EAST PROVIDENCE — Fees were on the mind of the people and the politicians Tuesday evening, Dec. 6, when the reconstituted city council gathered for its first official working meeting of the new session.
More than a few property owners approached the body during public comment expressing their dismay with late penalties being levied when they attempted to pay their second quarter tax bills just a day or two earlier. The residents were upset with the stricter adherence by the city's collections department to an existing policy of charging interest on tardy payments at a rate of 12 percent of the outstanding balance.
One suggested there be a so-called "grace" period of a reasonable amount of time for residents to pay what they owe without penalty while another, an elderly resident, asked for some sort of consideration for those property owners aged 65 and over.
Both Ward 4 representative Brian Faria and Ward 3's Joe Botelho verbalized their sympathies with the taxpayers. Mr. Botelho, a realtor by profession, noted the city could possibly use mortgage payments as a guide, where it's law no late penalties can be charged until 15 days after the due date of the payment.
The council requested acting city manager Tim Chapman and city solicitor Greg Dias examine the matter closer and return back with some potential remedies when the body meets next on December 13.
Mr. Botelho continued the discussion of fees, specifically those pertaining to sewer usage, during the council privilege portion of last week's meeting.
Noting the continued rise in rates, the Ward 3 rep asked Mr. Chapman to provide the council with a vast amount of documentation about sewer rates, including contracts, operational costs, outstanding bond payments, etc., so the group could consider potential remedies or find potential savings that could be passed on to residents.
On a similar topic, Mr. Botelho wondered what, if anything, administrators have been doing about the odor emanating from the wastewater treatment facility in Riverside that borders both his ward and that of Mr. Faria.
Mr. Chapman explained "the smell is coming from Barrington," its waste cleansed by East Providence as part of a contractual agreement. The acting manager said the neighboring town "is not treating the sewage properly" before it enters the city's system, which is causing the stench.
Mr. Chapman said he has already sent Barrington a Notice of Violation, but that he has also spoken with town administrators there who are working to fix the problem. The acting manager added, "this is something we're taking very seriously."
Asked by Mr. Faria for an update on the status of issues pertaining to the ongoing dispute over revaluation of waterfront property earlier this calendar year, Mr. Chapman gave some detail on what has transpired while, for a rare time publicly since land owners expressed outrage, acknowledging litigation has been filed.
The acting manager told the council initially 253 appeals associated with the Riverside reval were made. Of those, 148 were from residents who owned property deemed as waterfront. And of those, 74 of the appeals have been heard by the board of review. He said nearly all received an adjustment.
Mr. Chapman said City Tax Assessor Steve Hazard, despite the uproar, remains firm in his consideration that the revaluations done by his office with Vision Government Solutions came in either at or below market value. Mr. Chapman said the city is monitoring any sales of said properties to see if the selling price is possibly being disproportionally affected by the increased valuations
In addition, the acting manager updated the council on the legal proceedings, telling the body 62 residents were party to the civil suit brought against the city over the matter. He said the litigation is the "discovery stage" and had no further details to provide.
The council approved the transfer of licenses pertaining to the Watchemoket Bar Inc. and owner Robert Anelundi of Seekonk to DMC Properties LLC doing business as Watchemoket Tavern and owner Cory Brailsford of Warwick. The licenses include beverage, full victualization and operation of pool tables.
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