Letter: Let the voters decide

Posted 3/15/23

To the editor: Last week’s Post (March 2, 2023 edition) featured an article about Mayor DaSilva’s proposed community center, accompanied by an architectural rendering of this 61,000-sf …

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Letter: Let the voters decide


To the editor:
Last week’s Post (March 2, 2023 edition) featured an article about Mayor DaSilva’s proposed community center, accompanied by an architectural rendering of this 61,000-sf building. A quick glance shows that the two-story gym is almost 50% of the entire building and that the 300-seat auditorium/theatre takes up a significant amount of square footage as well.

East Providence taxpayers are just beginning to pay for our new $189-million high school, with a similarly-sized gym and a large auditorium, directly across the street. I question the need for this redundancy, when these two buildings will be only minutes from one other. I question why, with good coordination and careful consideration of security precautions, we can’t all—senior citizens, students, youth groups, adult groups—just share them. I question why we need a $45 million center at all.

Let the community use the new high school facilities when our students are not using them. Let swimmers enjoy the facilities that already exist at the nearby Boys & Girls Club and Barrington YMCA, as Councilman Rick Lawson suggested. Refurbish the Odd Fellows Hall in Watchemoket Square and invite community groups to use the second floor meeting hall for performances and presentations. After all, there will soon be a public parking lot close by for patrons. Let small groups book meeting rooms for their get-togethers in our public libraries. Let the Police Department decide how it wants to utilize its “asset forfeiture kitty” instead of having the Mayor seize it for his use. Refurbish the Senior Center and let our senior population enjoy it in relative peace.

Let kids continue to play on that green field instead of filling it with asphalt and concrete.
Three years ago, Mayor DaSilva spoke in a WPRI video about his vision for a community center: “I’m not looking for a $5 to $6 million rec center. I’m looking for something less than $2 million....” Today, the Mayor is looking at a $45M price tag for this project and talking about the possibility of a bond referendum on the special election ballot next November. Speculation puts the figure in the neighborhood of $15 million.

Last Spring, Keep Metacomet Green presented a petition to the City Council with the handwritten signatures of 1,045 East Providence residents. The petition was to Let the Voters Decide whether to fund the purchase of Metacomet, by casting their ballots in the November 2022 election. The majority of the Council explained that they were the deciders and that we couldn’t afford it. They then defeated the resolution that would have put the question on the ballot.
Finance Director Malcolm Moore will be tasked at some point with conducting a fiscal analysis of the cost to build and finance the Mayor’s community center. KMG calls upon the City Council and City administration to have Mr. Moore also conduct a fair analysis of costs to purchase Metacomet and to construct a modest recreation center there.

We already have a $3 million commitment from Congressman Cicilline to go toward the center. That would fit nicely with the Mayor’s original vision.

“Let the Voters Decide,” as KMG has suggested for 2-1/2 years. “Let the Townies decide,” as Councilman Lawson urged, speaking specifically of his concerns with aspects of the Mayor’s proposed community center. “I’m just one voice of 47 [thousand],” he said. Exactly.

Let the Voters Decide. One or the other. Both or neither. Fair is fair.

Candy Seel
East Providence
Director, Keep Metacomet Green

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Mike Rego has worked at East Bay Newspapers since 2001, helping the company launch The Westport Shorelines. He soon after became a Sports Editor, spending the next 10-plus years in that role before taking over as editor of The East Providence Post in February of 2012. To contact Mike about The Post or to submit information, suggest story ideas or photo opportunities, etc. in East Providence, email mrego@eastbaymediagroup.com.