Beauparlant resigns from Redevelopment Agency citing threat from city councilor

Beauparlant resigns from Redevelopment Agency citing threat from city councilor

WOONSOCKET - Citing a comment by an unidentified city councilor that he says borders on "political malfeasance," Albert Beauparlant has resigned from the Woonsocket Redevelopment Agency.

The agency, which was brought back to life in Woonsocket last January after a decade-long hiatus, was created under Title 45 of Rhode Island General Law with broad powers to tackle blight. Historically, such agencies across the country have used the powers to acquire properties and clear large tracts of land for redevelopment.¬?

Beauparlant was one of five members appointed to the board under former mayor Leo Fontaine, and had revealed the agency's extensive economic development plans just days before the municipal primary last October. The six-point plan included, in part, creation of a train station, a satellite college campus, and a Municipal Economic Development zone: an area where the city would only be required to charge half of the normal sales tax.

"It is with great pain and sorrow that I submit this letter as I have always put my beloved city first and foremost," Beauparlant said in his resignation, delivered to City Hall Dec. 6. The letter quotes an unidentified member of the newly elected City Council who he says told him: "Tell your bulls*** to The Valley Breeze and the Woonsocket Call of your plans and your ideas for the city of Woonsocket. Try to put them in place and I'll be waiting. Just try."

"I am perplexed and bewildered by his comments to me after I congratulated him on his successful re-election to the City Council," Beauparlant wrote, narrowing the field of potential guilty parties down to the five re-elected for the seven-member board. "I personally feel that this comment borders on political malfeasance."

Beauparlant was a supporter of Fontaine's re-election bid, which was lost to new Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt in November. In a communication to The Breeze, he listed projects and events that he worked on in conjunction with the city's last four mayors, from parties and fundraisers, to burial of a time capsule with Baldelli-Hunt's uncle, former Mayor Charles Baldelli.

It is unclear how, or if, the new mayor plans to use the agency, but the timing of the release of its work thus far, just prior to an election, was seen largely as a political move supporting a man who, at the time, was her rival.

In a separate but related matter, Beauparlant and organizers behind the "Last Night" celebration - a Dec. 11 event scheduled to draw the city's 125th anniversary celebration to a close - butted heads with the Baldelli-Hunt administration just days before the scheduled party, resulting in cancellation of some festivities scheduled to be held in conjunction with Woonsocket's annual Holiday Stroll.

The event was scheduled to be "two events in one," with organizers from the city's 125th Anniversary Block Party teaming up with planners of the yearly stroll for an enhanced celebration.

On Friday, however, administrators from Baldelli-Hunt's office said that those involved had not obtained the necessary permits for some of the activities.

"The mayor's office is disappointed that the Main Street Riverfront Initiative's enhanced plans for fireworks, open fire pits, and a rocket launch, will not be a part of the very popular Main Street stroll," a press release on the issue explained. "However, the city first learned of these plans on the first day of the new administration."

A letter addressed to the mayor, dated Dec. 4, just one day after the inauguration, lists services needed for the event including tasks for the Police, Highway and Fire departments. Jobs named under Highway Department included putting up signs and the clearing of the Mullen Parking Lot on Main Street, stages to be placed in front of The Call building and the band tent, and timbers for the fire pits that were scheduled to line the street. Police, it stated, would need to close High Street and Main Street and organizers would need access to the $5,400 left from Block Party fundraising last August.

But Beauparlant says it was the request for a fire truck to be placed on standby for a one-hour fireworks display that ended the discussion.

"They could not insure that," he said.

The real estate developer said he went to City Hall expecting a sit-down with the new mayor but left disappointed.

In a front page article titled "Event Canceled," in Saturday's edition of The Woonsocket Call, newspaper publisher Mary Lynn Bosiak said that the additional requirements of permitting and insurance requested by the mayor would have cost more than $2,300. The Call was a sponsor of the Last Night festivities and Bosiak herself was one of two main event organizers. Among the activities planned as part of "Last Night" was a "Woonsocket Rocket," described as a "fire breathing ornamental piece" launched off the newspaper's Main Street headquarters.

The Call's article made no reference to the myriad of other activities, from a singing competition, to participation by dozens of local businesses and vendors, which went on as scheduled.

"The city was ready, willing, and able to assist the organization in any way, but we could not sanction activities that were planned but not properly vetted with the various city agencies, nor permit the use of public property without the necessary certificates of insurance," said Richard Kearns, Baldelli-Hunt's new director of administration. "Public safety must be our primary concern, and there was simply a lack of communication with city leading up to the event for the necessary vetting to be done for these enhancements."

On Monday, Beauparlant sent a letter to around a dozen other volunteers involved with the Main Street Riverfront Initiative notifying them of his intent to resign from that committee, which was scheduled to throw a second block party on May 31, 2014.

"Due to the untimely cancellation of the 125th Last Night celebration and the lack of cooperation and respect I was shown as a volunteer to the city of Woonsocket, and also demands put forth that would hinder rather than help us working together, I tender my resignation," he wrote. "To put on a mammoth event where the crowd next year can grow to 40,000 people and for me not to be in total concert with the city would put the event in jeopardy."

Comments

"Tell your bulls*** to The Valley Breeze and the Woonsocket Call of your plans and your ideas for the city of Woonsocket. Try to put them in place and I'll be waiting. Just try." One of the re-elected members, who might this city councilman be? I think someone should attend the meeting on Monday and ask eeach councilman, on television, if he is the one who spoke to Mr. Beauparlant that way. See if anyone admits to it.

I don't know Mr. Beauparlant and i'm sure he's a nice enough guy but i think he should just move on. Soap Opera stuff...there's much bigger fish to fry in this dying town and, after all, all he did was put up a smokescreen for Fontaine.

Well, regardless of what just went down between these two men, Beauparlant was one of the driving forces behind the very successful 125th celebration and someone the new administration and the city would want to have involved in any efforts to improve the city going forward.

Mr. Aldrich, I am not a Woonsocket resident, don't even know Mr. Beauparlant. But it is always strange when the person who is mistreated and brings it to light is the one who everyone focuses on....and tells them to leave? There isn't any drama here, just facts. Drama would have been if Mr. B named the councilor who said this. But the guilty remains in the dark and not held responsible.