WSAR NEWS Archives for 2019-07

A Meeting About Swansea's Water

"We're going to do 5 more miles right now but we're going to do 25 more miles before now and June 2020,” Swansea Water Commissioner Jim Hall said. “That's the goal."


Hall said this Tuesday night at a rare standing room-only gathering for a Swansea Selectmen meeting to debate what to do about the quality and safety of Swansea’s water. 


This is the plan to solve the issue - ice pigging to clean 25 miles of old pipes by the end of June next year. 


Hall told those gathered for the last 3 years the water commissioners in Swansea have been gathering data and information to create this solution.


"In 2018, I got my fellow commissioners to agree with me that there needed to be more done,” he said. “We started logging the calls and created a database. We were figuring out frequency and location.”


Hall explained that they needed data because it clarified that the entire system wasn’t the problem.  


“Obviously, the public was frustrated but we're certainly not in a position from a data standpoint to jump in and randomly start trying to fix the system because it didn't need fixing in its entirety."


One Swansea resident had an issue with the talk of data, statistics and numbers


"Why would anybody want to go on a website and look at 20 years of data?” Nick Correia asked All we want is clean water. That's all we want.” 


That passionate request came with a crowd of cheers and applause


“Don't tell me to look at a website or numbers that don't mean nothing to me,” he went on. “It may mean something to you but they don't mean hogwash to me.” 


Correia explained that all Swansea residents want is the assurance they’ll have clean water in their everyday lives. 


“All I want is clean water when I wake up in the morning and take a shower,” he said. “That's all I want. When my wife washes the clothes she complains to me the clothes are all yellow. Please keep your data to yourself.”


Swansea’s Town Administrator John McAuliffe said portions of his experience has been dealing with water issues but his experience is not the same as the water commissioners. 


"We stand here to provide help in any capacity but we won't step on the toes of the water department,” he said. “I won't say I can run a water department better than any better than Jeff Sutherland or Jim Hall because I can't.” 


McAuliffe reminded those gathered that the incidents that have created the problem are eternal ones.


“I was in that position, though,” he said. “It's a challenging one. There's a lot of old pipes. The most recent flare-up was an external issue. I think it’s important to know that. It was a water sprinkler testing company and hydrant testing company."


One of the Swansea Selectmen made a recommendation to the water commissioners to improve communications of the issue between them and the citizens of Swansea. 


“One of my recommendations to the commission is at the minimum to have meetings televised for the public to be able to view," Derrick Heim said.


He went on to tell those concerned should get involved when and where they can, as well.


"They should really get involved by going to the water commission meetings and individuals who want to be heard are heard at those meetings.”

Fall River City Councilor Shawn Cadime Receives A Letter From Mayor Jasiel Correia's Lead Defense Attorney

In copies of letters this week forwarded to WSAR, Fall River City Council Member Shawn Cadime and the lead Defense Attorney for Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia II engaged in a war of words.


This came in the wake of comments Cadime made during the most recent City Council session in a debate over the resolution asking that the number of cannabis dispensaries in the city of Fall River be capped off at the number 11.


Cadime’s comments sounded like this:


"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."


The statement prompted a letter to Cadime from Kevin Reddington, who is Mayor Correia’s Lead Defense Attorney. He called the comments “slanderous” and in the letter’s final paragraph said that “further irresponsible, childish comments of this incendiary nature will be made at your own legal peril.”


In a conversation with Councilor Cadime following the release of these letters on the same day, WSAR was told that he took the legal advice of the Mayor’s attorney of reaching out to the U.S Attorney..


"I don't think I have any useful information,” he said. “Obviously, at the recommendation of Jasiel Correia's Defense Attorney, I reached out and I'm sure the U.S Attorney is speaking to more important individuals that have a lot more information to offer than I can.” 


Cadime continued. “Notwithstanding that, I went to live up to the recommendation to take the free legal advice that Jasiel Correia's Defense Attorney gave me so I reached out to the U.S Attorney."


The Fall River City Councilor is confident he will not have any legal issues due to these comments.


"First of all, as an elected official the threshold for slander is a lot higher than the average person so I'm not worried about that at all,” he explained. “Quite frankly, my comments weren't slanderous. I think there are people that are in denial of what's going on. And then there are people who have been hearing the exact same thing since 2016 with what's been transpiring.”


Cadime said either everyone has looked the other way or is waiting for someone else to do something about it.


“We've turned a blind eye or we've been waiting for the F.B.I and the U.S Attorney's Office to do what they need to do," he said.


In a letter dated July 23, 2019 and sent to the lead federal prosecutor in the case of the United States of America vs. Jasiel Correia II, councilor Cadime offered to provide “any assistance I can bring to put an end to the political corruption, which in my opinion has plagued the city of Fall River since 2016.


Cadime closed his letter by asking for a meeting to be of “any assistance to the U.S Attorney’s Office or the F.B.I.”

Should Single-Use Plastic Bags Be Banned In Fall River?

"In order to reduce plastic bag use in Fall River, we ask the council to forward this item to the Committee on Ordinances and Legislation to draft an ordinance appropriate to the city of Fall River."


City Councilor Steve Camara outlined this final resolution at a session of the Council’s Committee on Health and Environmental Affairs of a proposed ordinance that seeks to ban the use of single-use plastic bags in Fall River. 


A Westport resident and Fall River business owner argued for the proposed ban to join in over 100 cities and towns in the Commonwealth. 


"We're here because we risk creating a lot more environmental pollution if we don't act now to eliminate a variety of single-use plastics,” Ilene Sheehan said. “But we're here particularly to propose that Fall River adopt what 122 other cities and towns in Massachusetts have done which is, a ban on single-use plastic bags or grocery bags."


Council will meet again on August 12 when this resolution would likely be on the agenda and would need to be sent to Ordinances and Legislation.

A Gift For An Old Friend

"This is a request to dedicate the Doran Playground area in memory of long-time city councilor and friend Al Alves.”


Fall River School Committee Vice Chair Mark Costa suggested this at a recent session of the Fall River School Committee Facilities and Operations Sub Committee on behalf of the Chair. 


“I think it is a great suggestion,” Costa said. “He was always an advocate for education. He always stood up for the kids. He did a great deal of good for this community."


Alves passed away earlier this Summer. He was a staple in the community of Fall River, particularly in the Columbia Street area.


"Since the Doran school is very close his restaurant that he owned for many years on Columbia Street, naturally he adopted that school,” School Committee Member Kevin Aguiar said. “He served on the building committee for over 20 years. He held the 5th grade graduation dinner at the TA Restaurant.”


Aguiar talked about Alves’ passion for education and the local community.


“He and his family have donated thousands of dollars to not only the Doran school but students and children throughout the Greater Fall River area,” Aguiar said. “He was very passionate about the school and really Columbia Street in general."


The full seven-member Fall River School Committee will be asked to approve this request later this Summer.

A Conversation With Joe Kennedy

WSAR News had a conversation with Massachusetts Fourth District Congressman Joseph Kennedy III. One of the topics brought up in the talk was the call to impeach President Trump and how the Congressman reached that conclusion for himself.


"I reached my conclusion that the president had obstructed justice based off of reading the Mueller Report - based off of consultation with legal experts - off of conversations I've had former and current federal prosecutors as well as additional research I have done," he said.


Kennedy explained to WSAR the second half of the Mueller Report is where you’ll find the case for obstruction laid out.


"By the time you folks actually have a chance to read through the reports, particularly the second half of it - the so-called Volume II - the Special Counsel makes it abundantly clear that there is substantial evidence to indicate that the president on multiple occasions committed criminal acts, obstruction of justice,” he said.


The Commonwealth Congressman doesn’t feel there’s anything left for consideration once that’s revealed


“After you come to that conclusion or after a member of congress comes to the conclusion, I'm not so sure there's much else to consider," Kennedy told WSAR.


Speaker Nancy Pelosi was brought up in the midst of the conversation and Kennedy had nothing but respect for her as well as the process being played out.


"I think the Speaker is doing everything she can to insure that members get access to all of the information they need and critically, that Special Counsel Robert Mueller will be testifying before critical committees next week for the public to see,” he said. “The information, hopefully, will answer some questions for both members and the American public as to what the report actually said."


Kennedy also has an amendment calling for an investigative unit to monitor issues related to the 2020 election cycle.

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.