By JOHN HOWELL This is it; the last full week Frank Picozzi runs his own home improvement business before taking on the job as the mayor of Warwick. Actually, the new job started consuming more of his time the day Warwick voters chose the independent
This is it; the last full week Frank Picozzi runs his own home improvement business before taking on the job as the mayor of Warwick.
Actually, the new job started consuming more of his time the day Warwick voters chose the independent candidate over incumbent Democrat Joseph J. Solomon.
Although powerless to do anything until he takes the oath of office on Jan. 5 at noon on the steps of City Hall, people are calling him for answers. Picozzi has received about 100 calls over water bills and, prior to that, delays in the collection of yard waste. Then there have been the suggestions as to what he should do as mayor and, predictably, inquires about jobs and recommendations as to who should be on his administrative team.
Somehow, people have found his cell phone number. In addition, others have stopped by his home to congratulate him on his win and wish him well. Finding the Picozzi home isn’t a challenge for most, as his annual Christmas digital display is a seasonal favorite and has thousands of Facebook friends, which played a significant role in his high level of recognition and his election.
Being mayor-elect has been a job that involves more than listening to people’s concerns and suggestions. Soon after the polls closed, Picozzi named a transition team and commenced the process of interviewing candidates for key administrative roles.
Picozzi is also zeroing in on the priorities once he’s in the corner office. He wants to look into why the water bills are high and assure people they are accurate if that is the case. He’s looking to be briefed on lawsuits brought by the municipal employees union over Mayor Solomon’s elimination of 40 positions in the current budget and start to repair union relationships.
Also on top of his list is the Bayside sewer project that would bring sewers to more than 900 property owners in Riverview, Longmeadow, Highland Park and Bayside who were told they were next to get the service 20 years ago. While the sewer authority awarded a contract for the work this summer, it was not signed by Solomon and remains in limbo now that a group of residents oppose the project on the basis that it is too costly and would drive some people from their homes.
Picozzi said Bayside is one of many issues – aging infrastructure needing maintenance or replacement being high on the list – facing the authority. He has not yet found a director for the authority.
Picozzi isn’t happy with municipal offices that were hastily relocated to the former Greene School in January 2018 when frozen water pipes burst and offices were flooded in the City Hall Annex. Most of the offices have since been relocated to the former Buttonwoods Community Center, which was closed by former mayor Scott Avedisian and then renovated by Solomon. There are also offices in the former Randall Holden School.
“[Municipal offices] are spread all over the place,” Picozzi said. He would like to see them centrally located.
Picozzi wants to get up to speed as soon as possible on the School Department and School Committee plans to address the aging Toll Gate and Pilgrim high schools and proposals for a single high school or extensive renovations to the existing schools.
Amidst all the challenges, Picozzi has had some lighter, entertaining exchanges with Cranston Mayor-elect Ken Hopkins, who has reminded him more than once that he wants the 20000 license plate now that Cranston is the state’s second largest city. Since Solomon hasn’t used the plate on his city car, Picozzi doesn’t know where it is. Besides, he told Hopkins he doubts if Cranston is even the state’s third-largest city.
“I don’t count the prisoners or half the people in Dean Estates and Garden City who have Florida license plates,” he said.
On the home front, Picozzi says, “I’m trying to get my life in order, too.”
Two of the larger jobs he contracted to do are going to be done by StormTite, the company owned by Ward 5 Councilman Ed Ladouceur. Picozzi needs to close his campaign headquarters in Buttonwoods, which he used as a transition office. Then on the first of the New Year, he’ll start disassembling his digital light display.
He said people have been exceedingly generous with donations to the Tomorrow Fund, with most nightly donations surpassing last year’s high single-night total of $490. Yet, he said, it personally has been a tough year. As spectators were instructed to watch the show from their cars, Picozzi said he missed playing Santa, talking with people and handing out candy canes. He was especially touched by the $41 donation to the fund from second-grader Kassidy Underwood. Kassidy attached a note to the money saying she had raised it with the sale of stickers and drawings.
As to what he plans to drive to work as mayor, Picozzi said he loves his truck, but the fact that it has room for only one passenger may prove problematic.
“It depends on what piece of junk I get from Solomon,” he surmised.