EAST PROVIDENCE — After years of dilly-dallying caused mostly by internal forces though with a few external ones as well, the City Council, at its October 4 gathering, at last gave final approval to a …
EAST PROVIDENCE — After years of dilly-dallying caused mostly by internal forces though with a few external ones as well, the City Council, at its October 4 gathering, at last gave final approval to a project intended to alleviate long-experienced traffic woes in and around the Riverside Middle School/Riverside Rec Field complex neighborhood.
The council, last week, unanimously supported a resolution allowing the administration of Mayor Bob DaSilva to enter into a contract with Yard Works, Inc. in the amount not exceeding $975,000 to expand the parking lot and also build a multi-use athletic field in the rear of the RMS campus off Forbes Street.
Yard Works submitted the middle bid ($873,557) of three firms who responded to a Request for Proposal issued by the city in March of this year. Narragansett Improvement Company submitted a bid of approximately $1.1 million. The bid of J.H. Lynch & Sons, Inc. was $835,000.
The project will be paid from the city’s initial, $13.89 million traunch of the federal American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA) COVID-19 pandemic relief package.
According to the RFP, the contractor will: Construct a turn-key multi-use athletic field; Complete porous pavement parking lot, wood guard rails, striping, paving of walking path(s); Drop 9” of plantable soil; Install all irrigation wiring within PVC conduit; Install future lighting conduit; Install irrigation system design and installation complete (including well, pump, shed, controls, heads, etc); Install 6-foot high vinyl chain link fencing; Install sports netting system 20’ high.
“I’m very excited for the students at Riverside Middle School and the community at-large, especially the youth sports organizations around the city,” DaSilva said after the council vote. “We see this as a big win for those groups.”
The mayor noted the girls’ and boys’ soccer teams at RMS currently don’t have access to a sanctioned field on the campus. Instead, they’re both being bussed to Pierce Stadium to play regular season games.
“When this is finished, the students at Riverside Middle School will have a state-of-the-art, first-rate facility to utilize as will the rest of the community,” DaSilva added.
The project has its roots in an effort undertaken originally by the council seated in 2014 to finally address long-standing parking issues on side streets leading into the adjacent Riverside Rec Complex.
Initially, the idea was simply to expand parking on the RMS grounds, which connects to the Rec Complex through a walkway on the southwest corner of the property. The council at that time authorized the use of approximately $250,000 in capital expenditures towards the project.
The effort, however, languished through planning and design alterations and delays. By the time the revamped plan went out to bid, enough money hadn’t been set aside. It was subsequently deemed to need another some $100,000 to build a lot large enough to handle the amount of vehicles required to actually lessen the impact of parking on Somerset, Arrowhead and Kingsford Avenues abutting the Rec Complex. The council seated in 2016 approved the additional funding before leaving office in 2018.
Upon being inaugurated as the city’s first elected mayor in January of 2019, DaSilva proposed altering the scope of the project from just one of a parking lot to also include a full length, multi-sport field for football, soccer and lacrosse. Adding larger scale fields across the city was one of DaSilva’s campaign promises during the 2018 election cycle.
Again, though, subsequent discussions about the size of the project and how it would be financed caused it to be delayed for a few more years. Most recently, the city was awaiting the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management to permit the proposal. The project is near wetlands and is close to the site of the former city landfill.
When finished some 100 new parking spots will be created for use by the RMS and city youth and adult sports communities, includes paving and striping the lot, a walking path connecting the locations and installing wood guard rails.
“Hopefully once the lot is built people will get used to parking there instead of on those streets around the (Rec) field,” DaSilva said. “Hopefully they get accustomed to it quickly so they stay off the side streets and it will alleviate the congestion in that neighborhood.”
The multipurpose field is designed for football (with permanent goal posts), soccer and lacrosse. It will immediately be used by Riverside Middle School sports programs, the Junior Townies youth football teams, the East Providence Mohawks youth sports organization, the East Providence Youth Soccer Association and families living in the neighborhood children.
As mentioned earlier, the RMS project also calls for the repurposing of the $15,000 scoreboard purchased and donated by the Friends of Townie Athletics boosters group for the old artificial turf field on the former high school grounds. It has been in storage for the last three years as the new East Providence High School building and athletic fields was constructed.
“When the demolition of the old school was being planned, (School Committee chair and new EPHS Building Committee co-chair) Joel Monteiro reached out to me asking if I thought it was a good idea to ‘gift’ the scoreboard to the city and would I approve this idea,” FOTA board member Stephanie Vinhateiro explained earlier this year.
She continued, “The thought was that it would be used at Pierce Field somewhere. I told him that I thought it was a very good idea since Friends of Townie Athletics had spent quite a bit of money on this and since it was still new and in great condition why not have it put to good use for the city to use for local athletic programs.
“Since Friends of Townie Athletics also supports the two middle schools and all athletic programs in East Providence, why not put it to good use now before it begins to break down, rust or sit in a garage somewhere. I am sure that the entire membership will agree with me on this. Why not put the scoreboard at the Riverside Middle School field? This will save the city/school department money and show the residents that Friends of Townie Athletics does support all of our students and athletes, be it middle school athletic programs or local teams.”
Not to be conflated with the RMS project, this past summer the current council backed an ordinance to sponsored by At-Large member Bob Rodericks, appropriating $475,000 from unencumbered and unallocated monies remaining in the Fiscal Year 2021-22 Capital Improvement budget it approved late last calendar year to perform significant renovations the fields, parking lot, landscaping and playgrounds at the Riverside Rec Complex.