Opponent Fisher weighs in on Woonsocket mayor's economic plan

Opponent Fisher weighs in on Woonsocket mayor's economic plan

WOONSOCKET – Mayor Leo Fontaine's opponent in the upcoming election, David Fisher, is questioning a plan released this week aimed at targeting blight in the city with the help of a reactivated Redevelopment Agency, a city board given broad powers to address the problem under state law.

"I guess the biggest question I have, as a candidate and citizen is, 'Why has the Redevelopment Agency been dormant for 10 years?'" said Fisher.

"It seems that the agency, with its broad powers, could have done a lot to prevent the slow decline of the city from becoming the cliff jump that we're facing today," said Fisher.

Five members were appointed to the board - which had been dormant since 2004 - in January, and their plans, which include the creation of a Municipal Economic Development Zone and a program aimed at improving "gateways" or entrances to the city, was kept relatively quiet until this week- just days before the municipal primary.

Fisher questioned if the plan to improve Woonsocket's image via improvements to the Cumberland Hill Road gateway had merit.

"The existence of Route 99 has guaranteed that professionals and executives visiting the CVS headquarters, and other businesses in the Highland Industrial Park, don't have to travel through Woonsocket to do business," said Fisher. "I would guess that most of these high-powered executives stay at the finer hotels in Providence, travel to Woonsocket to conduct business, and hop right back on 99 to get out of the city. They're just not seeing what Woonsocket has to offer."

Fisher has his own additional ideas for improving the city's economy.

"While I agree with the re-invigoration of Main St. and the major thoroughfares coming into Woonsocket, I think that not enough focus is given to returning commerce and job opportunities to our neighborhoods," he said.

"For instance, the redevelopment plan indicates the former Seville Dye Plant location on the corner of First and Fairmount as an excellent opportunity to bring manufacturing jobs back to the city, but what the neighborhood lacks are retail locations for the residents of Fairmount. We have no local laundromats to serve the residents; no bank; no local diner where people can meet and get to know their neighbors; and no affordable food market within walking distance. The only retail locations we have in Fairmount are a couple of overpriced convenience stores and a liquor store," he said.

Fisher thinks the Fairmount Fire Station, meanwhile, should be reopened.

"The homes in the avenues are old, closely packed, and the potential for a fire disaster that could spread rapidly, and put hundreds of people out of their homes in this neighborhood, is greater than anywhere else in the city," he said.

Fisher also took issue with the agency's goal of demolishing structures to make room for new development.

"When we destroy these old structures, some of which have historical significance in the city, we lose a bit of our history and culture," he said.