Woonsocket City Council Meeting, May 21

Good evening, from the city of Woonsocket, where I will be liveblogging tonight’s Woonsocket City Council meeting that includes an agenda item requesting that the state appoint a budget commission for the city.
[6:56] Official start time of the meeting is 7:00.
[7:01] Meeting called to order.
[7:04] Public comment portion of the meeting. On the order of 40 people in the room,
[7:07] Speaker compliments Mayor Fontaine on how he has represented Woonsocket with regards to the cross issue.
[7:10] Speaker asks Council President John Ward and Mayor Leo Fontaine to recuse themselves from the budget commission, to get an outside perspective. Mayor Fontaine responds, the budget commission is specifically designed to incorporate both local and outside perspectives.
[7:15] Speaker would like to know exactly how much money is missing from the school department. Mayor Fontaine answers $10M, about $2.7 from last year and the balance from this year, and the money isn’t “missing” — it was overspent.
[7:17] Speaker, at a Woonsocket City Council meeting for the 1st time, says a $10M deficit from the budget means $10M has to be cut, and he’d like to learn how to be involved with city government to help with the problems.
[7:20] The council is moving through appointments and licensing and other local governance issues.
[7:25] Here is the agenda for the meeting.
[7:33] Deliberating a petition from a Woonsocket resident regarding road repairs.
[7:38] Council President Ward wants to know when the last time Woonsocket spent $$$ on a capital item called “street repair”. He can’t remember one, nor does he know of any ongoing program for street repairs. How do streets to get repaired actually get picked?
[7:42] Council President Ward reinforces the point that the city can’t give residents an honest answer on when their streets will be repaired, if there isn’t some kind of systematic program for doing so. “We don’t make any provision in our budget every year to take care of roads”.
[7:44] Mayor Fontaine responds: As the urbans are pushed further and further to the bottom, these are the kinds of things that get left out.
[7:49] Some more discussion; Council votes to put the communication on file.
[7:54] Into the “Good and Welfare” portion of the agenda. Councilman Gendron is discussing various issues with the city officials in attendance.
[7:58] Councilman Jalette would like to know if there are any updates on two employees caught taking money from the city. City official answers that the matter is proceding through the courts. Then a question about non-utilization tax, regarding foreclosed properties. City official suggests a work session on the issue.
[8:03] Councilman Moreau asks the Fire Chief about the number of openings in the Fire Department. Answer is 9.
[8:07] Council President Ward says that the City Council cannot request a receiver under the fiscal stabilization law, they can only request a budget commission, and he wants the Woonsocket General Assembly delegation to know that they can’t legally (or otherwise) make a request for a receiver a condition of approving the supplemental tax increase.
It’s pretty obvious that Ward is going to hold the state to the letter of the law on this.
Describes having to request a “budget commission” as an unfortunate position to be in.
[8:11] Council President Ward suggests this City Council can pass ordinances that impact retiree benefits, just like the Providence City Council can.
[8:13] Ward hopes GA won’t mess up supplemental tax with bill with unnecessary amendments. Singles out an amendment from Rep. Phillips he’s heard about as especially bad.
[8:24] Councilman Brien (not Jon or Todd) says that school department spent $66M, as in past years, when they were only given $59M. I’m not quite following him, except I’m sure he’s blaming a consultant for the problem. Brien says there wasn’t a problem with overspending, there was a problem with underfunding.
[8:25] Councilman Brien (not Jon or Todd) wants to take money from the city pension fund, and use it to close the budget deficit. City official is trying to explain, as nicely as possible, no one in their right mind will let the City do that.
[8:30] Brien sticks to his point; borrowing from the pension fund is something that should be kept in mind if all else fails.
[8:33] Councilman DuBois asks about money remaining in the snow removal budget. City official answers about $250K. Councilman DuBois suggests putting that money towards road repairs. City official responds that it’s important that any surplusses stay intact within the general fund.
[8:36] Motion from Councilman Gendron to consider the budget commission item immediately.
[8:36] Approved.
[8:37] Councilman Gendron will make a motion to table the request for a budget commission until a special meeting on Thursday.

[8:38] Councilman Beauchamp supports tabling the request.
[8:41] Councilman DuBois supports tabling, would have voted no, doesn’t think a budget commission vote should precede the GA acitons tomorrow (almost all of the Councilmen who have spoken have made that point).
[8:42] Councilman Ward asks City official if muni budget info has been shared with members of the General Assembly. City officials answers leadership, finance committees, and the Woonsocket delegations have been provided copies of the budget. 26 copies in total distributed.
[8:47] Councilman Brien will vote no on tabling, would have voted no on the resolution.
[8:48] Councilman Gendron makes motion to table the resolution requesting a budget commission. Motion to table approved. No request for a budget commission tonight
[8:52] Councilman Brien was the only vote against.
[8:59] Back to the original agenda. Signing off of the liveblog; I will try and get a few reactions after the meeting is over.

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11 years ago

Thanks for covering this, Andrew – I wanted to attend but couldn’t.
And certainly newsworthy – it’s a bit surprising that the Council voted to table their resolution.

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