WSAR NEWS

The Cannabis Conversation Continues In Fall River

After originally concluding a debate on enacting a provision that would cap the number of cannabis retail locations to 11, Fall River City Council Vice President Pam Laliberte-Lebeau asked to consider, switching her vote from a ‘No’ to a ‘Yes.’

 

The matter was then sent onto a second reading and enrollment later this Summer, with an opportunity to further amend the provision. 

 

Council members debated the merits of cannabis sales on future municipal budgets and whether or not Corporation Counsel Joseph Macy.

 

"I don't think this is particularly important to anybody but myself but I just want to make the record clear,” Macy said. “I was not asked for an opinion prior to this meeting. Had I been asked formally for a written opinion I would have provided it."

 

In the midst of the debate, a discussion over revenue between Council Member Shawn Cadime and City Administrator Cathy Ann Viveiros erupted. 

 

Cadime asked Viveiros a question about revenue coming in from Northeast Alternatives as the only recreational cannabis seller in the city. 

 

"We have been very conservative in our estimate,” Viveiros replied. “There will be, for the foreseeable future, a revenue source from cannabis sales. I don't know how much projected revenues will grow. We don't know what that trajectory will be but I question that it will go below."

 

This debate sparked an engagement between the two over the end of the Pay-As-You-Throw Era.

 

"So, what happened was you eliminated the purple bags without the marijuana revenue coming in,” Cadime said. “When it did come in, it saved the budget.” 

 

“It helped to supplant what the issue was - you did it without the marijuana companies. You were getting rid of the purple bags regardless of what was happening with no care whatsoever on the impact on the financial specifics."

 

"Well, that's not true councilor," Viveiros responded. 

 

"It's absolutely true," he interjected.  

 

Viveiros countered. "It absolutely is not. We would not have taken action if we couldn't have maintained a balanced budget.”

 

Cadime claimed the administration got rid of purple bags without anticipating what type of revenue cannabis would bring in. 

 

"You did it without knowing that would take place,” he told Viveiros. “You eliminated it before even submitting any type of financial forecasting to this city council."

 

Councilor Steve Camara gave his thoughts and told his fellow members the process should be able to play out over time.

 

"Let the market prevail,” he said. “This is a revenue-producing operation for the City of Fall River. It is not causing any difficulty anywhere. It's actually putting Fall River in a good light."

 

In response, Council Member Cadime spoke on other issues motivating his reasoning for some type of cap on cannabis retailers.

 

"I think something that we are aware of but ignore is the money being given to the administration by these marijuana companies for the licenses and the kickback they're receiving in order to issue these licenses,” he said. “This is an issue”

 

Cadime told council this has been ignored in the continuous cannabis conversation.

 

“The only way for us to put a stop to it is to put a cap on the number of licenses that we have,” he said. “It's an unfortunate situation but it's the reality of the situation. We can continue to turn a blind eye but sooner or later we'll start to see additional charges come down on individuals receiving money for these licenses.”

 

He continued. “We'll all be sitting here saying we should have put a cap on it to eliminate the exposure. To say that there is no issues is a lie at this point or misleading the public."

 

Council Member Stephen Long doubts the demand will even be there for nearly a dozen retailers.

 

"I find it hard to believe that we'll even have 11 licenses in the City of Fall River,” he said. “I think we're well within a reasonable range. If, in the next two or six months all 11 licenses get granted, then maybe we should take a second look and say maybe we need more but as of now I find it hard to believe."

 

The second reading and enrollment of a potential cap of 11 locations could happen in council later this Summer.

A Conversation With City Council President Cliff Ponte

Fall River City Council President spoke with WSAR News on a plethora of topics, including talks of the elimination of the CSO fee in the city.

 

Mayor Jasiel Correia II has made it known this summer he would like to eliminate the quarterly storm water fee, indicating cannabis sales and various forms of digital advertising would be enough to replace the $5.9 million in the current fiscal year 2020 municipal budget. 

 

If a fee is jettisoned, Ponte told WSAR there needs to be revenue to replace what the fee would have earned.

 

"Everybody wants to see fees eliminated and reduced for our taxpayers" he said. "We would like to see if we can increase revenues without cost to the taxpayers. That's something every politician - every local mayor, city councilor, state rep or any public official tries to do for their constituents and taxpayers."

 

Fall River's current council president referenced this topic as a political subject that pops up around election time. 

 

"Eliminating the storm water fee has been a political thing to talk about during campaigns but we need to be sure if we do eliminate a tax or a fee, we do it in a way that doesn't jeopardize the taxpayer another way," Ponte said. "You don't want to eliminate the storm water fee and find your water rates increasing in the same breath, too."

 

Ponte referenced the ten dollar per household fee elimination as an example of there being a plan to replace that money.

 

"We have to be cognizant and aware," he said. "If we want to eliminate fees like the city council did in my first term when we got rid of the ten dollar trash fee. That was something I advocate for and was successfully able to accomplish as a city councilor and chair of the ordinance committee at that time. We did it in a way that made financial sense to do so."

 

The city council president told WSAR various city owned outdoor digital billboards are also a work in progress and could help increase revenue. 

Deadline To Hand In Nomination Packets For Elected Office In Fall River - Friday July 12, 5:00 p.m

The final deadline for securing nomination packets to run for elective office in Fall River is now closed and the chase is on to secure signatures in the race for the nine City Council seats and six School Committee spots.

 

Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia II has turned in his nomination papers, according to The Fall River Herald News. He will face a pair of challengers who will constitute a September Preliminary Election for Mayor. 

 

Those two are current School Committee member and recall election runner-up Paul Coogan as well as community activist Erica Scott-Pacheco who also ran against Mayor Correia in March’s Recall Election. 

 

Coogan will have to leave his seat behind on the school committee while current City Council Member Derek Viveiros is not running for re-election. 

 

There are currently six contenders for Fall River City Council with a guaranteed slot on a potential September Preliminary Ballot. That includes current City Council President Cliff Ponte, along with incumbents Leo Pelletier and Joe Camara.

 

Former City Council President and Mayoral Challenger Linda Perreria as well as challengers Michelle Dionne, Christopher Peckham and Matthew Springer will also guaranteed a preliminary spot. 

 

Dionne indicated to WSAR News in the Spring if elected to council, she would vacate her seat on the Fall River Redevelopment Authority. 

 

Incumbent Shawn Cadime continues to collect his signatures while potential challenger Colin Dias has indicated to WSAR he will turn in his nomination packet before Fridays 5 p.m deadline. 

 

Five challengers and two incumbents, Stephen Long and Pam La-Liberte Lebeau have until the deadline on Friday to return their nomination paperwork.

New Proposed Ordinance Limiting The Number Of Cannabis Dispensaries to 11

At Monday night’s session of Fall River City Council’s Committee on Ordinances and Legislation by a vote of 3-2 the committee agreed to send a proposed ordinance to the full council limiting the number of cannabis facilities in Fall River to 11.

 

As of now, the Correia Administration has 11 letters of non-opposition issued to prospective firms trying to secure a license to operate from the Commonwealth’s Cannabis Control Commission. 

 

Three licenses have been awarded in the city, yet only Northeast Alternatives is allowed to sell cannabis recreationally.

 

City Council Member Shawn Cadime offered a final amendment allowing the number of cannabis licenses to increase if the number of off-premise liquor licenses went up.

 

"I want to put in there that the maximum number of recreational marijuana licenses available at one time in the city of Fall River will be limited to twenty percent of off-premise liquor licenses or eleven, whichever number is greater.”

 

Cadime explains this prepares them if an unforeseen circumstance pops up.

 

“The reason I want to throw the twenty percent in there is if, for whatever reason, the population changes and then our off-premise liquor licenses are higher and we're awarded more licenses, I don't want to constantly have to come back down,” he said. “I want to be able to capture both so it's automatic we obtain that twenty percent."

 

Corporation Counsel Joseph Macy remained neutral in the debate. 

 

"Just so we're clear, I have never taken a position if the city can only issue eight licenses,” he said. “I've been very clear that the city could not reduce the number they issue below eight and if they wanted to restrict it above that number, they could."

 

Fall River-Based Attorney and Former Fall River Mayor Will Flangan warned the committee of the potential revenue the city could miss out on because of this cap. 

 

"By limiting yourself, you're doing just that - you're limiting yourself,” he explained. “From a capitalistic standpoint or from a business standpoint you're making the determination that this is the market and this is what we're able to bring.”

 

The Former Mayor spoke on how difficult it is to get into this industry at this time. 

 

“This is a high barrier of entry,” Flangan said. “Not many people have 3 to 5 million dollars to open a dispensary check. Plus, you have to pass a background and assets check."

 

The full Nine-Member City Council will take up this question later this month. 

Nearly 900 Massachusetts Driver Licenses Suspended

Almost 900 Massachusetts drivers whose out-of-state traffic infractions had previously been overlooked have now had their licenses suspended in the aftermath of the deadly motorcycle crash in New Hampshire last month.

 

A 23-year old truck driver, Volodymyr Zhokoskyy crossed a double-yellow line and collided with a group of bikers and killed seven members of Marine Jarheads MC, a motorcycle club that includes former and active marines as well as their spouses. They were on their way to a nearby Veterans fundraiser.

 

Zhokoskyy is of West Springfield, Mass. and received a drunk-driving charge on May 11 in Connecticut. It should have instantly terminated his commercial drivers license. Officials say the Massachusetts RMV was notified but because of the way the systems are programed it was not processed correctly.

 

Lawmakers and administrators on Beacon Hill are watching as the Baker Administration and the RMV in the Commonwealth gather information as to why the documents from out-of-state were never taken care of the right way.

 

"It's egregious,” Bristol 6th District State Representative Carole Fiola told WSAR. “It's unacceptable. This is horrific what happened to the families of those who lost their lives in this accident."

 

Fiola said lawmakers in the Commonwealth are preparing to act once the investigation has concluded.

 

"There is an investigation underway right now,” she said. “We need answers. We need to know what actions need to be taken, if any. We're prepared."

 

State rep Fiola said that human error was at the core of the issues involved 

 

"How could this have possibly happened?” she asked. “How are people driving that should not be driving? Lives were lost because human error. There were employees who were supposed to be doing this work of insuring people who were not supposed to be driving and who are dangers on the road, were driving. So, we need answers."

 

The suspensions that should have been issued starting in 2018 have now been processed  . There remain questions about information that may not have been taken care of between 2001 and 2017

 

"We're going to have answers soon and we'll do whatever we need to at that point once we have the information," Fiola told WSAR.

The Trial Of Jasiel F. Correia II Is Set - February 24, 2020

The trial of Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia II has been set for February 24, 2020. 

 

Mayor Correia was arrested on October 11 last year and charged with defrauding investors and using the money to fund what U.S Attorney Andrew Lelling terms as a “lavish lifestyle and burgeoning politcal career.”

 

The investment was for an app created by Correia called SnoOwl where he is alleged to have used $231,447 of the $363,690 he received from the seven lenders for personal airfare, luxury hotels, adult entertainment, dating services, designer clothes and a Mercedes.

 

A pre-trial conference this week that lasted all of five minutes at the Moakley Federal Courthouse in Boston featured Correia’s defense-team minus the Fall River Mayor. The date was agreed to by both sides.

 

Somerset-based Attorney Steve Sabra, the host of Law Talk on WSAR, explained what to expect from both sides in the coming eight months.

 

"There was maybe 18,000 pages of discovery,” he said. “So, now you have to narrow it down and decide what you'll use for your case and what you won't. Both sides will also have to figure out what witnesses they'll present. From the prosecution standpoint, they have to decide what witnesses they'll use to prove each element of each charge beyond a reasonable doubt.”

 

On the defense’s side they may not use any witnesses in their case. 

 

“The defense has to decide how they will cross-examine each of the witnesses,” Sabra explained. “They'll also decide what documents they may want to use in support of their theory of the case and ultimately who they will use as witnesses, if anyone."

 

The Somerset-based attorney said he was surprised by the timing of this trial date. 

 

"I did expect it to be a bit sooner,” Sabra told WSAR. “My thought process was that it would be before the end of the year. My basis for thinking that was because the arraignment was in October of 2018. I would think they would generally want to try the case within a year of arraignment.” 

 

Sabra went on to explain another reason why he didn’t expect to see a trial date in 2020.

 

“I also noted that they excluded some of the time under the calculations for a speedy trial,” he said. “In other words, there are rules of a case having to be brought to trial in a certain period of time. But they can also consider part of the time that a case as pending as excludable time. They did that in this case."

 

Mayor Correia has pulled nomination papers to run for re-election and a third term as the mayor of Fall River. WSAR asked Sabra how the timing of the case would play a role in the upcoming election process

 

"In a way, he is fortunate because the trial won't be until the end of February and the election is at the beginning of November,” he responded “He won't have that distraction and the necessity to heavily prepare in lets say October or early November.”

 

Sabra did say at the end of his response he expects it to still be a distraction as well as an issue for voters and even his opponents. 

 

Correia’s defense team will have until August 9 to file any motions while the government will have until August 30 to respond. 

Cathy Ann Viveiros & Last Week's Budget Hearings

Last week, the Fall River Municipal Budget was passed.

 

One of the largest single increases from last year’s budget to this year’s is over the concern of e-mail software and servers that are being secured to allow for the retention of emails, complying with Commonwealth statute.

 

The City Administrator, Cathy Ann Viveiros told council during last week’s series of budget hearings new platforms for the servers would have to be secured.

 

"We're in the process of still trying to determine the police department's ability to be compliant with the public records statute,” she said. “There's a possibility that all of the police patrol are going to have to migrate to a more expensive platform which would be the Exchange Platform.”

 

Viveiros explained it’s necessary even if it seems costly.

 

“It allows for complete maintenance of all the former e-mails generated,” she told the council. “The estimate for that is almost $50,000 for just one single department.”  

 

The final line item number for public school transportation will be revealed later this Summer, as the city works with various providers to strike their $9.3 million goal, down from the original figure of over $11 million.

 

Fall River’s City Administrator also discussed the addition of over 60 positions on the school department side as well as one that won’t be added on the municipal side.

 

“Last year, I had under other personal services an anticipated creation of a tourism director,” Viveiros explained. "That position was not approved in ordinance so it is not apart of this year’s budget.”

 

A new grant writer position who will work for both the municipal and school department sides will likely be filled at some point this upcoming Summer.  

A Potential Salary Hike For Elected Officials In Fall River

At this weeks series of budget hearings the idea of a salary hike for various elected officials in Fall River was suggested. City Council Member Steve Camara proposed to enact it for the 2020 members next year.

 

"Another thing of concern to me is the rather meager pay we give our elected officials, particularly school committee members, city councilors and the mayor,” Camara pointed out. “I know that my colleague in seat two thought we should have a sentiment of the council as to whether or not we'd like to see this addressed.”

 

The city councilor made sure to note this was not a premeditated proposal.

 

“We reviewed the charter during the break and found that the council has the authority to rescind the freeze but it has to be done within the first 18 months,” Camara said. “Some would think this has been orchestrated but clearly there wasn't because none of us realized what time frame was."

 

Council Member Shawn Cadime added on to Camara’s point and explained that he’s in favor of the motion because he believes the mayors salary at the present is not enough for that position in the city.

 

"The reason I'm going to support this is more for the mayor's position,” he said. :When we look at the challenges we have to get people to run for the office of mayor, that position pays $118,000 and not take anything away but the town administrator is making close to $25,000 more.”

 

Councilor Cadime continued to explain it’s not about the position of town administrator or the duties involved but instead the allure of the position of mayor and how attractive it would be to those with credible business backgrounds

 

“I understand the town administrator does more of the day-to-day functions with the departments,” he said. “When we start looking at the complexity of the city and you start looking at CEO's in charge of those types of budgets of millions of dollars, you won't get anyone with any type of business background or real credentials to come in and take the 24/7 job requirements at a salary of $118,000."

 

The motion ultimately passed by a 6-3 margin with Council President Cliff Ponte along with Councilors Leo Pelletier and Joseph Camara rejecting it.

Steve Camara Talks Cannabis Revenue

During this week of budget hearings in Fall River, the topic of revenue has been discussed and debated as much as anything else with the nine-member city council.

 

A discussion between council member Steve Camara and Chief Financial Officer Mary Sahady pointed out how cannabis dollars has balanced the numbers.

 

"The point is that the cash cow of this budget is cannabis..." Camara observed.

 

"That's correct, in terms of local dollars received," Sahady replied.

 

Camara told his fellow council members, "as we progress towards making decisions we need to be reminded this is what the people voted for - to legalize marijuana."

 

A resolution to limit the number of locations that dispense cannabis to eight still exists. Camara doesn’t believe this is necessary.

 

"I know the council is reviewing and considering putting a false cap on the distribution of licenses,” he said. “I think, unless there's a problem, lets not find a solution to a problem that does not exist."

 

The council member said cannabis is providing the necessary revenue to replace what was lost when the Pay-As-You-Throw Program was terminated earlier in 2019.

 

"I encourage you to send back an opportunity for us to increase our budget through revenue that's now available to us," he asked.

 

The $2.3 million in lost revenue when the Pay-As-You-Throw Era ended is being replaced in part by nearly $2 million in cannabis impact fees.

                      

The market remains wide open in this part of New England as Rhode Island lawmakers have already decided to not legalize cannabis for at least another year while New York and Connecticut refuse to legalize.

 

There is no law against purchasing recreational cannabis with an out-of-state ID though it is still illegal under federal law to transport the drug across state lines.

Budget Hearings Commenced This Week

Budget hearings commenced Tuesday evening in Government Center and will continue throughout the week.

 

It’s likely a budget at 101% of net school spending will be approved by the Fall River City Council.

 

Chief Operating Officer Ken Pacheco discussed the lack of transportation contracts with the nine members and was asked this by Council Vice President Pam La-Libertie Lebeau.

 

"As for the transportation, I know we rescinded and just went out for a new bid. Do you know when we'll have those answers?"

 

Pacheco responded, "The bids will be due July 11th, if I'm not mistaken."

 

"Are we in any danger of not being ready for the beginning of the school year?" Lebeau inquired.

 

"If that schedule stays as is we're looking to have all awards in hand for August 1 after we do our due diligence and following the process of getting contract signatures. We're looking at August 1st," Pacheco answered.

 

At a charter-mandated session earlier in the year a placeholder number of $11.9 million for transportation costs was discussed. That figure was whittled down to $10.1 million but the city would like to see it closer to $9.3 million in fiscal year 2020.

 

In other news from the first budget hearing, Superintendent of Fall River Public Schools Doctor Matthew Malone indicated the district observed an important milestone over the Spring.

 

"We've tripled secondary language learners in three years,” he told the City Council. “The list, last week, was the first time in Fall River Public School history that we're now a majority minority school system.”

 

Malone said the numbers were essentially reversed.

 

“We flipped from 52-48 to 48-52,” he explained. “The largest of our second language speakers are Latino with most coming from Puerto Rico. We are also receiving large numbers of kids from Central and South America, as well."

 

Dr. Malone continued on talking about the overall budget figure of $160,662,776 approved by the School Committee earlier in the Spring and how the Governor influences it.

 

"In my third year of doing this, I propose a budget based on the Governors numbers - not at 100% but 101% of net school spending,” he explained. “It's important we're above the minimum foundation to fund schools. Each year, we take the same path forwards based on the Governor's Budget."

 

Depending on the final budget that incorporates proposals from both the Massachusetts House and the Senate, that figure could become larger when the Massachusetts budget for fiscal year 2020 later this Summer.

M.B.T.A and MassDOT Agree To New 5-Year Capital Investment Plan

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s Board of Directors along with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s Fiscal Management and Control Board voted to approve a 5-year, $18-billion Capital Investment Plan for fiscal years 2020 through 2024.

 

This plan includes a $1 billion increase over the last 5-year C.I.P.

 

It will include all MassDOT road and bridge projects, public use airports, rail and transit including the M.B.T.A and Regional Transit Authorities as well as the Registry of Motor Vehicles.

 

South Coast Rail is one of the items involved in the new plan with one billion dollars going towards the project. It will include rail service between Fall River, New Bedford and Boston’s South Station.

 

Other things included in the new C.I.P over the next five fiscal years includes full funding for phase one construction and service for the Middleborough route.

 

This covers over 37 miles of track and right of way upgrades along with 6 new commuter rail stations, 2 overnight layover facilities and reconstruction of 28 grade crossing, 14 bridges and 63 culverts.

 

The orange and red lines will get $1.5 billion for improvements funded through the new five year plan which includes 400 new vehicles. The green line will receive $1.3 billion is also included.

New School Bell Schedule In Fall River

At a recent Fall River School Committee session, the school bell schedule in the Fall River Public School District was approved to be changed for five different schools.

 

The new start and end times allow for bus tiering, minimizing the number of buses in the district and saving costs on school transportation.

 

Here is a link to the updated start & end times for the Fall River Public School District: https://www.scribd.com/document/413415012/Fall-River-Public-Schools-Start-Sc-613-19-1#from_embed

 

Superintendent Doctor Matthew Malone said Durfee and Spencer Borden had to stay at their original times.

 

"Because of the construction at the high school with Durfee and Spencer Borden being right next to each other and with the movement of the high school to get to that specific point we wanted to move them back to their original point.”

 

Malone explained the time allotted would be nearly impossible

 

“It’s not feasible because there's essentially a four minute window between the pick up at both schools at the end of the day,” he said. “That would be hugely problematic with the construction."

 

The Superintendent of schools said this can be re-visited for Durfee and Spencer Borden once the new school is finished.

 

“In two years, after the new high school is built I'll come back to the committee with a recommendation at that time again," he told the committee.

 

One school that did adjust times is Doran but it didn’t come without its struggles.

 

"We really had a hard time trying to work on Doran,” Malone said. “We were able to get to a place where we shaved thirteen minutes off the start time. It's the best we could possibly do. We're only talking about three buses that aren't even full at Doran."

 

Start and end times could be adjusted depending on what happens with a final transportation schedule once bids are secured and contracts signed.

Cannabis Sales Revenue Could Surpass NFL in 2019

Legal cannabis revenue is growing faster and greater than expected. By next year, it could be bringing in more money than the entire National Football League.

 

According to a new report from the Marijuana Business Factbook, revenue from both medicinal and legal recreational sales from cannabis fell between $8.6 and $10 billion.

 

That figure is more than the revenue of Goldfish Crackers, the video game Fortnite and e-cigarettes combined. It even rivals the sales of Taco Bell’s annual revenue.

 

It’s estimated by next year cannabis sales will surpass the projected $15 billion in annual revenue generated by the NFL.

 

Jim Borghesani was the communications director for Yes On 4, a movement pushing for the legalization of cannabis in the Commonwealth back in 2016. He told WSAR News advocates have known this level of revenue would be possible.

 

"I think there’s a sense of being confident in the accuracy of the numbers we were talking about both in Massachusetts and nationally, as well,” he explained. “We always claimed with factual basis that cannabis will be a good cash crop, if you will.”

 

According to the report from the Marijuana Business Factbook, by the end of 2023 cannabis sales could exceed the collective spending Americans pay for gym memberships.

 

Borghesani knows this number can grow with the potential of the black market which is still utilized. It’s estimated the numbers would be between $50 and $60 billion dollars if those numbers were included with legal sales numbers.  

 

“Taking cannabis away from illegal dealers and putting it in the hands of responsible business people who check ID’s would generate new income for towns and states.”

 

Roughly 20 percent of adults use some form of cannabis for pain management, therapy or recreationally with that number only growing. As more states legalize, the discouragement of the cannabis versus alcohol for example will fade away.

 

Borghesani says cannabis has and will always be apart of our culture. It makes no sense to recognize that.

 

“It seems silly to me to not recognize cannabis is in our society and will always be in our society, he said. “It always has been. To make it legal, give it the same consumer protections, safety and accesses that other substances like alcohol and tobacco have is a wise move for society.”

 

According to the report, legal cannabis will create a boost for this years economy somewhere between $39 and $48 billion with the potential to surpass the $100 billion mark in 2023.  

Firefighter Memorial At Kennedy Park On Sunday

A gathering is set for Sunday morning at Kennedy Park in Fall River at 8:45 a.m. at the Firefighter Memorial in the area to honor the lives of retired firefighters who lost their lives in 2018.

 

The ceremony is part of an annual nationwide day of remembrance of those who died in active duty or after retirement. Fire Chief John Lynch says the six to be honored this weekend lived well into their 90’s and really beat the odds in regards to the life expectancy of a firefighter.

 

“That was an extraordinary amount carcinogens those guys took in at that time,” he said. “It's amazing that those guys survived this long. The average age for anybody right now that retires usually lasts 8 to 9 years - believe it or not."

 

Lynch recognized those men as part of one of the greatest generations of firefighters who had to do the job in much tougher circumstances.

 

"The way they would put a fire would be bringing the hose line into the building and hang low to the floor,” he said. “They would be sucking in smoke. But they would still put those fires out.”

 

Fall River’s Fire Chief continued to these group of guys were an anomaly.

 

"They're really an exception to the rule to live that long because all of those older guys were firefighters before we had breathing apparatus and high-tech equipment,” Lynch explained. “Back in the day, we'd call them smoke-eaters."

 

Sunday morning’s ceremony at Kennedy Park is open to the public.

A Conversation With Ken Fiola

The Executive Vice President of the Bristol County Economic Development Consultants joined WSAR and discussed the severed relationship from late last year between his group and the Fall River RDA Board.

 

"Since 2017, there's no secret the mayor had been trying to terminate the contract between the redevelopment authority and ourselves,” Ken Fiola said. “He needed to get the proper board members on there to do so. When you hire city employees like Bob Smith, the harbormaster and Kara O'Connell the assistant harbormaster there may be some more control over those board members."

 

Fiola went on to say the relationships on the current RDA Board are in need of examination.  

 

"The fact that Mr. Smith is a city employee puts him in a compromised position,” he said. “He's repeatedly said at least at the last meeting if not before that - that he's personally being sued by me. That's a total inaccurate statement."

 

A lingering issue between the former F.R.O.E.D (Fall River Office of Economic Development) and the Fall River RDA was the issue of a shipment of gravel utilized at the city pier without authorization - which has become a hot button topic in the last few weeks in Fall River.

 

"It consisted of a potential payback of the cost overrun by the engineer who allowed the gravel to be brought to the site and utilized without a change order,” Fiola explained. “There were a lot of things on the table such as discussions to how we're going to address the gravel issue. But let us be clear, the fact of the matter remains that this was an unauthorized change order."

 

The RDA is now saying a portion of the gravel may have to be removed in order for a non-permeable material like asphalt to be laid on a portion of the pier. But Fiola says members of the board need to accept responsibility for their role in city ier issues.

 

"As they get side tracked with things such as the city pier, they're looking for somebody else to blame,” he said. “This was explained to them last Fall in terms of what they could and couldn't do along the city pier but that doesn't seem to have any bearing on their ability accept responsibility."

 

The RDA’s newly hired Economic Development Director will begin duties in July while a lawsuit over the severing of the consulting contract with the board and former F.R.O.E.D is in the legal queue this Spring.

Paul Coogan Hands In Signatures For Certification

The first mayoral contender for the city’s upcoming  primary election in the Fall turned in the necessary signatures for certification in the Elections Division in Government Center.

 

Fall River School Committee Member and the runner-up in the Fall River recall election in March, Paul Coogan is running because he believes voters are looking for more efficient government.

 

"I think people are ready for a change,” he said. “That's why we're running. I think Fall River can definitely be operated more efficiently than it is right now and there is a climate for people to work together to push this city in one direction."

 

Coogan has learned from the recall election earlier in the year he and his team need to reach out to voters in Southside precincts.

 

"We obviously did better in some of the wards closer to my house but we will focus on some of the wards in the South End - one, two and three,” he said. “I want to work a little harder down there. The voters told us they want to see us more down there so we'll be around."

 

The mayoral contender and school committee member believe the two sides along with the city council need to do a better job at working together to do right by the city.

 

"The city council, the school committee and the mayor's office should be like a three-party organization running the city,” Coogan said. “Right now, I don't think there's a lot going on among those groups. We're doing the best we can on the school committee side and I know the councilors are as well. And I assume the mayor is, too. But there's not a lot of cohesion."

 

Former City Council President Linda Pereira took her nomination papers on Tuesday for an opportunity to return to the council. She’s one of 17 contenders for the nine positions while four people are in contention for the six School Committee seats.

Jim Borghesani And Cannabis In The Commonwealth

Fall River has 11 letters of non-opposition currently issued for prospective legal cannabis facilities and is currently waiting on the process of the state’s Cannabis Control Commission.

 

In Oregon, a six-year supply of cannabis remains an issue for the state as they try to sell the surplus of product or re-purpose by other means.

 

WSAR News spoke to the Spokesperson for ‘Yes on 4,’ the initiative that led to the legalization of Cannabis in the Commonwealth. Jim Borghesani explained that Massachusetts has the ability in the legislation to set limits on the amount of product produced.

 

"It's a lesson learned (for Oregon) and it's a lesson already learned in Massachusetts,” he said. “In the ballot initiative in the subsequent legislation they gave the power to the Cannabis Control Commission to observe the yield and set limits based on if they see a glut of product and too much entering the marketplace."

 

Borghesani said Massachusetts will probably never have the problems Oregon have because of the built-in controls it has already established. He told WSAR no other legalized state has experienced this surplus issue.

 

"We haven’t seen a repeat of Oregon in any other legalized state,” he said. “If you can't transport over state lines you're stuck with all that product and they have a very big dilemma on their hands."  

 

The ‘Yes on 4’ Spokesperson said he believes municipalities across the legalized states are learning demand for cannabis is greater than originally thought and is producing more revenue than expected.

 

"I think Massachusetts will have the market to itself for quite a while,” Borghesani said. “Every facility that is open is generating more revenue than the towns had anticipated so it’s working pretty much the way the backers of legalization would work."

 

Northeast Alternatives is currently the only recreational cannabis dispensary open in the city of Fall River.

Rep. Paul Schmid & South Coast Rail

WSAR News talked with Bristol Eighth District State Representative Paul Schmid about the future of South Coast Rail and the greater problem of a lack of public transportation here in the local area.

 

Rep. Schmid reiterated multiple times he is concerned about the price tag on the various mechanical issue fixes to the T in Boston, estimated between $10-15 million and how that impacts the South Coast.

 

He said it’s important to make sure money does not get lost on us because of the project sixty miles north.

 

"We all know funding that will take money away from the transportation investment we need down here,” the Bristol representative said. “We're pretty certain the South Coast Rail is being adequately funded and will begin in 2022. That's not the only one of our transportation needs down here though."

 

Schmid added that its magnified by lack of a regional bus service in the area modeling the same hours available as in Boston. The eighth district representative told WSAR the limited operation of hours the bus service offers constricts economic development.

 

“The bus service stops at 6 p.m. and not in service on Sundays,” he said. “How can we hope to get our young people working if they can't get to work for a night shift or on a Sunday?"

 

In Fall River, the bus routes to B.C.C, Swansea and a few other key locations end at 9 p.m. on weeknights and after 6:30 p.m. on Saturdays. Currently, there is an experimental service implemented earlier in the year adding hours to the Stafford Road route and another one in New Bedford.

 

"We need more public transportation here on the South Coast,” Rep. Schmid said. “When we start hearing the numbers about what it's going to cost to fix the T, I worry about what's going to be left for us down here. We're going to keep fighting on that front - we have to."

 

A version of South Coast Rail is planned to start in 2022.

EPA Inspection At The Fall River City Pier

The U.S Environmental Protection Agency will be in Fall River on Tuesday to inspect a portion of the City Pier in regards to the removal of PCBs and in the wake of Waterfront Promotions LLC entering into a new five-year lease agreement to create an entertainment venue.

 

The Fall River RDA met Thursday night and debated for nearly an hour ultimately tabling decision about the seasonal license awarded to the newly formed company at a May 22 session. 

 

The Chairwoman of the RDA Board made it clear she wants one or more members there.

 

“When the EPA comes down to view the site on Tuesday or another time I there should be one or two board members present,” Kara O’Connell said.

 

She would like someone there to explain the history of the site and how it got to its current situation.

 

One of the members of the board supported the idea to table discussions so that they could have more information from the EPA’s inspection to further debate.

 

"With so many moving parts, there is so much misinformation with this EPA meeting coming up,” Michelle Dionne said. “I would be inclined to say yes, we can discuss what's here but let’s table everything else because I don't think we can move forward with anything until we have all the facts in front of us."

 

City Administrator Cathy Ann Viveiros used the opportunity to talk about transparency for the cost of this endeavor.

 

"There's a new era of transparency,” she said. “This had to be disclosed to you because there will be a cost associated. We weren't going to not disclose why at some point you're going to be paying $100,000 or more to remove something you just paid to install.”

 

A portion of the granular filler which caused controversy in 2018 may have to be removed for this project, which was realized last night

 

"A portion of the granular fill is going to have to be removed because it effectively raised the elevation of the site,” Viveiros said. “We have to make space for four inches of pavement. There's a question as to whether some of the granular fill might be able to conform with a sand gravel requirement that was also part a sub-base material."

 

Also, discussed briefly last night was a letter sent from The Cove Restaurant and Marina to the RDA asking for a seasonal license at the pier. Discussions will continue and a resolution will be produced likely in June.

Fall River RDA Strikes Deal On City Pier With Waterfront Promotions

On May 22, the Fall River Redevelopment Authority entered into a licensing agreement with Waterfront Promotions to develop an entertainment venue and bar at the City Pier.

 

RDA Chairwoman Kara O’Connell received a unanimous vote from the board and entered into a five-year lease agreement on the same day. The agreement will have Waterfront pay $6,900 per season which would be six months annually. The RDA also hired an engineering firm to start determining EPA restrictions for pier development.

 

The owners of the company are Luis Bettencourt and Rosa Fernandes who also own the restaurant BarCa. Fernandes is the mother of Jenny Fernandes, girlfriend of Mayor Jasiel Correia II. The two share an address.  

 

O’Connell also announced that the Rhode Island-based Narragansett Brewing company and Waterfront Promotions entered into a memorandum of understanding for them to provide promotional services.

 

Bettencourt and Fernandes applied for a full-seasonal license on Wednesday May 29 with the licensing board. The licensing documents show the application process began five days before the initial vote from the RDA on May 17.

 

This would be the couple’s third liquor license in the city with BarCa and a planned Purchase Street restaurant with an already approved license. The full-seasonal license would reflect a capacity of 2,000 people.

 

O’Connell told the board Bettencourt and Fernandes plan to invest $190,000 into the project and would like to see it open on July 4. She also said the city and the RDA would be on the hook for fencing, lighting, restrooms and landscaping which would cost $400,000.

 

The RDA Chairwoman will discuss authorizing fencing contracts tonight at an RDA session.

 

Waterfront Promotions intends to have a full bar, stage and storage facilities installed in the first year and plan to have a pavilion ready to go in the second year. O’Connell said there are also plans to install transient boat docking at the pier for boaters.

 

Mayor Correia said at the May 22 session he was approached by some people interested but didn’t feel any of the options were the right fit. O’Connell told the board that no one else stepped up to the plate and that Waterfront were the first local owners to have the money and take the risk.

 

The mayor also reiterated that this is for temporary use until the Route 79 expansion and South Coast Rail are completed. There is a terminating clause in the agreement as well if the RDA decides to develop the property into a marina which was the plan.

 

In November 2012, the now former Fall River Office of Economic Development began the process of planning to develop the pier with with a 125-slip marina and other features such as a office space and restaurants..

 

In the Summer of 2013 the RDA was awarded a $600,000 grant in the second phase of that original city pier project from MassDevelopment for site assessment and remediation. The money came from the Brownsfield Redevelopment Fund. The city contributed $650,000 in matching funds.

 

In 2014, a Massworks Grant was awarded to Fall River for City Pier improvements valued at $1.6 million.

 

Then, in December of 2016 the Baker-Polito Administration awarded Fall River in $1 million from competitive Seaport Economic Council grant funding.

 

Approximately $4 million was publicly funded for the site.

 

Mayor Correia said at the most recent session of the RDA on May 29 the Environmental Protection Agency has been contacted by the city and the RDA as the authority board entered into a PCB (polychlorinated biphenyl) Risk-Based Cleanup and Disposal Approval Conditions contract with the EPA.

 

In 2002, PCBs were discovered in the soil on the pier so as conditioned by the contract and the EPA marine-related development of the property is required, as is notification of an owner change or entering into a new lease agreement. They’re also required to notify the EPA if a non-permeable material is used to cap off the property like asphalt.

What Happened At Last Night's Fall River City Council Session

At a recent Fall River City Council Session the issue of change orders regarding the completed street scapes for both Purchase and East Main Streets were tabled until the next session on Tuesday June 4.

 

Council members still had their questions about the orders being negotiated.

 

City Administrator Cathy Ann Viveiros reassured the nine members the dollar value of change orders is not an issue.

 

“I would inform the group that the project has just a few items remaining open,” she explained. “They’re part of current contract negotiations. We’re not in a position to discuss those publicly But I will say the dollar value given the size of the project is relatively small.”

 

I.W Harding is the contractor negotiating with the city on the change orders for both street scape projects.

 

“He seemed to agree we are likely to reach a resolution on those outstanding change order requests,” Viveiros told council. “We don’t foresee them posing any significant problem to our finances or the project overall.”

 

During the regular session at 7:00 p.m the full council sent salary schedules and adjustments to an ordinance and legislation committee.

 

Also, a home rule petition will be sent to Beacon Hill seeking to allow employees of the city of Fall River to perhaps apply with the retirement board in hopes of purchasing credible service for military service.

What To Expect At Tonight's Fall River City Council Session

The Fall River City Council will gather for this evening for a session featuring a few committees. At 5:00 p.m the Committee on Economic Development and Tourism will meet followed by the Committee on Regulations immediately after.

 

At 6:00 p.m the Committee on Finance will meet and deal with a couple of things following citizens input. First, they’ll discuss a resolution about the Street Scape Projects complete at Purchase and East Main Streets. There will also be a discussion on a loan order of $4,950,000 for Phase 19 Water System Improvements from the mayor.

 

The regular session of the nine-member council will kick off at 7:00 p.m following the finance session and start with priority matters. That includes a review of salary schedule adjustments for various municipal positions.

 

A report from the Special City Charter Committee will also be reviewed by the council tonight.  

A Deep Dive with Chris Carreiro on Swansea's New RDA

A handful of steps were taken at Monday's town meeting in Swansea in regards to the development of the Swansea Mall property.

 

The most important majority vote approval was the implementation of a redevelopment authority, something Selectman Chris Carreiro has been pushing for since the first session of selectmen of the calendar year.

 

Also - there was a vote in favor of increasing the amount of liquor licenses to six, to be issued only along Route 6 from Gardner Neck Road to Milton Reiser Road. Then, from Route 6 to the most northern point of the Swansea Mall.

 

This will be be known as the “Swansea Mall Redevelopment Area.” All of these actions taken have prompted the prospective buyers of the Swansea Mall property to potentially have the deal done sooner rather than later.

 

“They're trying to get their ducks in a row,” Attorney Chris Carreiro said. “It's a pretty complicated closing. It's not like a residential sale or even a regular commercial sale. It's a complicated transaction because of what’s owed on the mortgage of the property and what the property is being sold. There's also the matter of property leans and the solar panels.”

 

In an interview with WSAR, the Swansea selectmen member talked about the following phases in this plan that he's had drawn out in his head for some time now.

 

“The next step for the town of Swansea would be to set a deadline for letters of intent and resumes for people to serve on the newly formed Swansea Redevelopment Authority,” he explained. “Once we set that deadline, we'll be able to take a look at the resumes and letters of intent and make some initial appointments of four members and then have the Governor to appoint a fifth member.”

 

He continued, “After that is complete, we'll schedule the first meeting where we establish the bylaws of the Swansea Redevelopment Authority and begin the process of requesting proposals for consulting services for an organization to shepherd us through the process of developing an urban renewal plan for the Swansea Mall area and possibly the Route 6 corridor.”

 

The timeline at the moment is a bit unclear and murky. A redevlopment plan of this magnitude would usually take a fair amount of time to do right but Carreiro thinks the prospective buyers will reach their goal quickly because the cost of the property while not being in use is unsustainable.

 

“The carrying cost of the Swansea Mall is very expensive,” the Swansea-based attorney told WSAR News. “You have expensive insurance especially when the building is vacant. You have to keep paying the taxes. I think the prospective buyer would like to generate revenue as soon as possible to offset this cost of carrying the building when nothing’s going on.”

 

The town also voted in favor to start gathering the necessary funds to begin establishing an urban renewal plan in which Carreiro believes the prospective buyers of the mall will want to fast track.

 

“I think they'll be very aggressive in terms of their strategy and approach in trying to execute a redevelopment of the mall,” he said. “But an urban renewal plan usually takes 12-18 months. I see a situation in this instance where it takes less time than that - maybe 6-8 months to get this ready to go. Time is money and that goes for both the prospective buyers and the town of Swansea. The longer that property is vacant, the less tax revenue being generated.”

More Land And An RDA At Swansea's Town Meeting

The town of Swansea had their town meeting Monday evening at Case High School.

 

Voters approved a proposal to purchase a 33 acre section of land in the town for $1.3 million by a 155-2 margin. This will effectively end an effort by a New Hampshire-based firm to install solar panels on the property.

 

Possible school expansion discussions can now be continued following the approval of Article

33. Selectmen member Derek Heim explained why the community was exercising a right of first refusal.

 

“Like any successful municipal business and please understand our public school system is just that,” he said. “There are often times when investment and future vision is needed. I’m sure you’ve received mailers, social media messages and other arrays of information from a solar company - a company our community has no plans for land in question in Article 32.”

 

Swansea Schools Superintendent John Robidoux told the gathered the district needed the land for possible school expansion and disputed any thought of there being no plans.

 

“I’ve heard people say we don’t have a plan,” he said. “Well, we do have a plan. One takes the proper steps to at the right and in a way that makes the most sense. This is step one - acquiring land that will be unavailable in discussions about building a school or other municipal activities here in town.”

 

An attorney for the solar company appeared at Swansea town meeting and represented them in their rebuttals.

 

“I am their tax attorney on 12 projects,” he told the Swansea officials and residents. “Nancy Avila and the Avila family do not want to sell the property to the town at the moment out of respect to their neighbors. They chose solar. They chose something they thought would be beneficial to the town, something they would knew would bring in tax revenue.”

 

Swansea voters also approved a proposal to create a redevelopment authority with the priority of re-developing the Swansea Mall.

 

Included in the proposal is a potential 6 new liquor licenses requiring a home rule petition to be approved in the great and general court.

 

Selectmen member Chris Carreiro introduced the plan for this proposal on the second of the year in the first session of selectmen in 2019.

Swansea Town Meeting and a Potential RDA

At Swansea’s upcoming Annual Town Meeting at Case High School on Monday residents will make a decision to implement a Redevelopment Authority with the main concern of re-developing the Swansea Mall property.

 

A group of anonymous investors who wish to purchase and take on this feat are prepared to close on the property if a Swansea RDA is established next week.

 

The attorney who represents the unknown group joined Swansea-based attorney and Swansea Selectman Chris Carreiro on his radio show The 3rd Degree on WSAR.

 

“They’re very excited about this mall property,” Boston-based Attorney George McGlothlin said. “They're very confident they can make it a huge success but a crucial part is that ‘yes vote’ for the Swansea Redevelopment Authority as well as the liquor licenses this coming Monday at Swansea’s town meeting in Case High School.”

 

Six new liquor licenses are also on the table for voters to decide on at next week’s meeting.

 

McGlothlin told Carreiro his clients have the connections, financially, to make things happen and if all the pieces fall into place including those six new licenses, they’ll indicate just who they are.

 

“It’s an open book,” he explained. “You can go to their other developments and see what they’ve done. You’re going to be impressed. They build great projects and have great imagination as well as the right the contacts. And they have money cause at the end of the say you have to have the money to get this stuff done.”

 

McGlothlin explained that these investors are no strangers to these projects or each other.

 

“One is a developer,” the Boston-based Attorney said. “One is a contractor. One has tremendous tenant contacts and they all have great financing skills. They compliment each other well and enjoy each others company. This is their first deal - they’ve done many, many deals together.”

 

Swansea Town meeting will be at the Case High School starting at 7 p.m on Monday.

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