Council: Spend grant funds on the things residents care about

Council: Spend grant funds on the things residents care about

A neighbor who would not be identified reported that this corner of Reservoir Avenue, with Ash Street on the right, washes out after rainstorms. He tries to keep refilling the holes that develop. Note the curbstone that is badly deteriorated all along the street.

PAWTUCKET - Members of the Pawtucket City Council say they aren't pleased with a plan to spend some $400,000 of "community development" funds on projects they say the average Pawtucket citizen cares little about.

City residents would much prefer that officials use available money to deal with issues in their neighborhoods, like crumbling sidewalks and run-down storefronts, than a redesigned Festival Pier on the riverfront or two-way traffic on a downtown street, said council members.

Freshman Councilor Tim Rudd, of District 6, ripped existing plans for the remainder of the city's 2013 Community Development Block Grant funding, saying the money should be spent "where people live, work and play."

"If you're saying we have 45 percent of the money left, I feel strongly that it should be spent on neighborhood projects," he told Planning Director Barney Heath at a meeting last week.

What do you think the money should be spent on? Tell us by commenting on this story at www.valleybreeze.com .

Rudd added that members of the council are "more involved" in the day-to-day life of the city, and they have a "better idea about what's happening in their neighborhoods than the second floor," referencing members of Mayor Donald Grebien's administration.

Heath responded that he's "open to suggestions" on how the CDBG funding should be used and would love more input from council members on the topic.

Council members like Rudd and John Barry are particularly upset that they've had conversations in the past with Heath and members of Grebien's administration about projects they'd like to see done to fix "blight" in Pawtucket neighborhoods, but none of those projects are on this year's list.

"There's nothing that our constituents have spoken to us about," said Barry.

About $200,000 of the $400,000 remaining in CDBG funds for this year are now going toward the completion of a Broadway project that was supposed to be done two years ago but was not done correctly, according to Barry.

Just last year, said Rudd, Reservoir Avenue was on the CDBG list for replacement of sidewalks and repaving, with $25,000 set aside for the project, but the street "never got touched," he said, and the money just went back into the planning budget.

The city would be much better off if officials fixed the problems residents cared about, like the crumbling infrastructure on Reservoir Avenue or the vacant storefronts on Weeden Street and Smithfield Avenue, said Rudd. Why not get creative and use some of the money to offer some sort of tax incentive to fix up run-down properties?

Members of the Planning and Redevelopment Department really need to stop focusing on projects that many people don't even support, like two-way traffic on East Avenue, said Barry. "Where's the input" being talked about by planners, said the District 4 councilor, when the Planning and Redevelopment Department is already getting prices on dressing up Festival Pier and fixing an intersection on George Street?

Councilor Mark Wildenhain offered a suggestion, saying he would like to see some of the CDBG funding used to purchase small electronic flashing speed signs that could be moved from neighborhood to neighborhood to help keep speeding down and improve public safety.

"That's what constituents are looking for," said Wildenhain, projects that help them regain "control" of their neighborhoods and improve quality of life.

City Councilor Tim Rudd would like to see community development grant funding going toward street and sidewalk improvements on streets like Reservoir Avenue. As shown here, there are curbs but no sidewalks near where it intersects with Ash Street. (Valley Breeze Photos by Tom Ward)

Comments

I think things like curbs and sidewalks should be included in the normal operating budget. As for urban blight I don't see how throwing more money at the problem will change much. Don't forget, Pawtucket has the 2nd highest car tax rate in the state (thanks John Barry) and property taxes that are exceedingly burdensome on her residents. Lowering taxes would be a great way to encourage people to want to live work and play in Pawtucket. Lowering taxes would also show that city leadership seeks to treat the citizens fairly for a change.

How about a tax credit for area residents to say, do their own sidewalks (to pick one thing). Give people say a choice of a couple of designs - maybe one with in laid bricks or flag stones or just plain.

Upon completion and inspection a tax rebate "coupons" are then issued. Tax coupons give you x dollars off your tax payment. Only one coupon can be used for any quarterly payment per household. This way the loss in tax dollars taken in are spread over an extended period of time