WSAR NEWS Archives for 2019-05

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.

The Budget Is Unveiled

At an event in Fall River Government Center on Wednesday afternoon, the Correia Administration unveiled the city’s proposed fiscal year 2020 budget. The sixth floor announced this year’s municipal budget will feature a 4.7% increase from last year putting the figure at $313.7 million.


Featured in the proposal were numbers outlining a plan to add 6 new police officers and 2 mechanics to the F.R.P.D as well as 5 firefighters to the F.R.F.D. These additions are part of the S.A.F.E.R Grant and will have their compensation packages absorbed into future fiscal years.


Also outlined, was the revenue that was lost when the Pay As You Throw Initiative was called off earlier in the year and where its been replaced.


“We are increasing or replacing that revenue, if you will, with the impact fee and excise tax for marijuana,” Chief Financial Officer Mary Sahady explained. “We’ve received our first couple of checks with regard to marijuana and they’re very positive.”


The numbers with only one establishment open in the city are impressive.


“We’re looking at potentially somewhere between $1.3 million and $1.5 million worth of revenue with the single recreational facility currently open,” Sahady said.


During a charter-mandated session of the city council and school committee earlier in the year a $2.1 million placeholder was discussed. One positive that came from the presentation was that figure will be absorbed into the municipal budget.


“You’ve all heard us talk about our internal policy, keeping debt service $10 million,” Sahady said. “The city side, including the school, debt is currently existing just under that $10 million number. However, this particular year we’re picking up the $2.1 million worth of short-term debt.”


The short-term debt is part of the $60 million borrowed as the city share for the new B.M.C Durfee High School. That share will increase by $5.4 million.


Cathy Ann Viveiros is the city administrator and explained during the proposal city employees help in making suggestions as how to best utilize the various resources.


“They’re doing the job every day and regularly coming to us with suggestions as to how we can cut our costs and better use personnel, as well as introduce technology into the operation of city government to save funds,” she said.


Viveiros went on about how city employees add help the process “They bring services that normally would go out to higher paid vendors in-house, so they can be performed more cost effectively.”


Fall River’s City Administrator went on to comment on the municipal budget proposal as a whole and explained why she think it’s a sustainable one.


“We are maintaining the 5-year capital plan and all of the decisions that are made regarding these budget, whether its eliminating purple bags or searching for new revenues are all done with an eye towards assuring, long-term, these decisions remain in the best interest of the community and the people we serve on a day-to-day basis.”


The budget will also include a 2.5% increase in property taxes as allowed under Massachusetts General Law.

New Rates and Proposed School Repairs At Last Night's Fall River City Council Session

At last night’s Fall River City Council Session the nine members were briefed by the government center’s sixth floor on proposed water and sewer rates for fiscal year 2020.


Cathy Ann Viveiros, Fall River’s city administrator, told the council how the numbers break down. The net impact to the two rates will be a $0.10 increase to both water and sewer meaning the average single family home will pay an estimated $10.00 per year.


“A good portion of these increases continue to be our C.S.O federally mandated infrastructure project to address our storm water and also our capital investment for our water main,” Viveiros said. “The replacement and realignment of the main is ongoing, as well. So clearly our debt service is driving a big portion of these increases.”


Rate proposals were submitted on the first of this month and proposed budgets for both water and sewer line items will be bumped up just over 6% each.


Community Utilities Director Terry Sullivan broke down the reason for increases.


“The $0.10 increase on water will bring the rate number of $3.14 per CCF to $3.24,” he explained. “That’s just over a 3% increase and for sewer the proposed rate is to increase from $5.38 to $5.48 per CCF for 1.8% increase. There are no proposed increases to the storm water fee or base meter fee.”


He continued, “The average family increase will be $10.66 annually. That’s a total for the average family that uses 109 gallons per day or $0.88 per month.”


Another major variable in the increase of rates is the cost of chemicals, says Sullivan.


“Last year, chemical bids came in much higher than anticipated so the water chemical budget increases by $80,000 and sewer chemical increases by $30,000.”


“The major increases for water noted, is the debt which has increased $6000,000,” Fall River’s Community Utility Director said. “The sewer debt has increased $920,000.”


One council member expressed his displeasure with the steady increase of expenses in the city.


“I’ve been a less than-than-enthusiastic supporter of your budget because of the significant increases through the years,” Council Member Steve Camara said to Sullivan. “Now, it seems as if our tax bills are being challenged by our water and sewer bills as the most significant expense for a household to maintain. It’s becoming burdensome.”


The council was also briefed by the mayor’s administration on a request for a $7.4 million loan order that would help the Watson School building complete a first phase of planned improvements.


Chief Operating Officer Ken Pacheco addressed the group in regards to the school’s repair plans.


“By spitting the project (into multiple phases) it allows us obviously more time to look at items we did not put before the M.S.B.A which was at the request of Councilor (Steven) Long,” he told the nine members. “He talked about air conditioning and that will be something we add onto the A.D.A compliance piece.”


The COO told the committee a second phase would allow A.D.A compliance in Watson by the Fall in 2021. Air conditioning is something planned to be added.


“It’s a little bit of a challenge in the building since it wasn’t designed to be air conditioned,” Pacheco explained. “It’s taking some time to be planned out. We’re through the schematic design for a lot of the work except for which is just advanced of that point.”


The municipal budget will be unveiled this afternoon at 2 p.m at an event in government center.

A Potential New Commercial Boat Waterway Fee in Fall River

A waterway fee for commercial vessels is being proposed by the sixth floor in government center in Fall River as a means of paying for various services including boat maintenance for fire, police and the harbormaster as well as toxic spill containment training.


Fall River Current Harbormaster Robert Smith reassured recreational boaters this would not apply to them.


“The ordinance proposed does not in any way apply to recreational boaters,” he said. “It will apply to a very, very select group of commercial boaters.”


Stationary barges, along with commercial and cargo vessels would be the subject to a commercial waterway fee that would constantly be applied for cargo ships every time they dock on Fall River waterfront to put a stop from commercial boaters taking advantage of the cheap storage.


“It has potential to be a nuisance if not applied,” Smith explained. “They’re being parked here as dead storage because it's much less expensive to keep these boats in Fall River than in otherwise.”


Smith told a recent session of the legislation and ordinance committee that New Bedford could potentially make an additional $200 per day in additional revenue.


“Fall River is unique in that we have so much industrial waterfront,” the Harbormaster said. “There’s no other place to keep these things and it seems like we’re accumulating a lot of them.”


Smith has issue with them not being apart of the city’s waterfront community while taking advantage of its space


“They’re not part of our waterfront community which would be a good thing. They’re just dead storage in between use and being repaired. A lot of the space being used is taken up by unsightly barges.”


There are also safety and environmental concerns.


“The potential threats are an increase in oil spills, recently,” Smith said. “We’re certain its related to these commercial boats being here.”


Another concern leading to the proposal of this waterway fee for commercial boaters is the issue of foreign flag boats that the city has less control over than domestic ships.


“We get a lot of boats here that are foreign flag boats,” Fall River’s Harbor Master told the session. “They go from the state pier to Haiti, Belize and Libya for example. We have very, very little regulatory authority over these boats.”


Smith continued, “Yet, they’re in our waterways. The state pier has no facility for waste facilities or gray water removal. They could be here for a week at a time and are constantly pumping this gray water in our waterways.”


Council will continue to tackle this proposal later on this Spring after it was passed through its first reading at the most recent session of the ordinance and legislation committee.

The Anbaric Renewable Energy Center On Brayton Point

The Saint Louis-based firm, Commercial Development Company and Anbaric announced this week an agreement to launch the Anbaric Renewable Energy Center at the newly named Brayton Point Commerce Center in Somerset following the acquisition of the former power plant site.


“We see Anbaric as a natural fit with the development of the Brayton Point Commerce Center,” said Stephen Collins of CDC’s Brayton Point Commerce Center.


CDC’s vision is to transition the former coal-fired power plant into a Mecca for the off-shore wind energy sector.


Bristol Fifth District State Representative Patricia Haddad talked to WSAR about the news of this agreement and is excited about its potential.


“It’s very exciting,” she said. “Anbaric is a company who plans to be apart of the grid that will be handling offshore wind. Their process will be a number of tables that come from the individual towers. Then, they’ll go into an offshore station which will convert the power to direct current and bring it into Brayton Point. We plan on 1200 megawatts of power. That place on the grid where the power plant used to be had space for 1600 megawatts”


She continued, “they know that they’re going big in order to fill the area so it will mean another station on land at Brayton Point to handle the 1200 megawatts planned. And they can come from from anywhere. It’s not ot strictly just from Massachusetts. The grid in that area feeds the entire New England region.”


“As our country marches towards a clean energy future, our Commonwealth’s workers and businesses can be found standing on the front lines along the South Coast,” said Congressman Joe Kennedy III. “By re-imagining and rebuilding Brayton Point to meet the needs of our emerging offshore wind industry, the Anbaric Renewable Energy Center will not only strengthen our local economy, it will help us confront the effects of climate change already threatening our coastal communities.”


The main variable in the development of the energy center is a $250 million investment. A  1200-megawatt high-voltage direct current converter will be the highlight in serving the emergence of an offshore wind industry.


“We’re really proud to be teaming up with Brayton Point Commerce Center to introduce a 1200 megawatts HVDC converter,” Anbaric CEO Ed Krapels said. “The facility will take wind energy from offshore,  convert it into AC and then put it into infrastructure that already exists.”


Anbaric will also commence development of 400 MW of battery storage on site, which would bring an additional $400 million in investment.


Senator Michael Rodrigues said, “The transformation of Brayton will give the region a key role in Massachusetts’ clean energy future. It promises to benefit the environment while generating jobs and much-needed local tax revenue.”

PRESS RELEASE: CDC, Anbaric sign agreement for $650M renewable energy investment at Brayton Point

SOMERSET, Mass. — May 13, 2019 —Commercial Development Company, Inc. (CDC)’s Brayton Point LLC and Anbaric today announced an agreement to launch the Anbaric Renewable Energy Center at CDC’s Brayton Point Commerce Center in Somerset, Mass. The agreement builds upon CDC’s vision to transform the former coal-fired power plant site into a world-class logistics port, manufacturing hub and support center for the offshore wind energy sector. “We see Anbaric as a natural fit with the development of the Brayton Point Commerce Center,” said Stephen Collins of CDC’s Brayton Point Commerce Center.

The central element of the Renewable Energy Center is a 1200-megawatt (MW) high-voltage direct current (HVDC) converter – an investment estimated at $250 million – to serve the emerging offshore wind industry. In addition, Anbaric will commence development of 400 MW of battery storage on site, which would bring an additional $400 million in investment. “The Renewable Energy Center represents Anbaric’s broader vision for its Massachusetts OceanGrid project: high-capacity transmission infrastructure to maximize the potential of the region’s offshore wind energy resource,” said Edward Krapels, CEO, Anbaric. “As Massachusetts considers harnessing more offshore wind, the right infrastructure needs to be envisioned and set in motion. An HVDC substation is an important piece to not only for Brayton Point Commerce Center, but also Massachusetts’ status as a leader in offshore wind.”

Late last month, CDC imploded two massive cooling towers at Brayton Point and set the stage for a new era of renewable energy development on the South Coast.  “Developing a landing point for 1200 MW of offshore wind at the site of a former coal plant physically and symbolically represents the transformation from fossil fuels to wind,” Krapels continued.  “While the South Coast has lost a coal plant, it’s quickly becoming the nexus of a new clean energy economy and emerging as one of the great energy stories in the world. This agreement is a symbol of the change that’s coming – and it promises to be a very powerful economic driver in the region.”

“As our country marches towards a clean energy future, our Commonwealth’s workers and businesses can be found standing on the frontlines along the South Coast,” said Congressman Joe Kennedy III. “By reimagining and rebuilding Brayton Point to meet the needs of our emerging offshore wind industry, the Anbaric Renewable Energy Center will not only strengthen our local economy, it will help us confront the effects of climate change already threatening our coastal communities.”

“We welcome Anbaric’s decision to locate at Brayton Point,” said Rep. Patricia A. Haddad(D-Somerset), Speaker Pro Tempore of the Massachusetts House of Representatives. “I am very familiar with the company and have been working with them since drafting the state’s original offshore wind legislation in 2016. I know they will be an integral partner in our overall clean energy strategy for the South Coast.”

“The Anbaric Renewable Energy Center and the ongoing work at Brayton Point by the Commercial Development Company represent extremely important news for the South Coast,” said Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D-Westport), chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee.  “The transformation of Brayton will give the region a key role in Massachusetts’ clean energy future.  It promises to benefit the environment while generating jobs and much-needed local tax revenue.”

Will The Legal Cannabis Industry Be Allowed To Utilize Banks?

More than three dozen Attorneys General across the country including Massachusetts AG Maura Healey will sign a letter supporting the concept of allowing banks and credit unions to finance licensed legalized recreational cannabis firms.


The S.A.F.E Banking Act was enacted earlier in the year to protect banks and credit unions that work with cannabis companies from any legal penalty.


The Former Director of Communications for Yes on 4, the campaign in 2016 to inform voters on why they should have voted yes on legal cannabis allowed in the Commonwealth told WSAR it’s time cannabis business be allowed access to financial services.


“I have a great sense this is a great move going forward,” Jim Borghasani said. “I applaud the attorney general for joining the rest in backing this measure. It’s exactly what the industry need. The major obstacle was access to banking.”


Currently only one credit union in Massachusetts has agreed to serve the cannabis industry. Borghasani thinks more options need to be available.


“With so many more states coming on to become legal states, I think there si going to be momentum towards creating a banking system,” he said. “It can give cannabis entrepreneurs and businesses the same access people in other businesses get to enjoy. We need it.”


It’s projected some $25 billion could be spent on the legal cannabis industry come 2025. The issue is that none of that money can currently be deposited into any bank.

Kitchen Bifana is NOT For Sale

At a recent session of Swansea Board of Selectmen this week an issue with a local Portuguese restaurant Kitchen Bifana from earlier in the year was resolved. The issue at hand is that Kitchen Bifana requested for a beer and liquor license, was approved and then within weeks was listed for sale with the license as a selling point.


Amid threats to pull the license after several months of discussion, Susie Teves the owner of Kitchen Bifana assured her commitment for the duration of three-year lease she originally signed.


A conversation between member Chris Carreiro and Teves’ Attorney Pablo Corso cleared the air and settled the dust at this weeks session.


“I’d like for you to have the beer and wine license,” Carreiro told the attorney representing Teves. “But I need assurance you didn’t procure this license to market it for sale.”


Corso responded, “As an officer of the court, I take my oath very seriously. In my conversation with Ms. Teves, I learned this is not the case. I have watched the hearings from January and February more times than I’d like to admit, over and over, to make sure in my eyes I did not see any misrepresentation.”


Selectmen member Derek Heim chimed in on his position from earlier in the Spring.


“I think my concern under my own chairmanship was questioning what was presented in front of us,” he explained. “During the initial application period it was about improving the business. You asked for a beer and wine license to enhance the business which we felt was a reasonable request.”


Heim suggested to Corso and Kitchen Bifana to settle their real estate needs with someone else.


“Clearly, within a few weeks the business was on an MLS listing and put by a realtor without permission, we heard. I’d recommend getting rid of that realtor.”


Corso assured the board Teves and Kitchen Bifana would be around for the long haul.


“The current operational status is that the business isn’t for sale,” he said. “I’ve been assured by Ms. Teves and she has expressed she has three years remaining on the lease and her full intention is to stay for its duration.”

A Recap of a Fall River City Council Session on Ordinances and Legislation

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.”

Malone Talks to WSAR about the Resiliency Prep Incident

An investigation into the altercation that took place at the Resiliency Prep Academy last Thursday between a student and two school resource officers has reached a conclusion. The Fall River Police Department has determined the actions of both officers involved were “completely justified.”


In a statement released by the F.R.P.D, it said the officers “could not have predicted what the student was capable of doing,” but only that “his behavior was escalating.


The incident which included video footage showed walking between various offices and knocking things off of tables which led to him being subdued. Superintendent of Fall River Public Schools told WSAR in an interview following the release of his own statement the student kicked a chair across the room in one office and proceeded to threaten teachers and staff members.


Malone said there was lot that wasn’t seen on video that lead-up to the incident in an attempt of prevention.


“What’s not seen in any of the video footage is what happened for about a half hour before the incident took place,” he told us. “Staff members were working with the young man and tried twice to attempt to get him on track.”


In a companion statement to the police departments, Malone said he reviewed witness statements, interview witness personally and reviewed every piece of video footage from security cameras to student cell phones. He said his investigation centered on facts.


“Granted, you watch the video the student one that went viral (in the initial 24 hours) you go ‘oh my god, what’s going!’ As I said in my press release, we deal in facts.” Malone reminded us. “We don’t deal in emotion, we deal in reality. We have to investigate and do our due diligence of providing the full picture of the situation.”


Malone made sure to praise the faculty and staff involved in the situation. His own review showed that ideal practices were utilized by teachers, staff and the pair of school resource officers.


“The faculty and staff did everything within their training and bag of tools to de-escalate the situation and a student in crisis,” he told WSAR appropriate policy and practices were followed by all involved.

Swansea Elementary Principals Talk School Improvements

During this week’s Swansea School Committee, the principals of the Hoyle Elementary and Gardner Elementary presented various concepts for improvement to the committee on various topics both socially and academically.


The committee ultimately decided on voting in favor of the school improvement plans proposed which topically include a new standard implementation for social studies.


“We’re going to implement new social studies and digital literacy standards,” Hoyle Principal William Courville informed the committee. “The state has come down with new social studies standards and we’ve been working diligently on adjusting our curriculum to fit those. For example, in my building at Hoyle, pre-k to second grade is mostly civics-based information.”


Other improvements which Courville eluded to when talking about social studies standards is the concern of digital literacy. This goes beyond the ability to operate a computer and into the realm of teaching young people how to remain aware of what you project in a digital age.


“Digital literacy has been a great addition to the school,” Courville said. “It doesn’t only speak to operating a computer but also digital safety and awareness as well as what it means to be a digital-safe person when you’re utilizing the internet on various devices.”


It is never too early to start building awareness in this area as Courville tells the committee, “Even in first and second grade, they talk about being a digital safe person, which is huge.”


The Gardner Elementary Principal Nicholas Overy, in his presentation addressed the use of collected data and how it is being applied in Swansea. The various improvements proposed don’t come to fruition without observation and study.


“Our school objective is to more effectively use data to improve school achievement and inform decision-making related to our curriculum and instruction,” he told the committee.


“If you look at school-based activities the first two talk about what we're looking for in terms of data and the next two steps are ‘ok, now where do we go with the information?’ I think schools do a great job of collecting data.”


During the session Superintendent of Swansea Public Schools praised both elementary school principals for embracing the new concepts and buying into the idea of progression.


“We focus on the academic assessments when we look at data in my school in Gardner and in the entire Swansea district,” Overy continued. “We look at anything from student engagement in a lesson to a student getting in trouble to even how happy a child is in class. All types of data is collected and assessed.”

Westport Annual Town Meeting - Tuesday May 7

The town of Westport will decide on thirty-two articles during their annual town meeting on Tuesday May 6. The meeting will kick off at 7:00 p.m in the Westport High School Auditorium.


Among the articles include a 10-section mandate seeking to add the option of recalling any elected officials in the town.


Article 23 will seek to allow craft craft cannabis corporations and regulate any sort of marijuana operation allowed in Westport. Currently, the town is not allowed medicinal or recreational cannabis within its borders.


Westport voters will also be asked to vote for capital improvement plans including new voting machines and an enlarged version of the elementary school parking lot.

A link to a list of all thirty-two articles for Westport residents:  

Resiliency Prep Academy Altercation

On Thursday May 2, an altercation took place at the Resiliency Prep Academy between a student and school administrator escalating into a situation that needed to involve two school resource officers of the Fall River Police Department.


In separate statements released by both the school department and police department, it states the ninth grade student was restrained and later released to his Father, pending a summons involving a criminal complaint filed by the F.R.P.D.


The incident is currently under investigation as it pertains to the force used by the S.R.O’s by both the school department and the F.R.P.D. In Superintendent of Public Schools Doctor Matthew Malone’s statement, he said the investigation will include witness interviews, statement reviews, security footage review and analysis of all available evidence.


Malone ensured, “Please know that we will carefully review all applicable policies, regulations and laws to determine if all proper and appropriate protocol was followed correctly and responsibly.”


A short video which was shared on the Digital Edition of the Fall River Herald News and available on WSAR’s Facebook page. The clip featured a portion of the incident which will be included in the investigation.


In a statement from the F.R.P.D Sergeant J.T Hoar explained, “In any use of force incident, the totality of the circumstances must be considered and we will not rush to judgment until all facts are obtained. The matter will be reviewed through the chain of command and the justification of force will be determined. We cannot properly assess the incident until all evidence, video and reports are obtained.”


Sergeant Hoar confirmed that the juvenile will be summoned to court as a result of the incident.


In Hoar’s statement he concluded with, “The partnership between the Fall River Public Schools and the Fall River Police Department is a long standing one and we both put the safety of the students and staff as the highest priority.”


The video appears to show one of the resource officers striking the student in his head/neck area in a response to the juvenile resisting restraint. One officer shouts, “Get your hands behind your back, do it now!” An officer than appears to punch the student a handful of times before pushing him onto the ground and ultimately restrained by both resource officers. 


The link to the short video of the incident is here but be warned the language is not suitable for work:

If anyone has further information on this incident and can provide anything to the investigation, you;re asked to contact Doctor Malone through his email address at

Swansea Annual Town Meeting Warrant Finalized

The Annual Swansea Town Meeting is set for May 20. The warrant has been finalized and among the articles approved is the one being talked about the most.


Swansea officials are looking to create a Redevelopment Authority that would begin the process of dealing with an empty Swansea Mall as well it’s encompassing property.


“This is about the declaring of parcels as blighted,” Swansea Board of Selectmen Chair Steven Kitchin said. “Therefore, it goes back to my initial comment about the government which is best governs the least.”


All 3 members of the board added their endorsement of articles 34 and 35, both of which deal with seeking, creating and funding an R.D.A.


One of those selectmen, Attorney Chris Carreiro has been very vocal about his feeling towards how the town should be acting in regards to the Swansea Mall Property.


“There’s real complexities and obstacles associated with the Swansea Mall,” he said. “I believe government intervention is necessary to make sure the best use of this property is realized.”


Carreiro has been a proponent of being proactive in this situation from the beginning of the year. He held a presentation in January about why this is important and how he advocated for the creation of a redevelopment authority.


“I think we’re on a good track this done,” he went on. “There’s been a lot of interest in prospective buyers from this board and other boards in this community who are faced with whether to support or not support this endeavor.”


One prospective buyer has come forward, unidentified, as an interested party. But a condition of the anonymous prospect was the creation of an R.D.A in Swansea.


If you wish to serve on the Swansea Redevelopment Authority you are being asked to send a cover letter and resume to the Office of Board of Selectmen in Swansea.