December 21, 2014
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Chafee visit, redisticting vote put off to May 14

Some of the City Council’s most faithful attendees, including former Councilman Bob Cushman, Car Tax Revolt leader Rob Cote, as well as Roger Durand, Richard Langseth, Roy Dempsey, Don Chihoski, among others, were disappointed not to find Gov. Lincoln Chafee at Monday’s meeting.

Chafee was scheduled to promote his Municipal Aid Legislative Package as late as that morning, but a last minute conflict resulted in a change of plans. As a result, the governor has tentatively rescheduled his visit for the May 14th meeting and Ward 1 Councilman Steven Colantuono held a resolution he drafted in support of the governor’s municipal package.

But, that’s not the only council business held for further discussion for the 14th.

Ward 9 Councilman Steven Merolla, who was unable to attend last week’s meeting in regard to redistricting because he was out of town with his family, said he wished one of his colleagues would have called him to inform him of the latest redistricting information. Emotions were also heated when Dempsey and Ward 3 Councilwoman Camille Vella-Wilkinson had an exchange concerning a resolution to reinstate the Warwick Night Program.

Two other ordinances, including one that modified current legislation entitled, “Criteria for awarding a bid,” sponsored by Vella-Wilkinson, and another regarding no parking at Winman Junior high School, sponsored by Ward 8 Councilman Ray Gallucci, unanimously reached second passage.

The bid ordinance will assist smaller businesses through the bidding process, as it will allow the purchasing officer to look at the total cost, including transportation, postage and handling, as well as training needs a particular bid might entail.

Also, a pair of similar resolutions sponsored by Vella-Wilkinson on behalf of Mayor Scott Avedisian, unanimously were approved. The first is in support of a House bill that permits municipalities to seek reimbursement for essential services provided to certain tax exempt properties, while the second is in support of a Senate bill, as well as a House bill, related to foreclosed deeds statute imposed penalties.

At the meeting, Merolla said he contacted Kimball Brace of Election Data Services Monday morning to discuss the issue and has yet to hear back from him.

“I would like the opportunity to talk to him,” Merolla said.

He also said he was peeved none of his fellow council members contacted him to tune him into the results of last week’s redistricting meeting.

“It really baffles me that no one can pick up the phone and say, ‘By the way, we’re changing your ward,’” he said. “As far as I’m concerned, we shouldn’t take a vote.”

Merolla requested the council vote to hold the resolution so he can study the topic further before deciding whether or not he plans to support it. As a result, the council conducted a 10-minute recess then took a vote. The resolution was held on a 6-3 vote, with Gallucci, Ward 6 Councilwoman Donna Travis and Council President Bruce Place in opposition.

In terms of the Warwick Night Program, which was stricken from the budget in 2008 due to cuts, Vella-Wilkinson said she spoke to Avedisian, as well as Col. Stephen McCartney of the Warwick Police Department, and suggested putting it in as a line item in the City Council budget.

“I suggested that if he didn’t have the money to put it in his budget, I didn’t have a problem recommending it going into the City Council’s budget simply because the most calls I get from my constituents have to do with public safety, such as going through stop signs and speeding through neighborhoods,” Vella-Wilkinson said.

She also said the mayor requested that the council work with the traffic division and be sure that an equal amount of money be set aside for each of the nine wards. In 2008, $5,000 was allotted for each ward, totaling $45,000, for police details.

Gallucci asked if there is a reason McCartney isn’t putting funds aside in his budget and Vella-Wilkinson answered that it’s a program he didn’t initially anticipate including in his budget. According to Mark Carruolo, McCartney already completed his budget and met with the mayor.

“The order that went out to each department was to level fund their budget so that if the chief was interested in introducing any new programs in his budget, he’d have to find savings elsewhere in his budget,” Carruolo said. “The chief had to set his priorities as to what he’s going to present.”

In a phone interview Tuesday afternoon, Avedisian said he informed Vella-Wilkinson he plans to support the resolution if the council votes in favor of it, though he wasn’t’ sure how the other council members would respond to it.

During the meeting, Place brought up the fact the legislative department also had the same mandate to level fund the council’s budget, as well. Further, he suggested if $5,000 will be sufficient funds for each ward, as detail prices have increased.

“Our budget has been submitted, too,” he said. “Any action to change that budget on the council side would have to be brought up as an amendment to the budget. Likewise, an amendment could be made on the police department’s side.”

But, Dempsey said he finds several flaws in the resolution.

“I see a lot of problems with this,” he said. “It looks like you’re saying that you think you have enough police powers to make a decision about details.”

Vella-Wilkinson replied, “I don’t have any police powers,” and Dempsey interrupted her saying, “I agree. And you shouldn’t have the ability to control a police department’s budget.”

However, Vella-Wilkinson said that is not her intent.

“Each of the council members had input to the traffic division asking that there be details in specific areas that were overrun with traffic violations. It’s no different than when we ask for a traffic study now. We are not reinventing the wheel; we are putting money back where it once was in 2008.”

Yet, Dempsey didn’t want to hear it. He said he feels as if the resolution aims to provide McCartney with an extra $45,000.

Again, Vella-Wilkinson said that is not the case. Rather, she is attempting to reinstate the program because constituents in Ward 3 have informed her they are dissatisfied and seek more details in their neighborhoods.

“It’s my responsibility to meet the needs of my ward,” she told Dempsey. “My ward wants additional details for traffic so I’m going through the proper channels.”

With that, Ward 1 Councilman Steven Colantuono suggested bringing it up as an amendment at the budget hearing, while Gallucci added, “We would like to do this if we can; if the money is available. If not, we can’t do it.”


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