In the aftermath of the State of the City Address, Fall River Mayor and School Committee Chair Sam Sutter is indicating to WSAR News that no decisions have been made regarding the net school spending number the city is required to hit by Massachusetts general law for fiscal year 2016.
Sutter will begin a series of meetings with neighborhood associations and civic organizations this week.
Fall River Mayor Sam Sutter tells WSAR News the mechanism to begin the process of fining households considered noncompliant with the pay-as-you-throw initiative begins this spring along with a likely court challenge.
Sutter says preparations for the fining procedure will be laid out this week.
Sutter says he does watch the citizens input portion of City Council meetings and understands the anger of citizens.
Sutter says the city is prepared for a challenge.
The city’s contract with North Carolina based Waste Zero called for language to be added regarding pay as you throw and recycling in August of 2014.
That process is now in the hands of the Ordinance and Legislation Committee.
Fall River Mayor Sam Sutter told a gathering in the Fall River City Council Chambers Thursday that he will begin a tour of neighborhood associations and other locations on Monday in hopes of to gathering new ideas.
Sutter’s comment come in the wake of the announcement of six million dollar deficit come fiscal year 2016.
Sutter explained the theme of shared sacrifice.
Sutter says the shared sacrifice will extend to citizens in Fall River.
Sutter says the state of the city is not an issue but says immediate finances are.
Sutter says its likely fees and taxes will be going up in fiscal year 2016.
City Council President Joe Camara says news of a six million dollar budget shortfall is something that demands immediate attention and says shared sacrifice is a concept that many Fall River families are familiar with.
The Rhode Island House and Senate have approved legislation allowing Twin River Casino in Lincoln to pursue a 200 room, four story hotel once been forbidden under current statue as a means of protecting hotels in Providence.
The community of Lincoln must now rezone property near Twin River to allow for the hotel to be constructed.
Rhode Island lawmakers decided to change the current statute, which had been on the books for a decade, as a slot parlor in Massachusetts is slated to open in June and MGM Springfield has their destination resort casino currently under construction.
The new hotel is expected to take a year to complete, create 200 construction jobs and 100 full time jobs once the hotel opens.
As the Sutter Administration prepares its first municipal budget for fiscal year 2016, the process is further complicated by the fact that all nine municipal unions are negotiating labor contracts, including the Fall River Police Department and the International Association of Firefighters representing Fall River firefighters.
Chief of Staff Lou Pacheco.
The Fall River Public School Department is working on individual contracts with various administrators, while trying to deal with the Fall River Educators Association on a new labor agreement.
A New Jersey based painting contractor working on the Braga Bridge in Fall River could be fined nearly 42-thousand dollars, after the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration conducted a inspection in the fourth quarter of 2014, after being referred by the Massachusetts Department of Labor Standards Lead Program, finding six serious violations of workplace health and safety standards, which Allied Painting is contesting.
Employees of Allied Painting were found to have elevated blood levels that were performing what are described as abrasive blasting and painting on the bridge.
The work was performed on scaffolding located beneath the bridge.
OSHA says it found excess levels of lead on various surfaces where employees work, change and eat.
The surfaces included items in a decontamination trailer and a bench seat of a van where employees ate lunch.
OSHA says employees were also exposed to fall hazards of more than 100 feet because of ladder obstructions and issues with temporary railings.
Fall River City Council President Joe Camara tells WSAR News he agrees with Fall River Mayor Sam Sutter in terms of an ultimate challenge to the pay-as-you throw initiative, which could decide once and for all whether or not the program, rolled out in the summer of 2014, is legal or not.
Camara says until the program is challenged, the ordinance and legislation committee should wait on the results then act accordingly.
Camara says the Sutter Administration will have to make the call as to whether or not pay-as-you throw is part of the fiscal year 2016 municipal budget.
A solid waste task force is due to issue a report in September, while language regarding pay-as-you throw and recycling is back in council’s ordinance and legislation committee.
As Massachusetts lawmakers on Beacon Hill continue debating the fiscal year 2016 budget, Bristol Fifth District State Representative Pat Haddad tells WSAR News the next fiscal year will be just as difficult as prior years.
Fixing a new law that imposes penalties on driver who do not operate their headlights at the same time as their windshield wipers is one of the latest controversies to take hold.
The Fall River School Committee meets Wednesday for its April session at Morton Middle School with an 11 item agenda.
Among the 8 voting items is a proposed administrative structure for B-M-C Durfee High School, twenty five thousand dollars in safety training, using a contractual fine paid by Tremblay Bus in 2014 and evaluation benchmarks for Superintendent Meg Mayo Brown.
The Executive Vice President of the Fall River Office of Economic Development tells WSAR News Amazon continues to work on various aspects of its planned distribution center, which could break ground later this summer.
The one million square foot distribution center is set to employ five hundred people full time, with a varying number of seasonal part time workers.
Fall River Mayor Sam Sutter tells WSAR News that ''shared sacrifice'' will be on the key themes of the 2015 State of the City of Fall River, after the Sutter transition team released the third and final portion of its report on the city’s finances.
Sutter says a lack of tax revenue makes it difficult in to provide services.
Sutter says new members to his cabinet will be added, including a tourism director.
Sutter says Fall River’s destinations need to be marketed.
Sutter will give his address Thursday evening at 7 o’clock in Council Chambers.
The third and final installment of a financial report from the Sutter transition team in finds that Fall River’s revenue problems have been ''decades in the making'', as the city has one of the lowest property tax rates in the Commonwealth.
The report further finds that in years where the city did not raise taxes, the city could not find the revenue needed to fund city services and pay off outstanding debt.
The transition team also finds that since 2001, only Malden has lost more jobs than Fall River has in the same time span.
Fall River has lost almost 16 percent of its jobs since 2001.
The director of a Bridgewater State University child care center where a student is charged with sexually abusing two preschool boys has pleaded not guilty to allegations that she failed to report the matter.
Judith Ritacco of Boylston was held on $25,000 bail after pleading not guilty Thursday to endangering a child, failure to report alleged abuse, and witness intimidation.
Prosecutors say the 53-year-old was alerted by a teacher on March 27th that a 21-year-old student who worked at the center had molested a boy, but told the teacher to keep quiet about it.
Because of her job, Ritacco was legally required to report suspected abuse.
Her lawyer, Thomas Guiney, says Ritacco did report the matter to her superiors, and says she is being made the "scapegoat."
The Chief of Staff For Fall River Mayor Sam Sutter tells WSAR News even without language in solid waste ordinances regarding pay as you throw, the city will begin issuing fines the week of April 20th, which will likely lead to a test of the programs legality in court.
Pacheco says the Sutter Administration is required to enforce the law.
Pacheco says education will be the first step in a drive towards compliance and says enforcement options are being discussed.
Fall River Community Maintenance Director Ken Pacheco says according to Waste Zero, compliance issues started cropping up in the fourth quarter of 2014.
Pacheco says if fines are issued he wants to make sure they go to those having issues with compliance.
North Carolina based Waste Zero indicated in a report issued this spring that a drop in bag sales is resulting from a refusal to issue fines for non compliance.
An MBTA Special Panel has released a report that could see the creation of one, 5 and 20 year spending plans, after the panel studying the MBTA found what it called ''massive structural and management failures that could bankrupt the MBTA if left unchecked.
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker focused on five recommendations, including the appointment of a control board and a director.
Baker says those who use the various components of the MBTA deserve a system that runs as scheduled.
Baker outlined the final two recommendations.
Among a list of key findings, the panel says the MBTA has a unsustainable operating budget, and would be ''insolvent'' if not for continuing and increasing subsides.
The report also finds the MBTA has no accountability to the Governor or the Massachusetts Legislature and has what are termed ''weak workplace practices''.
A capital planning recommendation seeks to pause construction spending for system expansion.
As Fall River City Council prepares to perhaps add language regarding pay-as you throw to current solid waste ordinances, the Chair of the Ordinance and Legislation Committee says opinions have changed regarding pay-as-you throw since its August 2014 rollout.
Correia says serious discussions on a host of issues need to take place.
Councilor Linda Pereria says pay-as-you throw, it is what it is.
The Sutter administration has indicated that fines be implemented regarding non compliance beginning the week of April 20th.
The head of the union representing Fall River firefighters wants new engines and new equipment as part of a long term strategy to improve the safety and effectiveness of the fire department, while at least one city councilor says bonding could be utilized.
Councilor Dan Rego tells WSAR News he would support bonding for new fire engines and public safety spending.
Burns says long range planning regarding equipment needs to be part of a larger discussion.
Rego says he can support bonding for public safety issues.
There has been discussion regarding at least one new engine in the fiscal year 2016 budget.
Fall River will not meet 100 percent of net school spending requirements for this fiscal year as a result of a 1.4 million dollar shortfall that exists due to over estimations for employee health care costs.
Superintendent Meg Mayo Brown tells WSAR News the funds most likely exist in an employee trust fund account, outside of the budget, specifically for employee benefits.
Mayo Brown says this late in the fiscal year it might make more sense to apply the remaining funds to next year's budget.
Mayo Brown says the district will likely be just shy of 99 percent of net school spending requirements for the fiscal year.
The City Council recently transferred 3.4 million dollars from free cash to help close a shortfall in the department's budget.
Fall River Mayor Sam Sutter tells WSAR News he will not attend Monday’s session of the Fall River City Councils Ordinance and Legislation Committee as it begins the process of reviewing placing pay as you throw and recycling language into the current solid waste statute.
Sutter says sending his Chief of Staff is a form of time management.
Sutter says he expects pay-as-you throw to face a legal challenge once fines begin the week of April 21st.
A task force that Sutter selected earlier this week will also begin the process of reviewing solid waste options with a report due in September.
Massachusetts 11th District State Rep Bob Koczera tells WSAR News that region c needs to be given the same sort of consideration that regions a and b were given in the drive to secure gaming licenses.
In a tweet Wednesday morning, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission indicates there will not be a revised timeline until commissioners have time to assess the application process, which has a May 4th deadline for developers in Somerset, New Bedford and Brockton.
A consultant has indicated to the commission there is no timeline for when decisions regarding land in trust might be made concerning the Mashpee Wampanoag’s and their efforts in Taunton.
Richard Carroll indicated to the commission Wednesday.
Now, Koczera says as long as meaningful progress is shown by all three applicants the process should continue towards a conclusion.
Koczera says deadlines are not an issue right now for region c.
A Massachusetts slot parlor is to open in June.
MGM Springfield has already broken ground on their new facility.
The Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance has fined the Leo Pelletier campaign for re-election $1,000 after Debra Pelletier was found to be at the welcome table at a March fundraising event collecting contributions.
Debra Pelletier is an employee of the City of Fall River.
Candidate Leo Pelletier tells WSAR News that he told investigators he did not realize that the Commonwealth considered that a violation of campaign finance statutes.
Pelletier says it takes a lot to run a credible campaign for one of the nine available council seats.
Pelletier says he paid the fine in March.
The Office of Campaign and Political Finance says it considers the matter closed.
Sean Cadime, the unanimous choice to be Somerset’s next town administrator.
Somerset Selectmen Chair Don Setters.
Cadime bested a field of 24 applicants including fellow finalist Richard Brown who has served as town administrator in Freetown as well as a city administrator in New London Connecticut and East Providence.
Setters tells WSAR News Cadime, the current town administrator for Seekonk, has what it takes to deal with Somerset’s financial issues.
Selectman Scott Lebeau.
Cadime is a former member of the Fall River School Committee and served as city administrator under former mayor Will Flanagan.
He has also agreed not to seek public office and move to Somerset.
Fall River Mayor Sam Sutter admits that a graph used by his transition team regarding stabilization dollars could have been better crafted as part of a 70 page summary of the city’s financial situation, but indicates the larger point is that the city has issues with its stabilization line items.
As for the ongoing debate on the legality of pay-as-you throw, Sutter says Council President Joe Camara got it right as to how the process would play out.
The second part of transition team’s recent report regarding the city and its finances was released last Friday.
With the release of a 70 page analysis summary of Fall Rivers municipal and school department budget numbers produced by the Sutter Administration Friday, arrangements are now being made for individual sessions with nine city council members who have questions about what the numbers actually mean.
Sutter Chief of Staff Lou Pacheco tells WSAR News he is available to answer questions.
Pacheco says different council members will focus on various portions of the document.
The installation of 22 windows at Fall River Government Center during the summer of 2013 continues to be investigated at the local and state level.
Sutter Chief of Staff Lou Pacheco says the transition team also has looked into the issues involved and says he has also examined the issues involved, and says procurement procedures were not followed:
Pacheco says nothing illegal has been discovered.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healy has indicated to WSAR News that her office is familiarizing themselves with the files left behind by former A.G. Martha Coakley.
As casino investors in Brockton, New Bedford and Somerset continue their pursuit of the third and final destination resort casino license for region c, Don Setters, the Chair of the Somerset Board of Selectmen tells WSAR News that various items will be considered once artist renderings are available from Crossroads Massachusetts.
Setters says he’s hoping for high speed ferry service as one means of traffic mitigation and says traffic concerns are something that can be monitored.
Setters wants to see gift certificates offered as part of a players club program to Somerset restaurants and businesses, as part of an agreement with developers.
The region c license is to be awarded by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission in the fourth quarter of 2015.
FALL RIVER: Today, the Transition Team appointed by Fall River Mayor Sam Sutter released the data they have been compiling throughout the course of their analysis of Fall River’s finances. These statistics were the source material that the Transition Team drew from for their Executive Summary, released Monday, March 16th.
Said Sutter: "My Transition Team has released a comprehensive outline of the data that supports Part 1 of their Financial Report. The information provided today is a detailed picture of where Fall River stands financially. I wanted the public to have these numbers so that we can all plainly see where we are at as we begin taking steps towards fiscal sustainability.
"I am grateful for all of the hard work the Transition Team put in in pulling this information together and helping to provide the community with the hard data behind the budget,” Sutter continued. “I look forward to opening up a dialogue with the community about what this information means in the immediate future and for our long-term vision for the City."
Sutter also announced that the Transition Team will be publishing one more document within the next week that further explains the data released today.
The report can be read on the City's website at the following link:
A decision on a new Somerset Town Administrator is due at some point this spring, as the race between two contenders comes down to interviews Tuesday, with a potential decision expected Wednesday.
Somerset Board of Selectmen Chair Don Setters indicates to WSAR News that former Fall River City Administrator, and current Seekonk Administrator Shawn Cadime and Richard Brown, who has administrative experience in Rhode Island are the two contenders for the post.
The contract of former Town Administrator Richard Lutrell was not renewed earlier this year, as selectmen indicated they wanted to go in a different direction.
The Massachusetts Economic Assistance Coordinating Council has approved a tax incentive financing agreement with Amazon.
FROED Executive Vice President Ken Fiola tells WSAR News he remains optimistic and says a second TIF was also approved for the expansion of Blount Fine Foods in the Fall River Industrial Park.
Fiola says the TIF with Blount is also significant in terms of job retention.
Tuesday’s Amazon TIF approval is just another step toward the potential construction of a one million square foot distribution center that has the potential to create 500 full time and as many as 1,500 part time jobs.
The Fall River City Council Committee on Ordinances and Legislation has agreed to expand water and sewer service to Tiverton, Rhode Island.
Fall River Community Utilities Director Terry Sullivan tells WSAR News the agreement is part of a long term strategy to broaden a customer base that uses Fall River services for higher fees than city residents currently pay.
Sullivan says the drive to add more consumers continues.
Sullivan says an effort is also underway that would add more consumers in various communities where Fall River provides water and sewer services.
The City of Fall River has earned around 3-thousand dollars for the first two months of the first degree murder trial of former Patriot Aaron Hernandez, however, City Councilors are asking if current ordinances on parking need to examined, or enforced.
At issue was a CNN satellite truck that has remained in place on a 24 hour a day basis since the trial started.
Traffic Director Laura Ferreira says she was following the rules outlines in the current ordinance.
Councilor Linda Pereria countered that statement.
Ordinance and Legislation Committee Chair Jasiel Correia says proper procedure was followed.
Pereria says issues regarding long term media parking for the trial should have come before council.
Traffic Director Laura Ferreira says she followed the current ordinance and did what she thought was fair for the media involved.
There remains a possibility that Patriots Majority Owner Bob Kraft and Patriots Head Coach Bill Belicheck could be called to testify.
Ferreira says police presence is available for high profile witnesses and jury members.
The President and CEO of the Fall River Area Chamber of Commerce and Industry met with senior staff members working for Senator Elizabeth Warren and Massachusetts 4th District Congressman Joseph Kennedy Monday in Boston, lobbying for a lower interest rate for the ongoing federally mandated CSO Project.
Rob Mellion tells WSAR News
Mellion says there may be room for discussion on at least one topic.
Mellion says there appears to be somewhat of an agreement.
Mellion says he’s trying to work with the congressional delegation to lower the interest rate, which could potentially save Fall River millions of dollars for a project that is modernizing the city’s network of water infrastructure all while keeping the Taunton River protected.
National Grid says nearly one million basic service electricity consumers can anticipate lower energy bills as rates decline beginning May 1st.
Pending Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities approval, a typical residential consumer using five hundred kilowatts of electricity will receive a bill 26 percent lower than their previous bill, equating to about $32 a month.
National Grid maintains that severe winter increases in electricity bills are due to natural gas interstate pipeline constraints.
With New Bedford, Somerset and Brockton in contention for a potential region c destination resort casino license, office holders in all locations believe a license needs to be awarded, despite misgivings aired by members of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.
New Bedford City Councilor Brian Gomes
Somerset Board of Selectman Chair Don Setters indicates the new business model for resort casinos focuses on nightclubs and entertainment:
Steve Wynn has indicated he will have many of the same restaurants in his Everett location that are available in Las Vegas.
The Fall River City Council Committee on Ordinances and Legislation meets Monday at five thirty with a nine item agenda.
Committee members are expected to discuss water rates for municipal water supply customers and resolutions regarding guidelines for physically challenged taxi cab users as well as potential fines for illegally parking in handicapped spaces.
New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell, in testimony before the Massachusetts Gaming commission Thursday afternoon, says the Whaling City is now in a position to be awarded the region c destination casino license.
New Bedford recently finished its application process with K-G Urban Enterprises.
According to the New Bedford Standard Times, Mitchell says a casino on the city’s waterfront is part of a larger economic strategy.
Massachusetts Gaming Commissioner James McHugh says the status of the region c license is still in question, depending on what happens with the Mashpee Wampanoag’s plan in Taunton.
The region c license is set to be awarded during the fourth quarter of 2015.
Fall River Public School Committee Member Melissa Panchley, who also serves as Chair of the Finance Subcommittee, will assist in the construction of the fiscal year 2016 budget as questions persit regarding a$1.3 million dollar miscalculation in health insurance line items.
Panchley tells WSAR News the amount of Chapter Seventy state dollars are increasing, as Fall River currently has eighty percent of its school department budget covered by the Commonwealth, with the city contributing the remainder.
Panchley says the process of meeting with school building principals continues, in hopes of determing what the needs are in each building.
Panchley says, in many cases, principals are asking for an approximation of what they received in the prior fiscal year.
There will be a closure of the Route 24 SB ramp onto 195 EB in Fall River tonight, Wednesday, March 18th and tomorrow night, Thursday, March 19th from the hours of 8 PM to 5 AM to allow for MassDOT to perform bridge deck repairs.
There will be a detour in place leading drivers to Route 24 SB onto 195 WB to follow to Rte. 24 SB to Brayton Ave and travel to 24 NB and then onto 195 EB. A map of the detour is attached.
MassDOT encourages drivers to avoid the area and seek alternate routes to minimize delays. Those traveling through the area should expect delays and should reduce speed and use caution while traveling along the detour routes.
The duration of work will also be weather dependent and based on the amount of concrete deterioration.
Fall River Mayor Sam Sutter tells WSAR News that for now voters will not be asked to approve a two and a half override but will likely be paying higher water and sewer rates.
City Councilor Mike Miozza tells WSAR News that it will not be easy to fix Fall River’s finances.
Sutter indicates that hitting net school spending targets for fiscal years 2015 and 2016 could be difficult to achieve and says that enterprise funds for water, sewer, e-m-s and sanitation need to be replenished, as over the last four fiscal years, the funds have not kept with expenses, resulting in a shortfall of $25.4 million. Sutter says rates will need to rise to correct the imbalance:
Miozza says he understands why water and sewer rates will likely need to be raised.
Full Council is set to debate the municipal side of the fiscal year 2016 budget for this spring.
While the Massachusetts Gaming Commission is set to further discuss the region c license situation Thursday afternoon additional information regarding the Somerset casino proposal is being disclosed, according to The Herald News.
One of two managing general partners of WSAR Radio, James Karam, who developed the crossroads project that brought a Wal-Mart Super Center and Sam’s Club to Fall River and the former CEO of Foxwoods Casino, Scott Butera, will likely appear before the Commission this week, as three projects, including Somerset, New Bedford and Brockton--are looking to secure the region c destination license.
Somerset Board of Selectmen Chair Don Setters tells WSAR News discussions are still in the early stages and says there is a time concern due to the fact that a referendum would need to be set for Somerset voters.
Setters says he would also like to see a trio of public forums to place prior to a possible referendum.
A referendum is set to be place before voters in Brockton in May.
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission is reporting that while the first phase of the application from ''Mass Gaming and Entertainment'' a Chicago-based group looking at a Brockton location, is ''substantially complete'' for its Brockton effort, K-G Urban Enterprises and the City of New Bedford are asking for a 45-day extension, while Somerset on the Move LLC and Crossroads have jointly asked for an extension in a verbal request with written confirmation to be turned over this week.
The Commission is set to discuss Region C Issues at its next meeting this coming Thursday, March 19; it will review extension requests while inviting all three entities to testify before the Commission.
A May 26 deadline has been set for the second phase of a two part application.
Seekonk Police are looking for suspects in relation to a Saturday Morning Armed Robbery attempt that happened in the parking lot of the Raymore and Flanagan location in the 100 block of Highland Avenue.
A couple attending to a child handed over a diaper bag and a cell phone, after a single suspect displayed a handgun while the couple were in their vehicle.
The prime suspect in the case then went inside the Raymore and Flanagan location, allegedly assaulting 2 customers and a store employee, before leaving the location empty handed.
The suspect was wearing gray hoodie and ''something white'' wrapped around his face, along with dark pants and dark sneakers.
He left in a getaway vehicle that was described as a dark hatchback model.
Police from Seekonk, East Providence, and Mass State Police continue their investigation into the robbery.