EAST PROVIDENCE — For the second time in as many weeks, the City Council clapped back at Mayor Bob DaSilva, overriding the executive's veto of an appropriation made by the legislature, this one …
EAST PROVIDENCE — For the second time in as many weeks, the City Council clapped back at Mayor Bob DaSilva, overriding the executive's veto of an appropriation made by the legislature, this one on the use of up to $2.5 million in East Providence's remaining American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds towards renovations at the police headquarters on Waterman Avenue.
DaSilva's veto was overridden via a unanimous 5-0 tally during the body's September 26 meeting. Per City Charter, and after the change in governmental form to an elected mayor as of 2018, it takes at least a "super" majority of the Council, a 4-1, to do override an executive's veto.
The move by the Council follows what the body did at its meeting Tuesday night, Sept. 12, when it overrode six of seven mayoral objections to the use of just about all of the city's $14 million ARPA fund balance.
And as occurred before, the Council twice previously moved the measures via ordinance. All expenditures must follow ordinance procedures, which include two votes and a public hearing.
The East Providence Police Department headquarters, quite literally, has been a headache for previous administrations and councils. The four-odd-decade-old structure has been in decay for years, though only haphazard maintenance has been performed.
Earlier this year, the union of EPPD officers took their concerns about the condition of the structure to the area media, which prompted both the mayor and the Council to act. In the most recent attempt to remedy the situation, Council President/At-Large member Bob Rodericks and Ward 4 rep Rick Lawson led the body's approach. The DaSilva administration responded by earmarking some $300,000 towards repair of a leaky roof.
While introducing the discussion on the override, Rodericks said DaSilva had made known his opposition on ARPA fund use for the police headquarters and other infrastructure projects. All along, DaSilva has urged the Council to back his plan to allocate most if not all of the city's ARPA funds towards his proposed "transformational" Recreation Center.
Rodericks said of the mayor, "His basic premiss is they've already started work at the police department...There is a new roof. There are other things. But this Council wants to move further."
Lawson added, "We have architects going through. We've allocated money there. And again this police station is a pit. It's our responsibility to take care of it. It's a city-owned property. We have the responsibility."
Rodericks said just before the formal vote was taken, "I'll go along with you because as I've said before I don't want to be an obstructionist, but I do add that in all of these it's said 'up to' $2.5 million, so it may be less.
"We are awaiting an engineering recommendation on what it needs. These are independent architects and engineers. This isn't us. This isn't the mayor's office. They're going to tell us, like they do when they do any project.
"They're going to tell us what it needs, what it will cost and it may hopefully be less than that and we'll have more money for the Rec Center."
Ward 1 Councilor Frank Rego interjected, pointing out the administration did not include any renovations to the police headquarters in its draft Fiscal Year 2023-24 Capital Improvements budget, saying, "Without this (appropriation) we can bring in a hundred architects, but without the money we're not going to get anywhere."
Countered Rodericks, "There have been a lot of things done at the police station from a roof on, but I know there's a lot more to do"... To which Lawson dryly responded, "I was raised by Marines. You don't get praise for doing what you're supposed to be doing."
In his disapproval statement, which was provided to the Council and submitted, though not read, into the record, DaSilva wrote, "The Administration believes that the allocation and sequestering of $2.5 million of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds as proposed by this ordinance, is premature."
As a means of adding heft to his veto, DaSilva, as Rodericks referred to, highlighted the some $1 million of improvements made to the headquarters since he became mayor in January of 2019. Funding for a large amount of those upgrades came from the department's access to the Federal Government's asset forfeiture program, a significant amount of which remains from the GOOGLE on-line prescription drug case from 2011-2012.
That list included: Roof replacement - $305,800; HVAC replacement - $264,046; Parking lot expansion and upgrades to ensure the safety of personnel and security of property - $180,438; Men and women’s locker rooms - $146, 688; Access controls - $45,294; Mobile shelving system - $24,888
DaSilva, who skipped most of Tuesday's meeting to attend an East Providence High School soccer game his son was playing in against LaSalle in Providence, has often verbally warned the Council about the parameters set for ARPA fund use.
Repeatedly, the mayor has cautioned the Council the monies need to be allocated by December 31, 2024 and more importantly that the projects themselves be completed by December 31, 2026. He has also insisted he could derive funding for the police headquarters and other infrastructure needs from state and federal sources.
In his recent vetoes he's taken to including a letter penned by the local the local Pandemic Recovery Office, which oversees the ARPA program in Rhode Island.
The actual wording provided by the PRO situated in Providence reads, "...the U.S, Department of the Treasury requires each project financed by ARPA SFRF to obligate all funds by December 31st, 2024 and fully expended by December 31st, 2026. According to U.S. Treasury, an obligation is defined as 'an order placed for property or services and entering into contracts, subawards, and similar transactions that require payment.'"
"SFRF" stands for State Fiscal Recovery Fund, those ARPA funds that are funneled to municipalities through state auspices. This past June, the state appropriated $11 million for a Municipal Public Safety Infrastructure program, supporting upgrades to the facilities like the EPPD station.