The Main Street two-way conversion is part of a larger citywide project that will see approximately 30 miles of Pawtucket streets re-paved. This past fall, residents voted overwhelmingly in favor to approve a $15 million dollar bond to improve Pawtucket's streets and roads.
The City of Pawtucket in partnership with National Grid is looking to hear from neighbors immediately adjacent to the former gas facility on a future vision for the site following the planned environmental cleanup. The City has hired a consultant to help develop a plan for the riverfront site, which encompasses approximately 10 acres of the former gas plant and 5 acres of adjacent City property.The neighborhood meeting will be held at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, April 16th at the Blackstone Academy Charter School located at 335 Pleasant Street. For more information on the meeting, contact Pawtucket Planning at 728-0500, ext. 439 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
April 15th at 4:30pm, the City will break ground on the new Slater Park Pavilion.
The Pavilion will feature office space for the City-sponsored summer camp program and classroom space. It will also feature indoor and outdoor venues for musical performances and events such as the Fall Festival in September as well as the Winter Wonderland celebration in December. The new Pavilion will also present potential rental destination for other groups and events, which will serve the greater Pawtucket community and not just the summer camp program.
The new Pavilion will replace the former Parks Office located at Slater Park, which burned down in December of 2012. "It was wonderful how the community rallied around the Pavilion concept after the fire," said John Blais, Director of Pawtucket Parks and Recreation. "People volunteered and did a tremendous job of collecting donations and items to help keep the summer camp program alive in the absence of the Pavilion," Blais continued.
The groundbreaking ceremony for the new mixed-use facility will be held on April 15th at 4:30pm and will be well attended by community members, community leaders and elected officials. Residents of Pawtucket are encouraged to come and watch the ceremony where the new facility will be constructed.The project to build the new Slater Park Pavilion is funded by a combination of a Parks & Recreation bond, as well as grant from Rhode Island's Department of Environmental Management. Pawtucket Department of Public Works Director, Lance Hill, expects the Pavilion to be completed by late summer.
This April 13th, the section of Main Street adjacent to Mineral Spring Avenue in Pawtucket, will be undergoing a makeover as the City transforms it from one-way traffic to two-way traffic. This project will increase safety of travel for both vehicles and pedestrians while easing the flow of traffic downtown as part of the administration's "Pawtucket Downtown Design Plan".
Revitalizing the City's downtown is crucial to building on the economic momentum Pawtucket has seen in recent years and generating economic growth going forward.
"The conversion of Main Street into two-way traffic is a project that removes the barriers and the obstacles that make it difficult to do business downtown," said Mayor Donald R. Grebien. "By increasing connectivity in the City, we open up opportunities and make our downtown more accessible to residents and visitors to Pawtucket," continued Mayor Grebien.
The Main Street two-way conversion is part of a larger citywide project that will see approximately 30 miles of Pawtucket streets re-paved. This past fall, residents voted overwhelmingly in favor to approve a $15 million dollar bond to improve Pawtucket's streets.
"Increasing safety for residents while revitalizing a key part of the City's downtown is a win-win for Pawtucket," stated Grebien.
Today, Mayor Donald R. Grebien announced that the City is set to begin repaving Pawtucket's streets and roads.
"This year's work continues our comprehensive pavement management plan that is the most aggressive paving effort in the City to date. This is a large scale public works project which is planned to pave approximately 30 miles of Pawtucket's streets," stated Lance Hill, Pawtucket's Department of Public Works Director.
The repaving is set to begin on April 13th and will continue throughout the summer. Voters in Pawtucket approved a $15 million dollar road improvement bond on the ballot this past November by a wide margin.
"I would like to thank the voting citizens of Pawtucket who approved this bond last fall," said Mayor Grebien. "Our City streets are in rough shape after this long and brutal winter. Repaving the city's streets is of high importance for many reasons but the top reasons remain the safety of Pawtucket's residents, our overall quality of life, and the positive economic development implications," Grebien continued.
Residents will be issued advance notification through the mail when paving is going to be occurring in areas close to their homes or businesses."The City of Pawtucket is set to see an incredible amount of improvement projects this year thanks to the voters of Pawtucket and a lot of hard work from city staff," said Grebien.
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
Grab your cameras and compose that picture! The City of Pawtucket and The Camera Werks of Providence announce the 17h Annual City of Pawtucket Photo Contest. The twelve winning photos, to be selected by a panel of local professional photographers, will illustrate the City of Pawtucket 2016 City Calendar.
This annual contest provides an opportunity to bring awareness to daily life, historic locations and the ever changing landscape of Pawtucket through the lens of a camera. The contest is open to residents and non-residents alike, but the photo must have been taken in Pawtucket. This year's contest theme is "Pawtucket: A Different Perspective".
Contest Rules: All photo submissions should follow the contest theme and have been taken within the past year. All photos must be taken in the City of Pawtucket to qualify for this contest. Only one entry per contestant will be accepted and must be submitted by the photographer. Photos may be color or black and white. Film or good quality digital prints will be accepted. All photos must be of good quality and suitable for reproduction.
Submitted photos should be mounted on foamcore or mountboard, but not framed; overall size of the mounted photo should not be smaller than 8"x10" or larger than 12"x18". All photos will be on display at the Blackstone Valley Visitor Center during the City of Pawtucket's Arts Festival in the month of September. The Mayor's Choice Award will receive a $100 cash prize, First Place will receive a$75.00 cash prize, Second Place will receive a $50.00 cash prize with remaining winners receiving gift certificates.All winning photos will be used in the City of Pawtucket 2016 Calendar. Submissions will be accepted beginning May 1, at which time applications will be available at various locations or downloadable on-line. Deadline for Entry: August 1. For further information, please call (401) 273-5367.
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.
The City of Pawtucket is continuing to address the City's streets and roads, which sustained heavy damage from this winter's unprecedented snowfall and freezing temperatures.
City of Pawtucket Department of Public Works Director, Lance Hill states, "We have been averaging four crews daily over the last few weeks filling potholes and we will continue to do so for the foreseeable future."
Several weeks ago, the City's "Pothole Patrol" was actively addressing road damages in some of the more problematic and high traffic areas, with "cold-patch" repairs. Cold-patch repairs are a temporary type of repair, which provide a short term fix for potholes that pose immediate safety risks to motorists. The current efforts have moved on from the cold-patch repairs to more permanent method of addressing damages to the streets caused by plowing and fluctuating temperatures.
"As the weather has been more cooperative and with temperatures starting to climb, we are able to take a far more permanent approach to how we approach repairing our city's streets," said Mayor Donald R. Grebien. "The safety of Pawtucket's residents and motorists, is a top priority for the City as we enter the warmer season where the number of vehicles traveling in and out of the City will increase," Grebien continued.
The Mayor and Department of Public Works, asks that residents assist them in the identification and location of potholes. "When we announced the 'Pothole Patrol' several weeks ago, we received many calls from residents calling our attention to areas of concern throughout the City," said Hill. "That information was invaluable to us and we ask that residents continue to report potholes that we have not yet identified"
The City has made available several ways which potholes can be reported. Residents can email locations and photographs to: email@example.com or go online and report potholes via the "Fix-It" link on the City's website, www.pawtucketri.com.
Residents may also call 401-728-0500 ext. 284 to report potholes as well.
The Pawtucket Hall of Fame Committee is currently seeking nominations for the 2015 Pawtucket Hall of Fame. This annual event is a celebration and opportunity to publicly recognize those individuals, who through their efforts have made a lasting impact on the quality of life of the citizens of the City of Pawtucket. Those receiving this award will be officially inducted into the Pawtucket Hall of Fame at a ceremony that will take place in October. Deadline for nominations is August 7, 2015.
Persons eligible for election into the City of Pawtucket Hall of Fame shall be: a) those born in the City of Pawtucket; OR b) those whose reputations were made while residents of the City of Pawtucket; OR c) those who made the City of Pawtucket the home of their business; OR d) those who have made a lasting impact on the quality of life of the citizens of the City of Pawtucket.
A letter of nomination must be sent to the Chairperson of the Pawtucket Hall of Fame Committee stating the nominee's name and reason why they are being nominated. Additional letters of support for this nomination from other individuals are strongly encouraged. Nominations should be mailed to: ATT: Pawtucket Hall of Fame Committee – Chairperson, Pawtucket City Hall – Mayor's Office, 137 Roosevelt Avenue, Pawtucket, RI 02860.
The Pawtucket Hall of Fame Committee was established in 1986 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Pawtucket as a City. The purpose of the Pawtucket Hall of Fame is to honor the contributions of those individuals whose efforts have added to the heritage of the City of Pawtucket.For additional information, please visit: www.pawtucketri.com "Hall of Fame" or contact Patricia S. Zacks, chair at (401) 273-5367.
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.
The City of Pawtucket and Pawtucket Police Department announced today that the department will be training officers and deploying Tasers into service throughout the coming week. The department recently purchased sixty X26P Tasers that on duty officers will carry with them once they have been fully trained in their operation and the department's policy.
Mayor Donald R. Grebien said, "The implementation of our Taser program will make our community safer, which is always our top priority. The deployment of these tools provides our officers another non-lethal option for subduing individuals who may be a danger to others or themselves." Mayor Grebien concluded, "This initiative has been a priority of the administration and our police union for some time now and I am glad to see it moving forward. Tasers will be another tool in the box for our officers as they seek to continue to make our city safer, while improving their own on-the-job safety."
Taser systems use proprietary technology to immediately incapacitate dangerous, combative or high risk individuals who pose a threat to law enforcement officers, innocent citizens or themselves. The Taser has been statistically demonstrated to reduce injury to suspects and officers as well as increasing officer safety and community security when compared to other use of force options.
"As Public Safety Director, I am always mindful of the well-being of our residents and police officers," said Director of Public Safety Antonio J. Pires. "Tasers are an important option for our police officers to have at their disposal as they perform their duties that we hope will lead to fewer injuries to our officers, innocent bystanders, and suspects."Police Chief Paul King states, "I fully support the Pawtucket Police Department's acquisition of the Taser. I see it as a preventative or deterrent type of tool. The hope is that once suspects see that an officer has a Taser the suspect will comply with the officer's directives and the use of the Taser will not be necessary. I want to thank Mayor Grebien and Public Safety Director Pires for allowing us to obtain a valuable device that will help to limit the amount of injuries to suspects and officers. The Taser provides officers with a way of subduing aggressive people without having to go 'hands on' and risk injuries to themselves, the person they are dealing with, or others nearby. Our goal is to protect people from harm or injury, even when they are the ones causing the harm."
On December 19, 2014, President Barack Obama signed U.S. Senator Jack Reed's legislation, "the Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park Establishment Act," making the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution a national historical park, with Pawtucket's own Slater Mill as its headlining attraction. The park also includes sites in Slatersville and Ashton, Rhode Island; as well as locations in Massachusetts.
Mayor Donald R. Grebien said, "So many people over the years have kept the hope alive that someday this special place would achieve its rightful place among America's National Parks. What makes the Blackstone River Valley unique is its important role and identity in American history, as well as its natural and architectural beauty. Moreover, so much of the valley's landscape, both natural and manmade, remains intact making it so easy experience the atmosphere that gave birth to modern America and see the actual buildings where the events took place."
According to Grebien, no intact landscape and building is more significant than Pawtucket's very own Slater Mill, the birthplace of America's Industrial Revolution. Located on the Blackstone River in Pawtucket, the historic mill is a national treasure and is the icon of America's leap forward to being an industrial power. The place "where innovation starts".Grebien concluded, "As Mayor and on behalf of the City, I want to express my gratitude and appreciation to our great Federal Delegation, Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and Representatives David Cicilline and Jim Langevin, for their consistent, unwavering efforts to achieve National Park status for the Blackstone River Valley. It is a distinction which stands to benefit Rhode Island for years to come and marks our unique place in our nation's history."
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
The Department of Public Works has announced the schedule for trash and recycling collection during the holidays as well as the schedule for collection of Christmas trees throughout the month of January 2015.
Due to the Christmas holiday, regular trash and recycling collection normally scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 25, will be delayed one day and collected on Friday, Dec. 26. Friday's normal collection route will be conducted on Saturday, Dec. 27.
Due to the New Year's holiday, the Thursday, Jan. 1, collection of regular trash will be delayed one day to Friday, Jan. 2. The normal Friday collection will be on Saturday, Jan. 3. Recycling will not be collected during this New Year's week, as it is an off-week for recycling.
Residents are asked to have all materials at the curb by 7 a.m. Regularly scheduled collections will resume on Monday, Jan. 5. Residents are reminded that all recyclable materials must be placed inside the blue recycling carts for collection, with cardboard boxes folded and placed under the lid. Recyclable materials not in the carts cannot be picked up by the automated arm and will not be collected with the regular trash.
Christmas trees will be collected throughout the month of January, on Thursdays and Fridays. Please place trees at the curb for pickup. Trees will not be collected with the regular trash but will be picked up separately. All ornaments, lights and stands must be removed. Wreaths, garland, roping and artificial trees cannot be collected.
Pawtucket Refuse and Recycling calendars for 2015 are now available. Calendars display recycling weeks, holidays, and additional information for your use. The calendars can be obtained by visiting the Public Works facility at 250 Armistice Boulevard, or by e-mailing DPW at email@example.com.
Help Creatively Shape one of the City's Most Anticipated Events
Leave your creative mark on the 2016 City Calendar. Photo Contest Organizer Patricia S. Zacks and the City of Pawtucket call for suggestions on next year's theme.
According to Zacks, every year a theme is selected and hundreds of photo buffs and Pawtucket students submit entries hoping that their photo is selected to be placed in the calendar. "We want to reach out to the community and get them involved," says Zacks, "and this is a wonderful way to do so and allow someone to have a major impact on the photo exhibit."
Adds Zacks, "the person who submits the winning theme will be recognized in the calendar."
Mayor Donald R. Grebien applauds the opening up of the photo contest. "It is important for city government initiatives to be opened up to the public we serve and this is a simple way of doing just that," he says. "Every year, I am wowed by the talent of our local artists and schoolchildren. Pawtucket has so much natural beauty and so many picturesque places. Our contest participants do a great job capturing these images and showcasing our great city."
Zacks notes that professional photographers will review the submitted entries looking for creativity and topics that have not been used in previous years. Some of the themes have been: (2014) "A Piece of Pawtucket"; (2013) "All in a Day's Work"; (2012) "The Four Seasons of Pawtucket"; (2011) "Reflections of Pawtucket"; (2010) "Faces of Pawtucket"; (2009) "Doorways & Gateways in Pawtucket"; (2008) "Paws (or Pause) in Pawtucket"; (2007) "Historic Places in Pawtucket"; (2006) "Pawtucket People, Places or Things"; (2005) "Discovering Pawtucket"; (2004) "Taking Pride in Our Neighborhoods"; (2003) "Pawtucket Mills: Our Past and Our Future"; and (2000, 2001, 2002) "Pawtucket: A City in Focus."
Photos submitted to this celebrated annual photo contest will be exhibit throughout next September's Pawtucket Arts Festival. Like previous years, all winning photos will be used in next year's City Calendar.
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 into 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: November 20, December 18, January 15, 2015 and February 19, 2015.
"The extended hours program is particularly meant to serve people who may be unable to come to City Hall during regular business hours," Mayor Grebien said. "We are pleased to provide the added convenience for anyone who needs it and better serve the public."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.
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 of Pawtucket and Mayor Donald R. Grebien are apologizing to the taxpayers who received letters from the City's Division of Collections in error.
"As Mayor, I sincerely regret that the letter was sent to you in error," Grebien said in a letter to the effected parties that is being sent out over the next week. "Please know the administration is taking the appropriate steps to ensure that this does not happen again."
The city is participating in the state's Income Tax Offset Program (iTOP) to increase collections from delinquent motor vehicle taxpayers. This is a program the state offers local governments at no charge that will allow the city to recoup some of the $11M in receivables owed for outstanding motor vehicle taxes. Grebien continues in the letter that it is unfortunate that some of the very people we are looking to protect through this program were incorrectly notified of a delinquency that does not exist.
The city has determined that the error was the result of redundancies in the data downloads from different systems. Approximately 4,400 letters were sent to incorrect accountholders, and approximately the same number of delinquent accounts that should have been noticed were not. Letters to those delinquent accountholders will be going out over the coming weeks."Unfortunately, with this implementation, as we look to shift the tax burden from those of you who are paid up on their taxes to those who have not, the city hit a road bump during implementation," Grebien continued. "This will truly be a lesson learned by the city as we move forward to prevent errors like these from happening in the future." Grebien is thanking those who received the letter in error for the patience and understanding as the City works to correct the issues.
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
The City of Pawtucket has purchased a 1.6 acre open field at the site of a former mill on Roosevelt Avenue. For many years, the City had been leasing the field portion of the property for neighborhood recreation use when the mill property was owned by Arbeka Webbing and more recently, Red Farm Studios.
The City moved to permanently acquire the field when the mill property became vacant and was subsequently purchased by a private ownership group in 2011. Accessing an open space grant from RI Department of Environmental Management for $100,000, and utilizing $120,000 federal Community Development Block Grant funds, the City officially purchased the field portion of the property for $220,000 on September 15.
In commenting on the importance of this purchase, Mayor Grebien offered, "The acquisition of this long-time neighborhood resource secures the field for future generations to enjoy." Mayor Grebien also offered his thanks to the City Council and the RI Department of Environmental Management for their assistance.
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.
The city is looking to inspire local artists to brighten the urban landscape by transforming typically bland utility boxes into works of art. Approximately 16 city-owned utility boxes, spread across Pawtucket, will become canvases for works of art through the project.
The Pawtucket PaintBox Project, modeled on a similar successful effort in Providence, is described in a recently issued request for proposals and is being organized by the city's Advisory Commission on Arts and Culture. Deadline for entries is Aug. 14.
The new volunteer arts panel, chaired by Miriam Plitt, who has been involved in city arts and cultural projects for many years, was formed last fall at the direction of Mayor Donald R. Grebien and is charged with encouraging projects to recognize and celebrate local artists.
Participating artists will receive a $300 stipend for the cost of all materials required to complete and protect their artwork. Applicants must be age 18 or older, live in or have a permanent studio or office in the city, and can submit a maximum of three designs.
Guidelines state that designs "may be representational or abstract but must respond to the urban context and be appropriate given the location and audience," and should be adjusted to accommodate the size of the utility boxes, which will vary.
"Submissions will be considered under a rolling admission and kept on file for future consideration," the RFP states. "The selected artists will be notified only if or when their designs are selected."
Applicants may specify which neighborhoods or boxes they would prefer to work on but the decision of the arts advisory panel will be final. The rules also require scraping, cleaning and priming the utility box surface, using durable materials, avoiding "dark palettes in order to prevent boxes from overheating," applying a protective varnish or wax coating and avoiding applying paint in a way that would interfere with operation of the box.
All art work submitted for consideration must be original and solely owned by the artists and the city will retain the right to make reproductions such as in brochures, publicity or other similar purposes, among other rules.
The detailed RFP including rules for how to apply for the project, which is being funded under a federal block grant administered by the city Department of Planning and Redevelopment, is available on the city website at www.pawtucketri.com, under the Purchasing Department tab.
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