In this weeks Fall River City Council session on Ordinances and Legislation a number of things and discussions were tabled. One of those was a resolution seeking to create an ordinance that would have city council vote on stipends of $2,000 or more given to city officials.
Fall River Chief Financial Officer Mary Sahady said at the session the fiscal year 2020 municipal budget proposal would indicate where stipends would be utilized.
“Lets just say from a budgetary point of view, in terms of full transparency we have at least included in the budget, a column for anyone receiving a stipend,” she said. “We have rolled almost every stipend into their base salaries at this point. It was part of the most recent ordinance change.”
This discussion is a result following issues over a $10,000 stipend given to Mayor Jasiel Correia II’s Chief of Staff for various duties performed in regards to winter storms.
Sahady went on to talk about any remaining stipends, “the stipends that we have left are the onces city council provides to staff as well as in the city clerk's office. Aside from that unless it is for uniforms or auto allowances, contacted things, there are no additional statements in left in the budget.”
Cathy Ann Viveiros, Fall River’s City Administrator chimed into the eventually tabled discussion and gave clarity as to why stipends were rolled into base pay rates.
“Stipends were provided for work that the individuals were doing on an ongoing regular basis,” she said. “It wasn’t for something temporary or short term or occasional. A lot of people were getting stipends for regular job duties and responsibilities.”
A second tabled discussion during the session on ordinances and legislation was a resolution first introduced by Council Member Leo Pelletier earlier in the Spring seeking to cap off the number of cannabis dispensaries in Fall River at eight.
“There are forty package stores - that’s limited,” Pelletier reminded the committee. “I thought the restaurants limit was set at 100 and according to figures I received today we have less than that.”
The long-standing council member is set on the number 8.
“You got eight, that’s it,” he stated. “I have people calling me saying that I’m absolutely right and others calling me to say the city is going to lose a lot of money because of it.”
He believes the amount of revenue will not increase if the number of locations increase.
“I mean, you can have 15 or you can have 8 and spend the same amount of money,” Pelletier said. “If you have 8 places in Fall River, no resident will travel outside the city to Swansea or Seekonk or Brockton when you can get it here. I don’t care if its 15, 20 - all they’re doing is sharing the same pie.”
The 6th floor in government center has already issued at least 11 letters of non-opposition to prospective dispensaries.
Fall River Corporation Counsel Joseph Macy told the committee voters will have to decide if a limit on cannabis locations were to be enacted.
“The city now can issue as many licenses as it would like,” he said. “In order to limit the number you would have to submit the issue to the voters because Fall River has become one of the various cities to accept this statute.”
Council Member Shawn Cadime attempted to interpret the intent of this resolution
“I guess I’m just in disagreement with corporation counsel,” he said. “I do agree with the memo, I maintain the way the legislation is written if its fewer than 20 percent because we passed it, it would have to go to ballot.”
He continued, “I think what councilor Pelletier wants to do is set a limit at the 20 percent. So, we would have an ordinance state we will not have more than 20 percent of what licenses allow.
The Vice President of the City Council, Pam Laliberte-Lebeau has heard complaints from investors who wanted to locate their business in Fall River but could not get an audience with the administrators who make the decisions.
“People who have contacted me have since gone to other communities, like Swansea for instance, because they couldn't get a meeting,” she said. “They submitted information and couldn't get a meeting or even a call back in some cases. I’m in favor of this, so whatever is happening behind the scenes can stop.”