The Sutter Administration is seeking to clarify comments made earlier this week by Mayor Sam Sutter that meeting state mandated minimum net school spending requirements was not an urgent matter. Not on his urgent list.
The remarks were a direct contradiction to what Sutter said during a mayoral debate last December.
Chief of Staff Lou Pacheco.
Pacheco saying what Sutter intended to say is that he is still studying the matter to understand what can and cannot be applied to the net school spending requirement.
The district must find 1.3 million dollars to close a shortfall for the current fiscal year in order to meet 100 percent of net school spending.
The School Committee is expected to ask the administration for a 103 million dollar contribution for fy-16 in order to meet state requirements while providing a level services budget.
The State Board of Education is launching a series of public forums this week about which of two statewide student assessment tests Massachusetts should adopt.
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education wants to hear from members of the public about whether the state should stick with the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System, or MCAS, exam rather than adopt the new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, test.
The first public hearing is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon at Fitchburg State University.
The board is expected to make a decision this fall as to whether PARCC should replace MCAS tests in English language arts and mathematics.
The Mayor's Task Force on Solid Waste Issues met behind closed doors Thursday night but quickly adjourned after questions were raised by some members and the press as to whether the meeting was in violation of the state's open meeting laws.
Swansea Community Activist Patrick Higgins has filed an open meeting law complaint with the Attorney General.
Co-Chair Dan Botelho tells WSAR News it will be necessary for the panel to meet in private sometimes.
Botelho says the public will have their say.
Co-Chair City Councilor Mike Miozza tells WSAR News the process will be transparent.
Miozza says there are misconceptions about the role of this task force.
Meanwhile, Sutter Administration Chief of Staff Lou Pacheco tells WSAR News the task force was appointed strictly for the purpose of advising the mayor and is not covered by the open meeting laws.
The task force is seeking a legal opinion and will not meet until the matter is resolved.
New Bedford City Council is expected Thursday to authorize a special election for June 23rd for the sole purpose of gauging public support for a waterfront casino project being pitched by Kg Urban Enterprises.
Ward Three Councilor Henry Bousquet tells WSAR News the public seems to back the proposal.
Bousquet says a vote in the affirmative could convince the gaming commission to award the license to New Bedford.
New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell has signed a host community agreement with Kg Urban.
The New Bedford project is one of three under consideration for the region "c" casino license.
Proposals in Somerset and Brockton are also pending.
Somerset Selectman Scott Lebeau tells WSAR News officials expect to get additional details soon from Crossroads Massachusetts about a casino being proposed for town owned land on Brayton Point Avenue and route 103.
Crossroads has yet to disclose details of its proposal nor have they called for a referendum election as yet.
Brockton voters go to the polls on May 12th to weigh in on a proposal for the Brockton fair grounds.
The ''Providence Journal'' is reporting that Twin River Management Group wants to build a new casino in Tiverton and close the Newport Grand Slot Parlor, as a Massachusetts slot parlor will open this summer, while the MGM Springfield project is currently under construction.
Twin River has secured an option to purchase 45 acres of land near route 81, only a few hundred feet from the Rhode Island and Massachusetts state line.
The Chair of the Twin River Board of Directors indicates the firm wants to create Rhode Islands second full service casino, with slot and table games.
Twin River is waiting for a signature from Rhode Islands Governor to construct a four story, 200 room hotel near the property.
With Brockton set for a local option vote on May 12th, New Bedford voters could be asked in late June if they wish to host a region c destination resort casino, as K-G Urban Enterprises is suggesting a waterfront casino location in the Whaling City.
New Bedford City Council President Brian Gomes.
Gomes says New Bedford has had this goal in mind for a long time.
Two other local referendums have passed in recent years regarding gaming expansion in New Bedford.
Gomes says he believes the same can occur this summer:
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission is waiting for additional application information from investors in Somerset, New Bedford, and Brockton.
A region C license could be awarded in the fourth quarter of 2015.
The Sutter Administration has appointed attorney Brad Kilby as the new Fall River Assessor, while attorney Bill Kenney will bee the new City Planner.
Kenney is leaving a post on the Commonwealths Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance to take over the slot occupied by former planner Elizabeth Dennehy, while Kilby will occupy the post that attorney Don Berube held.
Dennehy and Berube resigned after Sutter was elected.
Kilby will be closing down his private law practice to join the Sutter Administration after serving for eight years each on the Fall River City Council and the Fall River Public School Committee.
Sutter says that Kilby and Kenney will be making $22 thousand dollars less than their predecessors.
In the aftermath of the State of the City Address, Fall River Mayor and School Committee Chair Sam Sutter is indicating to WSAR News that no decisions have been made regarding the net school spending number the city is required to hit by Massachusetts general law for fiscal year 2016.
Sutter will begin a series of meetings with neighborhood associations and civic organizations this week.
Fall River Mayor Sam Sutter tells WSAR News the mechanism to begin the process of fining households considered noncompliant with the pay-as-you-throw initiative begins this spring along with a likely court challenge.
Sutter says preparations for the fining procedure will be laid out this week.
Sutter says he does watch the citizens input portion of City Council meetings and understands the anger of citizens.
Sutter says the city is prepared for a challenge.
The city’s contract with North Carolina based Waste Zero called for language to be added regarding pay as you throw and recycling in August of 2014.
That process is now in the hands of the Ordinance and Legislation Committee.
Fall River Mayor Sam Sutter told a gathering in the Fall River City Council Chambers Thursday that he will begin a tour of neighborhood associations and other locations on Monday in hopes of to gathering new ideas.
Sutter’s comment come in the wake of the announcement of six million dollar deficit come fiscal year 2016.
Sutter explained the theme of shared sacrifice.
Sutter says the shared sacrifice will extend to citizens in Fall River.
Sutter says the state of the city is not an issue but says immediate finances are.
Sutter says its likely fees and taxes will be going up in fiscal year 2016.
City Council President Joe Camara says news of a six million dollar budget shortfall is something that demands immediate attention and says shared sacrifice is a concept that many Fall River families are familiar with.
The Rhode Island House and Senate have approved legislation allowing Twin River Casino in Lincoln to pursue a 200 room, four story hotel once been forbidden under current statue as a means of protecting hotels in Providence.
The community of Lincoln must now rezone property near Twin River to allow for the hotel to be constructed.
Rhode Island lawmakers decided to change the current statute, which had been on the books for a decade, as a slot parlor in Massachusetts is slated to open in June and MGM Springfield has their destination resort casino currently under construction.
The new hotel is expected to take a year to complete, create 200 construction jobs and 100 full time jobs once the hotel opens.
As the Sutter Administration prepares its first municipal budget for fiscal year 2016, the process is further complicated by the fact that all nine municipal unions are negotiating labor contracts, including the Fall River Police Department and the International Association of Firefighters representing Fall River firefighters.
Chief of Staff Lou Pacheco.
The Fall River Public School Department is working on individual contracts with various administrators, while trying to deal with the Fall River Educators Association on a new labor agreement.
A New Jersey based painting contractor working on the Braga Bridge in Fall River could be fined nearly 42-thousand dollars, after the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration conducted a inspection in the fourth quarter of 2014, after being referred by the Massachusetts Department of Labor Standards Lead Program, finding six serious violations of workplace health and safety standards, which Allied Painting is contesting.
Employees of Allied Painting were found to have elevated blood levels that were performing what are described as abrasive blasting and painting on the bridge.
The work was performed on scaffolding located beneath the bridge.
OSHA says it found excess levels of lead on various surfaces where employees work, change and eat.
The surfaces included items in a decontamination trailer and a bench seat of a van where employees ate lunch.
OSHA says employees were also exposed to fall hazards of more than 100 feet because of ladder obstructions and issues with temporary railings.
Fall River City Council President Joe Camara tells WSAR News he agrees with Fall River Mayor Sam Sutter in terms of an ultimate challenge to the pay-as-you throw initiative, which could decide once and for all whether or not the program, rolled out in the summer of 2014, is legal or not.
Camara says until the program is challenged, the ordinance and legislation committee should wait on the results then act accordingly.
Camara says the Sutter Administration will have to make the call as to whether or not pay-as-you throw is part of the fiscal year 2016 municipal budget.
A solid waste task force is due to issue a report in September, while language regarding pay-as-you throw and recycling is back in council’s ordinance and legislation committee.
As Massachusetts lawmakers on Beacon Hill continue debating the fiscal year 2016 budget, Bristol Fifth District State Representative Pat Haddad tells WSAR News the next fiscal year will be just as difficult as prior years.
Fixing a new law that imposes penalties on driver who do not operate their headlights at the same time as their windshield wipers is one of the latest controversies to take hold.
The Fall River School Committee meets Wednesday for its April session at Morton Middle School with an 11 item agenda.
Among the 8 voting items is a proposed administrative structure for B-M-C Durfee High School, twenty five thousand dollars in safety training, using a contractual fine paid by Tremblay Bus in 2014 and evaluation benchmarks for Superintendent Meg Mayo Brown.
The Executive Vice President of the Fall River Office of Economic Development tells WSAR News Amazon continues to work on various aspects of its planned distribution center, which could break ground later this summer.
The one million square foot distribution center is set to employ five hundred people full time, with a varying number of seasonal part time workers.
Fall River Mayor Sam Sutter tells WSAR News that ''shared sacrifice'' will be on the key themes of the 2015 State of the City of Fall River, after the Sutter transition team released the third and final portion of its report on the city’s finances.
Sutter says a lack of tax revenue makes it difficult in to provide services.
Sutter says new members to his cabinet will be added, including a tourism director.
Sutter says Fall River’s destinations need to be marketed.
Sutter will give his address Thursday evening at 7 o’clock in Council Chambers.
The third and final installment of a financial report from the Sutter transition team in finds that Fall River’s revenue problems have been ''decades in the making'', as the city has one of the lowest property tax rates in the Commonwealth.
The report further finds that in years where the city did not raise taxes, the city could not find the revenue needed to fund city services and pay off outstanding debt.
The transition team also finds that since 2001, only Malden has lost more jobs than Fall River has in the same time span.
Fall River has lost almost 16 percent of its jobs since 2001.
The director of a Bridgewater State University child care center where a student is charged with sexually abusing two preschool boys has pleaded not guilty to allegations that she failed to report the matter.
Judith Ritacco of Boylston was held on $25,000 bail after pleading not guilty Thursday to endangering a child, failure to report alleged abuse, and witness intimidation.
Prosecutors say the 53-year-old was alerted by a teacher on March 27th that a 21-year-old student who worked at the center had molested a boy, but told the teacher to keep quiet about it.
Because of her job, Ritacco was legally required to report suspected abuse.
Her lawyer, Thomas Guiney, says Ritacco did report the matter to her superiors, and says she is being made the "scapegoat."
The Chief of Staff For Fall River Mayor Sam Sutter tells WSAR News even without language in solid waste ordinances regarding pay as you throw, the city will begin issuing fines the week of April 20th, which will likely lead to a test of the programs legality in court.
Pacheco says the Sutter Administration is required to enforce the law.
Pacheco says education will be the first step in a drive towards compliance and says enforcement options are being discussed.
Fall River Community Maintenance Director Ken Pacheco says according to Waste Zero, compliance issues started cropping up in the fourth quarter of 2014.
Pacheco says if fines are issued he wants to make sure they go to those having issues with compliance.
North Carolina based Waste Zero indicated in a report issued this spring that a drop in bag sales is resulting from a refusal to issue fines for non compliance.
An MBTA Special Panel has released a report that could see the creation of one, 5 and 20 year spending plans, after the panel studying the MBTA found what it called ''massive structural and management failures that could bankrupt the MBTA if left unchecked.
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker focused on five recommendations, including the appointment of a control board and a director.
Baker says those who use the various components of the MBTA deserve a system that runs as scheduled.
Baker outlined the final two recommendations.
Among a list of key findings, the panel says the MBTA has a unsustainable operating budget, and would be ''insolvent'' if not for continuing and increasing subsides.
The report also finds the MBTA has no accountability to the Governor or the Massachusetts Legislature and has what are termed ''weak workplace practices''.
A capital planning recommendation seeks to pause construction spending for system expansion.
As Fall River City Council prepares to perhaps add language regarding pay-as you throw to current solid waste ordinances, the Chair of the Ordinance and Legislation Committee says opinions have changed regarding pay-as-you throw since its August 2014 rollout.
Correia says serious discussions on a host of issues need to take place.
Councilor Linda Pereria says pay-as-you throw, it is what it is.
The Sutter administration has indicated that fines be implemented regarding non compliance beginning the week of April 20th.
The head of the union representing Fall River firefighters wants new engines and new equipment as part of a long term strategy to improve the safety and effectiveness of the fire department, while at least one city councilor says bonding could be utilized.
Councilor Dan Rego tells WSAR News he would support bonding for new fire engines and public safety spending.
Burns says long range planning regarding equipment needs to be part of a larger discussion.
Rego says he can support bonding for public safety issues.
There has been discussion regarding at least one new engine in the fiscal year 2016 budget.
Fall River will not meet 100 percent of net school spending requirements for this fiscal year as a result of a 1.4 million dollar shortfall that exists due to over estimations for employee health care costs.
Superintendent Meg Mayo Brown tells WSAR News the funds most likely exist in an employee trust fund account, outside of the budget, specifically for employee benefits.
Mayo Brown says this late in the fiscal year it might make more sense to apply the remaining funds to next year's budget.
Mayo Brown says the district will likely be just shy of 99 percent of net school spending requirements for the fiscal year.
The City Council recently transferred 3.4 million dollars from free cash to help close a shortfall in the department's budget.
Fall River Mayor Sam Sutter tells WSAR News he will not attend Monday’s session of the Fall River City Councils Ordinance and Legislation Committee as it begins the process of reviewing placing pay as you throw and recycling language into the current solid waste statute.
Sutter says sending his Chief of Staff is a form of time management.
Sutter says he expects pay-as-you throw to face a legal challenge once fines begin the week of April 21st.
A task force that Sutter selected earlier this week will also begin the process of reviewing solid waste options with a report due in September.
Massachusetts 11th District State Rep Bob Koczera tells WSAR News that region c needs to be given the same sort of consideration that regions a and b were given in the drive to secure gaming licenses.
In a tweet Wednesday morning, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission indicates there will not be a revised timeline until commissioners have time to assess the application process, which has a May 4th deadline for developers in Somerset, New Bedford and Brockton.
A consultant has indicated to the commission there is no timeline for when decisions regarding land in trust might be made concerning the Mashpee Wampanoag’s and their efforts in Taunton.
Richard Carroll indicated to the commission Wednesday.
Now, Koczera says as long as meaningful progress is shown by all three applicants the process should continue towards a conclusion.
Koczera says deadlines are not an issue right now for region c.
A Massachusetts slot parlor is to open in June.
MGM Springfield has already broken ground on their new facility.
The Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance has fined the Leo Pelletier campaign for re-election $1,000 after Debra Pelletier was found to be at the welcome table at a March fundraising event collecting contributions.
Debra Pelletier is an employee of the City of Fall River.
Candidate Leo Pelletier tells WSAR News that he told investigators he did not realize that the Commonwealth considered that a violation of campaign finance statutes.
Pelletier says it takes a lot to run a credible campaign for one of the nine available council seats.
Pelletier says he paid the fine in March.
The Office of Campaign and Political Finance says it considers the matter closed.
Sean Cadime, the unanimous choice to be Somerset’s next town administrator.
Somerset Selectmen Chair Don Setters.
Cadime bested a field of 24 applicants including fellow finalist Richard Brown who has served as town administrator in Freetown as well as a city administrator in New London Connecticut and East Providence.
Setters tells WSAR News Cadime, the current town administrator for Seekonk, has what it takes to deal with Somerset’s financial issues.
Selectman Scott Lebeau.
Cadime is a former member of the Fall River School Committee and served as city administrator under former mayor Will Flanagan.
He has also agreed not to seek public office and move to Somerset.
Fall River Mayor Sam Sutter admits that a graph used by his transition team regarding stabilization dollars could have been better crafted as part of a 70 page summary of the city’s financial situation, but indicates the larger point is that the city has issues with its stabilization line items.
As for the ongoing debate on the legality of pay-as-you throw, Sutter says Council President Joe Camara got it right as to how the process would play out.
The second part of transition team’s recent report regarding the city and its finances was released last Friday.
With the release of a 70 page analysis summary of Fall Rivers municipal and school department budget numbers produced by the Sutter Administration Friday, arrangements are now being made for individual sessions with nine city council members who have questions about what the numbers actually mean.
Sutter Chief of Staff Lou Pacheco tells WSAR News he is available to answer questions.
Pacheco says different council members will focus on various portions of the document.
The installation of 22 windows at Fall River Government Center during the summer of 2013 continues to be investigated at the local and state level.
Sutter Chief of Staff Lou Pacheco says the transition team also has looked into the issues involved and says he has also examined the issues involved, and says procurement procedures were not followed:
Pacheco says nothing illegal has been discovered.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healy has indicated to WSAR News that her office is familiarizing themselves with the files left behind by former A.G. Martha Coakley.
As casino investors in Brockton, New Bedford and Somerset continue their pursuit of the third and final destination resort casino license for region c, Don Setters, the Chair of the Somerset Board of Selectmen tells WSAR News that various items will be considered once artist renderings are available from Crossroads Massachusetts.
Setters says he’s hoping for high speed ferry service as one means of traffic mitigation and says traffic concerns are something that can be monitored.
Setters wants to see gift certificates offered as part of a players club program to Somerset restaurants and businesses, as part of an agreement with developers.
The region c license is to be awarded by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission in the fourth quarter of 2015.
FALL RIVER: Today, the Transition Team appointed by Fall River Mayor Sam Sutter released the data they have been compiling throughout the course of their analysis of Fall River’s finances. These statistics were the source material that the Transition Team drew from for their Executive Summary, released Monday, March 16th.
Said Sutter: "My Transition Team has released a comprehensive outline of the data that supports Part 1 of their Financial Report. The information provided today is a detailed picture of where Fall River stands financially. I wanted the public to have these numbers so that we can all plainly see where we are at as we begin taking steps towards fiscal sustainability.
"I am grateful for all of the hard work the Transition Team put in in pulling this information together and helping to provide the community with the hard data behind the budget,” Sutter continued. “I look forward to opening up a dialogue with the community about what this information means in the immediate future and for our long-term vision for the City."
Sutter also announced that the Transition Team will be publishing one more document within the next week that further explains the data released today.
The report can be read on the City's website at the following link:
A decision on a new Somerset Town Administrator is due at some point this spring, as the race between two contenders comes down to interviews Tuesday, with a potential decision expected Wednesday.
Somerset Board of Selectmen Chair Don Setters indicates to WSAR News that former Fall River City Administrator, and current Seekonk Administrator Shawn Cadime and Richard Brown, who has administrative experience in Rhode Island are the two contenders for the post.
The contract of former Town Administrator Richard Lutrell was not renewed earlier this year, as selectmen indicated they wanted to go in a different direction.