EP Council empathizes with small biz owners affected by bridge bungle

Body makes three significant appointments, approves a few appropriations

By Mike Rego
Posted 3/20/24

During its meeting Tuesday night, March 19, at which several small business owners expressed their frustration with the ramifications of the Washington Bridge closure fiasco, the East Providence City …

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EP Council empathizes with small biz owners affected by bridge bungle

Body makes three significant appointments, approves a few appropriations


During its meeting Tuesday night, March 19, at which several small business owners expressed their frustration with the ramifications of the Washington Bridge closure fiasco, the East Providence City Council also took several actions of consequence.

There's really not much the body can do for the business owners and other operators who took to the podium last week. The best the Council can do is serve as an advocate for their constituents, which, to a person, they sought just that from their locally elected officials.

Many of those who did speak were from the city's hospitality industry located in the Warren Avenue-Broadway corridor, the most directly affected area with its proximity to Interstate 195 West and the Henderson Bridge where congestion lasts for hours at a time each day during the morning and evening rushes.

What they asked or suggested was for the Council and the Mayor's Office to potentially consider some sort of relief from licensing fees and taxes, a proposal proffered by Rosa's Tavern owner Steven Costa, during at least part of the bridge reconstruction project, which state officials initially estimate will take upwards of two-plus years and cost between $250-$300 million to completely replace the now shuttered westbound span.

Jordan's Liquors owner Marco Pacheco told of his lost revenue, as of the night of the meeting, in the 99 days since the westerly side was abruptly closed on December 11, 2023.

He said the only fig leaf being offered so far to him and his fellow proprietors, a minimal one at that in his mind, were federal Small Business Administration loans of up to $25,000 at 4 percent interest. An exasperated Pacheco said he was denied even that because he earned too much money, though the timeframe used was prior to the closure date.

Skeff's Pub owner Eileen Harvey said she was "having flashbacks to COVID," of course referencing the near two-year struggle small businesses had during the pandemic as a comparison to what has occurred so far the last three months.

"When something is out of your control, you feel like your hands are tied," Harvey continued, adding she has now been forced to close down her public house two days a week and lay off personal because of the loss of customers.

Harvey inquired if the city, at least, could potentially enact some property, income and/or tangible tax relief in the short term.

At-Large member and Council President Bob Rodericks, as his peers did as well when they responded, empathized with the proprietors in his opening remarks.

He called the closure "trying times," continuing, "You've gone through a global pandemic, floods caused by climate change, worker shortages and now the bridge crisis."

Admitting the his body had little purview over the situation, Rodericks added, "We'll try our best to help," but noted it was really up to state and federal bodies to step up with the appropriate legislative and financial aid.

Taunton Avenue development

Now about a year in the offing, the Council tabled a tax stabilization regime being sought by the DaSilva administration and the directors of the proposed Taunton Avenue affordable housing development called "Center City Apartments."

The partners in the effort to redevelop three lots — at 340, 350 and 354 Taunton Avenue — are area non-profits ONE Neighborhood Builders, Foster Forward, Family Service of Rhode Island and Crossroads Rhode Island.

Under the city's stabilization ordinance, property owners pay a portion of the actual tax owed, in this specific case an initial sum of $84,333. It then increases by 10 percent over the course of 10 years until reaching the actual full amount in Year 11.

Because Center City Apartments is attempting to qualify for a state housing initiative aimed at modest income earners, the Taunton Avenue locations would pay a levy of 8% of the property's gross scheduled rental income.

Based on estimated income figures, the 144 units and three lots would save over $300,000 in annual city taxes if the stabilization plan is implemented upon the anticipated occupancy date in 2026, an initial bill of $170,158. The full amount at the end of the stabilization term in 2035 is approximated to be $203,355.

For contrast, if the project was being done in the private sector, the property would be taxed on fair market valuation of about $22 million and would levied some $500,000 annually.

Members of the Council were a bit reluctant to approve the tax table, requesting more information from the administration and the solicitor's office be presented to them at their first April meeting before signing off on the plan.


Some of the meaningful votes the Council did take last week included three significant appointments, beginning with the reappointment of Michael Robinson to the Planning Board for another five-year term ending in January 2025.

Mayor Bob DaSilva made the recommendation, which requires Council support per Charter, to reseat Robinson, a lawyer by trade and the Planning Board chair who resides in Ward 3.

Also of note, Jennifer Voll, sponsored by Ward 1 Councilor Frank Rego, was appointed to the Small Business Advisory Committee. Voll is the owner of the interior motif firm Cypress Design Co.

In addition, at the behest of Ward 4 Councilor Rick Lawson, Robert Andrade was appointed to the East Providence Waterfront Commission. A resident of the Riverside section of the city, Andrade is the retired former Executive Vice President/Chief Operating Officer for Pawtucket Credit Union.


The Council also backed a couple of spending items, like an appropriation for $95,000 already approved as part of the current fiscal year Capital Budget towards the purchase of roll-off truck for the Highway Division of the Department of Public Works.

The body also supported an expenditure of $65,182 to Northeast Collaborative Architects for architectural and engineering services on the proposed new building project at Crescent Park. The tentative plan calls for a concession stand and restrooms be built on park side of Bullocks Point Avenue across from the historic Looff Carousel.

Lastly, also from a previously approved Capital Budget item for this fiscal year, the Council appropriated $70,000 towards the purchase of a used, 20-seat passenger bus with wheelchair lift for the Recreation Department. The vehicle, which has about 25,000 miles, is being bought from city-based Anderson Motors at a total cost of $70,220, the remainder coming from the Rec Department coffers.

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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.