EAST PROVIDENCE — On the heels of public pronouncements by members of the administration, including Mayor Bob DaSilva, the East Providence City Council gave strong indication it was readying to …
EAST PROVIDENCE — On the heels of public pronouncements by members of the administration, including Mayor Bob DaSilva, the East Providence City Council gave strong indication it was readying to revoke the operations license for the embattled Rumford Motor Inn, located on 400 Newport Ave.
The Council did so at its meeting Tuesday night, Nov. 21. The body voted to authorize the office of City Solicitor Michael Marcello to expedite the process to conduct a "show-cause" hearing for the Inn.
Among its duties, the Council sits as the city's licensing board.
For over four decades considered a nuisance by residents in the surrounding neighborhoods, in recent years, according to figures provided by the East Providence Police Department, the Inn has become an even more concentrated spot for illegal behaviors such as narcotics use and distribution, prostitution and violent crimes.
The current focus on the business came after a Providence man was arrested for his alleged role in a robbery ring in the area that occurred on an around November 12.
It was at that time that DaSilva said his administration would work with the Council to revoke the Inn's licenses while insisting any future business refrain from the short-stay model.
Speaking about the situation at the Tuesday Council forum, EPPD Chief Chris Francesconi said the administration has been "very direct" about the business ceasing to be an inn.
Francesconi said as well the "message from the administration is the continued use of this building as a short-term motel is going to end in some form."
Francesconi also took the opportunity to clarify remarks he made at a November 15 press conference announcing the arrest of one of the suspects in the thefts who was found to be staying at the Inn.
Francesconi said by "no means was it my intention to imply it was the residents' fault that their cars or houses broken into." He added the suspect arrested, 37-year-old Nelson Wilson, one of "probably more to be held accountable."
Captain Michael Rapoza, the EPPD's Services Division Commander/Public Information Officer, also testified Tuesday, providing the Council with some key data in a powerpoint presentation (see photos or attachment).
Of note, over the last decade the EPPD has responded to nearly 2,220 calls to the Rumford Motor Inn. Those figures date back to 2013 and include this year up to November 15. Over 200 arrests have been made during that time.
Rapoza stated known gang members and violent offenders have been found at the Inn by responding officers over the years.
More recently, he said something that is not common in the northeast, the use of crystal methamphetamine, has increased. Rapoza said as opposed to other drug users, those on crystal-meth are "very violent when seeking their high."
"We're not dealing with normal people on a vacation just renting a room to visit the area," Rapoza added of the Inn's general clientele.
He continued, those providing the contraband are not "kids selling nickel bags of marijuana."
To further his point, Rapoza said "it's very well known" in the area drug user community that the Rumford Motor Inn is a "cheap place to stay at night and to get quick access to narcotics."
Another incident broached earlier during the Council meeting by a neighborhood resident and acknowledged by police was the discharge of a firearm on the property.
Raposa said at around 5 a.m. one recent morning and after a verbal disturbance in a surrounding community, a suspect drove to the Inn and fired several rounds at the building into a room where his antagonist was staying.
Asked by members of the Council, including Ward 1 rep Frank Rego in whose district the Inn is located, if there was enough evidence to pursue a show-cause hearing, Marcello said he believed there was.
The solicitor noted the need to follow procedures in an exacting way so as to allow any decision made be able to withstand future legal scrutiny.
Marcello said the proprietors must be given "fair notice" and the opportunity to defend themselves. He also said it would benefit the revocation process if numerous abutters to the Inn testified at the hearing.
The soonest, most reasonable date to conduct the show-cause hearing would likely be the Council's last scheduled forum of the calendar year on Tuesday, Dec. 19.
Council President and At-Large member Bob Rodericks said while most would like the hearing to take place as soon as possible, he urged all involved on the city side to "do this the right way and make sure it's permanent."
Ward 2 Councilor Anna Sousa took the opportunity to express her support, but also said it was "disturbing" the situation had to reach such an extreme extent for it to take on urgency.
Sousa said it was incumbent on the department and the administration to make the Council, as the licensing board, aware of any business acting in such adverse fashion on a more regular basis so it could act expeditiously in the future.