By WPRO News and the Associated Press
Treasurer weighs in on sewer project costs
Ratepayers who have already contributed more than a half billion dollars toward the first two phases of the combined sewer overflow project to cap sewage flows into Narragansett Bay are facing an additional $779 million, or potentially hundreds of additional dollars per year, as the quasi-public Narragansett Bay Commission prepares to embark on the third and final phase of the federally-mandated project.
“Under the federal Clean Water Act, these overflows must be dealt with,” said Jamie Samons, spokeswoman for the NBC. “What Narragansett Bay Commission has done, and DEM (Department of Environmental Management) has recently approved is extending the time line out for this final phase.”
The NBC, which serves Providence, North Providence, Johnston, Pawtucket, Central Falls, Cumberland, Lincoln, the northern portion of East Providence and small parts of Cranston and Smithfield would stretch out the project an additional 15 years, from 2026 to 2041, to try to lessen the overall cost to ratepayers.
Rhode Island General Treasurer Seth Magaziner is intervening with the Rhode Island Division of Public Utilities and Carriers, which determines rates from utilities like the NBC, asking that rate relief be provided for low-income ratepayers.
“For families that are earning, you know, $30,000, $20,000, $35,000 dollars a year, a $600 dollar a year sewer bill is very difficult to afford,” Magaziner said.
Report says House Speaker hired more workers from his own district
A Public Radio report reviewed voting records and a state employee database, finding that the number of legislative workers from House Speaker Nick Mattiello’s Cranston district has grown in the past few years. It reports the number of State House workers from the district grew from 13 in 2013, before Mattiello became speaker, to 34 by late 2018, with a payroll of more than $1.7 million.
Mattiello said in a statement that these workers are hard-working people who do a good job, and his office says about one-third of them are summer or part-time employees. Common Cause of Rhode Island says patronage is a common, longstanding practice that needs to be monitored.
Former lawmaker pleads no contest
After initially rejecting a plea deal and heading to trial, former State Senator Nicholas Kettle pled no contest to some of the video voyeurism charges levied against him while others were dismissed. Kettle, who received a three year suspended sentence, had been charged with taking and sharing secret nude photos of his ex girlfriend.
Kettle had also been charged with extorting sex from a teenage page, and those charges are still pending. He apologized to his ex-girlfriend, her family and his family.
Kettle proclaimed innocence, but resigned last year once he faced expulsion after the charges surfaced.
Bristol/Warren election set for March 5
Roger Williams University professor June Speakman won the Democratic primary in the race to fill a vacant State House seat representing Bristol and Warren. Speakman will face independent Rep. Kenneth Marshall, independent Jame McCanna III and Libertarian William Hunt Jr. in next month’s general election.
The election is being held to replace Laufton Asencao, who originally won the seat in November but said he wouldn’t take it after admitting he faked an invoice for a nonexistent campaign mailer.
Governor aims to control health care costs
Citing the rising prices of health care and the struggle for people trying to keep up, Governor Gina Raimondo signed an executive order aimed at keeping health care cost growth below 3.2 percent annually through 2022.
The order directs state agencies to develop strategies to meet the target, monitor costs, and issue recommendations.
Animal abuse registry bill is back
Representative Arthur Corvese has re-introduced a bill that would create an animal abuse registry in effort to prevent those who’ve mistreated animals in the past from owning any more.
Convicted animal abusers would have to pay $125 to register or face jail time and up to a $1,000 fine.