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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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Pawtucket-In 1962, President John F. Kennedy signed a proclamation which designated May 15th as Peace Officers Memorial Day and the week in which that date falls as Police Week. This time is set aside to honor all those Federal, State, and Local law enforcement officers who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.
To coincide with this time of reflection, the Pawtucket Police Department will be holding its annual awards ceremony, on Thursday, May 14th at 10am. This annual event will be held at the Pawtucket Veterans Memorial Amphitheater on Roosevelt Avenue, next to Pawtucket City Hall. In addition to recognizing the distinguished performance of those Pawtucket Police Officers who have gone above and beyond in the performance of their duties during 2014, the event pays tribute to all Police Officers who have died in the line of duty.
In 2014 there were 133 law enforcement officers who lost their lives in the line of duty. Since 1906 the Pawtucket Police Department has had seven officers lose their life in the line of duty.This event is open to the public and all who would like to attend.
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.
This Saturday, April 25th from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., The City of Pawtucket will host a special collection of electronic waste in celebration of Earth Day. The collection of discarded electronic materials will be held at the Pawtucket Boys & Girls Club located at One Moeller Place off of School Street.
"It's the City's goal to recycle and reclaim as much material as possible for the environmental benefit of the City of Pawtucket as well as our state," said Rob Roy, City of Pawtucket's Administrator of Recycling and Sustainability.Electronic materials that can be disposed of at the event include, but are not limited to: computers, printers, servers, ink cartridges, air conditioners, dehumidifiers, toasters and other kitchen appliances. Anyone who has materials requiring disposal that are not included in the aforementioned list, can contact the City's Recycling and Sustainability Administrator, Rob Roy, at 728-0500 Extension 461.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com.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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