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1540 WADK.com Updates

Power Outages Few In R.I. So Far


National Grid says just under 1,000 customers are without power as a windy winter storm grips Rhode Island.

The utility reports that as of 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, more than 500 of those outages are in Narragansett and South Kingstown. The rest are mostly in Providence.

A handful of outages were reported in communities including Cranston, Cumberland and Middletown.

The National Weather Service says the state can expect about 2 feet of snow. Gov. Gina Raimondo warned that it's possible some residents could be without power for days.


Citizens Reports Strong 4th Quarter


Citizens Financial Group is reporting a strong fourth quarter for last year.  Providence-based Citizens is reporting earnings of just under 200-million dollars for the quarter.  That's more than 40-million dollars higher than the final quarter of 2013, and beat the predictions of Wall Street.  Citizens went public in September, as parent company Royal Bank of Scotland works to divest all holdings in the bank by next year.


High Schoolers Helping With Snow Removal


Some Central Falls High School students are stepping up to help elderly and disabled people with snow removal.  Mayor James Diossa says teams of high schoolers will be available to help people in need clear sidewalks and driveways once the worst of the storm has passed.  Central Falls officials also say a parking ban is in place until further notice, and a shelter will open at Cumberland High School once the storm is over.


Obama Urged To Deliver R.I. Blizzard Aid


Rhode Island's congressional delegation is calling on President Obama to provide blizzard disaster aid if needed.  The lawmakers have written to the President, asking that he quickly approve any request for an emergency or disaster declaration if requested by the state.  The delegation is concerned that because of the severity of the storm, Rhode Island may need additional resources to effectively respond.


Travel Ban Remains In Effect In R.I.


A travel ban is in effect on Rhode Island roads because of the blizzard.  State Police say it's against the law for anyone to drive on state roads while the ban is in effect.  Police do not know when the ban will be lifted, and the roads will be reopened once they are deemed to be safe for travel.  Governor Gina Raimondo has declared a state of emergency, and is assuring residents that the state is prepared for the storm.  Raimondo is also encouraging state employers to be flexible, and allow people to work from home wherever possible.


Lawmaker Calls For Plastic Bag Ban In R.I.


A lawmaker wants to ban the use of plastic checkout bags at Rhode Island grocery stores and other retailers.

Rep. Gregg Amore has introduced a bill that would require large retail stores to stop using plastic bags by Jan. 1, 2016. All retail stores would have to comply with the ban by Jan. 1, 2017. Some bags would be exempt, such as bags to protect fresh flowers.

Amore says single-use plastic checkout bags pollute Narragansett Bay, hundreds of miles of coastline and other bodies of water, and litter neighborhoods, parks and roadsides.

His bill was sent to the House Committee on Environment and Natural Resources for consideration. Similar measures died in the previous two legislative sessions.

In 2012, Barrington became the first municipality in Rhode Island to ban plastic bags.

 


Gas Prices Down Another Nickel In R.I.


The price of a gallon of gasoline in Rhode Island has dropped another nickel to an average of $2.10.

AAA Northeast announced Monday that self-serve, regular at $2.10 per gallon is now 42 cents lower than a month ago and $1.38 lower than a year ago.

The price in Rhode Island, however, is still 7 cents higher than the national average of $2.03 per gallon.

AAA found self-serve, regular selling for as little as $1.97 in the state and as high as $2.29 per gallon.

 


Airlines Cancel Flights Out of T.F. Green


Airlines at T.F. Green are preparing to shut down operations as a powerful and potentially historic storm heads for the region.

Airlines have told airport officials that all flights are canceled for Tuesday. A US Airways flight that is scheduled to leave at 5:24 p.m. Monday is expected to be the last flight until at least Wednesday.

The airport will remain open as airfield crews work to clear the runways so planes can land as soon as flights resume.


Gov. Bans R.I. Travel Effective Midnight


Gov. Gina Raimondo told Rhode Island residents Monday to prepare for a powerful and potentially historic storm, and to stay off the roads.

Raimondo signed an executive order declaring a state of emergency.

The National Weather Service has issued a blizzard warning for a 250-mile stretch of the Northeast. Forecasters say the storm could bring 2 to 3 feet of snow to Rhode Island and wind gusts of 60 to 70 mph along the state's coast.

Travel is banned on all Rhode Island roads starting at midnight, until further notice, Raimondo said.

"We need to be prepared for a multiday event with 2 to 3 feet of accumulation, and potentially to be without power for days," she said Monday at the State House.

Here is a look at how the storm might impact Rhode Island and what is being done to prepare:

TREACHEROUS TRAVEL

With snow intensifying overnight, Raimondo asked people to get off the roads by 8 p.m. so plows can get through. State police Col. Steven G. O'Donnell said it's important to stay home to avoid putting first responders at risk. Bridges will likely be shut down, O'Donnell said.

Four hundred plows are ready, but the snow will fall faster than they can plow, according to the state Department of Transportation.

EXECUTIVE ORDER

Raimondo said she declared a state of emergency because she believes lives are at risk. She said the declaration allows her to activate the Rhode Island National Guard, if necessary, access federal funding and better coordinate throughout state government. The state's emergency operations center opens at 6 p.m. Monday and is expected to remain open throughout the storm.

POWER OUTAGES

National Grid officials said they are preparing for inevitable power outages. Tim Horan, president of National Grid, said about 1,000 additional tree and line crews were requested for the region. He said 30 of those will be in Rhode Island on Monday night, and 30 more are expected to arrive in the morning to be dispatched to the hardest-hit areas. National Grid is staging crews in Warwick and Lincoln.

PREPARATION TIPS

Raimondo asked Rhode Islanders to make sure they have enough heating fuel, batteries, food and water for several days. She said she wants people to check on their relatives and neighbors. The worst of the storm is expected to occur between 1 a.m. to 10 a.m., and it will continue to snow throughout Tuesday, she added. Municipalities and the American Red Cross are opening shelters.

"If we pull together as Rhode Islanders, and I know we'll do that, if we lend a helping hand to our loved ones, we're going to be fine and we're going to get through this," Raimondo said.

CLOSINGS

State government is closing at 11 p.m. Monday, and the General Assembly has canceled its activities for Tuesday. All Rhode Island state courts will be closed Tuesday. Several municipalities have issued parking bans. Airlines have told officials at T.F. Green that Tuesday flights will be canceled.


Bill Would Ban Fireworks In R.I.




A bill under consideration by the Legislature would ban the sale of all fireworks in Rhode  Island.  The bill from North Providence Representative Arthur Corvese would ban the private use of all fireworks in the state.  The measure would roll back a 2010 law that legalized sparklers and fountains that emit a shower of sparks.  Corvese says the change has become difficult to control, and people now think all fireworks are legal in the state, including rockets and ones that explode.


Elorza Appoints Innovation Director


Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza is naming Nicole Pollack to serve as the city's first innovation director.  The newly created position is designed to find efficiencies in city government and improve the delivery of city services.  Pollack has worked at the state Department of Environmental Protection since 2011.  Elorza says Pollack will also work to improve transparency in city government in the new position.


Twin River Hotel Plan Considered



Key state lawmakers say they will proceed with caution on a request by Twin River Casino to place a hotel on the property.  State law strictly forbids Twin River's owners from opening a hotel on or near casino grounds.  Senate President Teresa Pavia Weed and House Speaker Nick Mattiello both say the request will receive careful consideration.  Twin River officials say they need a hotel to compete with casinos opening in the next few years in Massachusetts.


Providence VA Moving Wellness Center


A fitness and wellness center at the Providence VA Medical Center is being moved to a new location.  The Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center says the move is being made to expand their kidney dialysis center.  The fitness center is being relocated in March to an undetermined location somewhere else on the VA campus.  More than 80 veterans use the fitness center on a given weekday.


 


Funeral Scheduled For Sister Ann Keefe


Funeral services are scheduled for Friday for Sister Ann Keefe.  The longtime Rhode Island activist for those in need died Sunday at the age of 62 following a long battle with brain cancer.  The funeral will take place at 6 p.m. Friday at St. Michael the Archangel Church on Oxford Street in Providence.  Burial will take place on Saturday in Holyoke, Massachusetts.


CVS Hiring For It's Digital Center


CVS Health is looking to hire around 100 people as part of an expansion of their digital center in Woonsocket.  These new workers will be in addition to the 200 people already working at the digital center, which opened at CVS headquarters last year.  Work at the center is focused on innovation in the pharmacy industry.  CVS is also planning to open another digital innovation center this year in Boston.


Gist Confirms Job Pursuit


Rhode Island Education Commissioner Deborah Gist is confirming that she is a finalist for a job in Oklahoma.  Gist was named Monday as one of two finalists for the superintendent of schools position in Tulsa.  Gist is expected to interview with Tulsa officials this week before the final decision is made.  Tulsa's current superintendent is leaving the position at the end of June. Tulsa is Gist's hometown.


Brown Frat Disputes Allegations


A Brown University fraternity is disputing allegations that one of its members served a young woman punch laced with a date rape drug.  The Phi Kappa Psi fraternity says serious questions remain about whether the accuser ingested any drugs at all.  Brown Monday stripped the fraternity of its university recognition and threw them from the Sears House dormitory.  No students are facing charges related to the allegations.


Twin River Wants To Add Hotel


The owners of Twin River Casino are asking lawmakers for permission to build a hotel next to the gambling facility in Lincoln.  Current Rhode Island law prohibits the former greyhound track turned casino from operating a hotel on or near the property.  Twin River Chairman John Taylor says the landscape has changed dramatically since those rules were put into effect.  He says their hotel would not exceed 200 rooms, and would include a spa, small meeting rooms other amenities.


R.I. Gas Prices Continue Drastic Drop


Rhode Island gasoline prices are continuing to surge lower.  Triple-A Southern New England says Rhode Island gas prices are 15-cents lower than last week, and are down 47-cents in the last month.  The state's average cost of a gallon of self serve regular gas is currently two-dollars and 15-cents, which is still nine-cents higher than the national average.


CVS Chief Gets S.O.T.U. Invite


The head of Rhode Island based CVS Health is on the guest list for tonight's State of the Union Address by President Obama.  CVS President and CEO Larry Merlo will be seated with Dr. Jill Biden, the wife of Vice President Joe Biden.  The invite is in part to recognize Woonsocket-based CVS for putting health before profit and stopping tobacco sales.


Gist Finalist For Tulsa Position


Rhode Island Education Commissioner Deborah Gist is reportedly a finalist for the superintendent of schools position in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  The "Tulsa World" newspaper reports that Gist is one of two finalists for the position, which Gist is not confirming.  The Tulsa Board of Education is reportedly going to hold final interviews with Gist and an in house candidate this week.  The current superintendent of Tulsa is retiring at the end of June.


A Pair Of Brown Fraternities Sanctioned


Two Brown University fraternities are being sanctioned for alcohol related incidents that occurred last fall.  In one incident, a female student drank an alcoholic punch that was spiked with a date rape drug at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity in the Sears House.  That fraternity now loses its university recognition for four years and loses their housing immediately.  The Sigma Chi fraternity is being placed on probation for holding unregistered parties where alcohol was served.


Ct. Casino's Post December Figures


Mohegan Sun Casino had a strong December.  They say their slot revenue increased by more than six-percent for the month, totaling 49-million-dollars in winnings.  The numbers were not as good at Foxwoods, where slot earnings were down nearly four-percent.  However, Foxwoods still earned 36-million dollars in slot profits for the month.


Earthquake Expert Provides Few Answers


Plainfield residents are still without clear-cut answers regarding the recent earthquakes that have been striking the town.  The "Hartford Courant" reports hundreds of residents gathered at Plainfield High School last night to hear a seismologist from Boston College Weston Observatory speak.  However, Doctor Alan Kafka says he doesn't know why this particular area has been experiencing the earthquakes or whether a larger one is imminent.  A dozen earthquakes have hit the area since January 8th, ranging from quakes so minor no one felt them, to a magnitude 3.1 shaker on Monday that rattled dishes and nerves.


Marijuana Vapor Lounge Opens In Providence


Rhode Island’s first medical marijuana vapor lounge is now open in Providence.  The vapor lounge named Elevated opened on Saturday on Peck Street, with more than ten people visiting on the first day.  The lounge is run by a pair of Johnson and Wales University graduates who wanted to create a place for legal marijuana users to gather comfortably. 


Pair Charged In BB Gun Shootings


Two teenagers are facing multiple charges after they allegedly went on a BB gun shooting spree in three towns.  Police say the two suspects are identified as 18-year-olds Sage Mars of Charlestown and Christopher Badessa of Richmond.  The pair are accused of firing the BB gun at homes and cars in Charlestown, Hopkinton and Richmond.  Mars has been ordered held without bail because of previous recent arrests.


Whitehouse Returns From Cuba


Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse returns from Cuba today.  Whitehouse was included in a six member delegation of Democratic lawmakers chosen for the three-day visit to the island nation.  It's the first congressional delegation to visit the country since the warming of relations with Cuba.  The delegation has been meeting with government officials and others as the transition to normal relations continues.
 


Elorza Gets S.O.T.U. Invite


Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza is heading to Washington next week for President Obama's State of the Union Address.  Elorza will be the guest of Congressman Jim Langevin for the address at the Capitol next Tuesday.  Elorza says he's honored to accept the invitation, and that he looks forward to hearing Obama's plans to invest in the nation's cities. 


Providence Brewery Project Advancing


A plan to bring a contract brewing operation to Providence is moving forward.  Jeremy Duffy and Devin Kelly want to create the brewery in an old warehouse on Kinsley Avenue.  They would create the brewery, then handle production for craft brewers who have outgrown their capacity.  Duffy and Kelly expect to close on the purchase of the building by the end of the month.


Whitehouse Bringing Roberts To S.O.T.U. Address


Senator Sheldon Whitehouse's guest at next week's State of the Union Address will be former Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Roberts.  She is the current nominee for director of the state Executive Office of Health and Human Services.  Whitehouse says Rhode Island is a leader in healthcare reform largely because of her efforts.  President Obama is delivering the State of the Union on Tuesday night.


Health Exchange Sued Over Abortion


HealthSource RI is being sued by an anonymous state resident over abortion coverage.  The man claims his constitutional rights are being violated because his exchange plan would be forced to pay for abortions.  He says pro-life people should be able to obtain healthcare without having to violate their personal convictions.


Cities And Towns Owe Billions For Retirement


A new report indicates that Rhode Island cities and towns owe more than five-billion-dollars in unfunded benefits to retirees.  The report indicates that some pension plans only have 60-percent or less of assets needed to pay the benefits.  The report recommends that the state create an oversight board for all locally administered pension plans.  It also says towns should be required to file annual reports with the state on the health of their pension plans.


Narragansett Man Busted For Child Porn And More


A Narragansett man is facing all kinds of legal problems following his arrest this week.  State Police say they arrested Jack Rainey on charges accusing him of trading child pornography over the Internet.  When police searched his Basin Road home, they allegedly found an elaborate marijuana growing operation.  Rainey is not accused of engaging in inappropriate conduct with any minor children, but faces multiple felony charges.


DeFrances Retiring,Not Resigning


Department of Children, Youth and Families Director Janice DeFrances says she's retiring, not resigning.  The state informed employees Monday that DeFrances had resigned her position.  DeFrances says she was told last Friday that she should resign, but she never submitted a letter of resignation.  DeFrances says she wants the record clear that she is submitting retirement papers.


Eastern Ct. Shakes Yet Again


A 2.2-magnitude earthquake has rattled eastern Connecticut again.

In what's becoming a daily seismic event, the Weston Observatory of Boston College said the earthquake occurred at about 4:40 a.m. Thursday near Plainfield, where previous earthquakes were recorded.

It says two minor earthquakes were recorded on Wednesday and another on Tuesday.

Several were recorded on Monday and last week, too.

The observatory says that while the greatest earthquake activity in the United States is in the west, earthquakes are ``quite common'' in many areas of the eastern United States, including New England.

Plainfield officials have invited Alan Kafka, director of the observatory, to an informational meeting at 6:30 p.m. Friday at the town's high school.


Appeal Can Continue In Old Murder Case


A man accused of killing a woman in Woonsocket over three decades ago will be able to seek a new trial.  Raymond Tempest, Jr. was convicted in 1999 for the killing of Doreen Picard, and is serving an 85-year prison sentence.  Tempest is hoping the DNA evidence and new testimony could prove his innocence.  A hearing on the motion for a new trial is scheduled for February 2nd.


Block Island Deer Hunt Planned


A deer hunt is scheduled on Block Island to thin the island's herd.  Deer hunting is authorized at the Black Rock-Rodman Hollow tract beginning January 20th.  Hunting will be allowed Tuesday through Friday, with no hunting on weekends or Mondays.  The hunt will begin a half-hour before sunrise on allowed days and last until a half-hour after sunset. 


Fetus Found At Wastewater Plant


Police are investigating the discovery of a fetus at a waste water treatment plant in East Providence.  Police say the discovery was made by a worker at the Bucklin Point treatment facility.  Officials believe the fetus was around 20-weeks-old, and are concerned that the mother could need medical attention.  The facility processes sewage from East Providence, Pawtucket, Smithfield and Lincoln.


Raimondo Hosts First Cabinet Meeting


Governor Gina Raimondo and her cabinet are getting to know each other.  Raimondo held her first cabinet meeting behind closed doors at the State House yesterday.  After the meeting, the governor hosted an informal meet and greet for the cabinet and members of the General Assembly.  The governor says the assembled team will work together to ignite Rhode Island's comeback.


Raimondo Selects Familiar Name To Head Elderly Affairs


Gov. Gina Raimondo plans to nominate the state's outgoing director of labor and training to lead the elderly affairs division.

Raimondo announced Monday she'll ask the Senate to confirm Charles Fogarty. Fogarty was the director of the state's Department of Labor and Training for the past four years. Raimondo said last month that she would nominate a labor official in Maryland to be the state's director of labor and training, Scott Jensen.

Fogarty previously served as the lieutenant governor of Rhode Island and as a state senator.

Raimondo says Fogarty has shown a commitment to the state's senior citizens and she values his expertise leading a state agency.


Newport Mulls Ordinance Requiring Recycling At Public Events


Newport is considering an ordinance requiring recycling at public events.

The Newport Daily News reports that the proposed ordinance would require applicants for a special-event license to have a plan for the collection of waste and recyclables. All recycling and waste bins would have to be labeled and all the recyclables would be delivered and weighed at a recycling facility.

State law requires trash and recyclables to be collected separately and for the recyclables to be brought to a recycling facility. But almost no communities in Rhode island have passed ordinances outlining procedures for public events.

Newport has had a recycling rate of 23 percent for years. The state's mandatory recycling rate is 35 percent.

The City Council has scheduled a workshop to discuss the proposal for 6:30 p.m. Jan. 27.


I-195 Developer Buys Key Property



A developer seeking to build on a key I-195 parcel in Providence is buying a nightclub that abuts the property.  Friendship and Clifford is looking to create two student housing buildings on a parcel where the former highway passed.  One of the parcels is still occupied by The Spot nightclub, which is now being purchased by the company.  Friendship and Clifford laid out its proposal to the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission yesterday. 

 

 


R.I. Linked To Accused MIT Bank Robber


An MIT professor accused of bank robbery in New York may have also held up a bank in Providence.  Police say Joe Gibbons is a prime suspect in the robbery of a Providence Citizens Bank two months ago.  The suspect escaped with nearly three-thousand dollars in the Providence robbery, thanking the teller and saying the money was for the church.  Providence Police plan to charge Gibbons with second degree robbery.


Bill Would Lift R.I. Election Bake Sale Ban


A new legislative effort is underway to lift the ban on bake sales at Rhode Island polling places.  Cranston Senator Frank Lombardi is offering a bill to allow bake sales at polling places if they don't interfere with the election process.  Parent Teacher organizations had conducted bake sales at polling sites for years until the state Board of Elections ruled last year that they are illegal.  The bill already has more than one-dozen sponsors.


R.I. Gas Prices Take Another Double-Digit Dip


Gasoline prices are continuing to plummet in Rhode island and across the country.  Triple-A Southern New England says a gallon of self serve regular gas is selling for an average of two-dollars and 30-cents a gallon, which is down a dime from last week.  This marks 19 consecutive weeks with falling gas prices in RhodeIsland, and five straight weeks of decreases more than ten-cents a week.

 


R.I. DCYF Director Resigns



Janice DeFrances is out as director of Rhode Island's Department of Children, Youth and Families.  DeFrances submitted her resignation from the position to the Executive Office of Health and Human Services yesterday.  Department Deputy Director Kevin Aucoin will serve as interim director until a permanent replacement can be found.  Governor Gina Raimondo has expressed concerns with the way the agency has been run, and will be choosing the next director.


Providence School Superintendent Given Contract Extension


Providence School Superintendent Susan Lusi will be staying on in the administration of new Mayor Jorge Elorza.

The mayor said Friday that Lusi's contract, scheduled to expire in June, has been extended through the 2015-2016 school year.

Lusi says she's happy with the partnership and welcomes a "top-down review" of the schools' central administration Elorza has called for.

Elorza said the continuity of Lusi's leadership is important. She was appointed superintendent in 2012 after serving as interim leader of the district for a  year.  Prior to that, Lusi served as Superintendent of schools in Portsmouth from 2005 to 2011.

She has been credited with improving a district roiled by staff layoffs and the closure of five schools, and working out a joint teacher-management partnership to oversee some troubled schools.

Lusi and the school board recently agreed to give some schools more control over hiring and budgets.


Elorza Takes To Twitter Today


Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza is taking questions from residents on Twitter.

Elorza says reaching out to the community and broadening access to his administration are top priorities.

He is hosting a "Twitter Town Hall" on Monday from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. He will tweet from his office.

The Mayor's twitter handle is @Jorge_Elorza.

Questions can be posed using the hashtag #AskElorza.

Elorza took office as the 38th mayor of Providence one week ago. He says the town hall is an opportunity for him to get to know Providence residents better and to explain his vision.


Biting Bar Bandit Sought By Police


Police are looking for a suspect who tried to rob a Providence bar, then bit a customer.  The suspect tried to rob the Union Pub with a BB gun Saturday night, but was tackled by customers.  The suspect bit one of the customers on the finger and ran away.  Police are having a hard time getting a good description, as the man was wearing a mask at the time. 


Landmark Reimbursement Hike Rejected


A judge is rejecting an effort by the new owner of Landmark Healthcare Services to increase some minimum Medicaid reimbursement rates.  Prime Healthcare Services claimed that the sale of Landmark nullified its contracts with insurer Neighborhood Health Plans.  Landmark says they disagree with the ruling, and are considering an appeal.  Neighborhood Health Plans serves 147-thousand Medicaid patients in Rhode Island.


A.G. Says Beware Of Annual IRS Scams


Attorney General Peter Kilmartin is warning Rhode Island residents of an IRS scam that surfaces this time of year.  The scam involves a person receiving a phone call from someone claiming to be with the IRS threatening arrest if taxes aren't paid immediately.  Kilmartin says the IRS will never call and demand immediate payment.  If anyone receives such a call Kilmartin says they should simply hang up and report it to the Treasury inspector general.


R.I. Heating Oil Customers Enjoy Lower Bills


Rhode Island residents who heat their homes with oil are seeing some real savings this winter.  The low crude oil prices that are driving down gasoline prices are also reducing the cost of home heating oil.  The average price of heating oil last week was two-dollars-78-cents a gallon, more than a dollar cheaper than the same period a year ago.  A third of Rhode Island residents use oil to heat their homes, while only six-percent use oil for heat nationwide.


Robber Makes Off With Cash And A Coffee


WPRI-TV reports that Police are searching for a suspect in an armed robbery of a Dunkin’ Donuts.

Police say that a man entered the Dunkin’ Donuts on Bald Hill Road on Sunday night and lifted his shirt, showing a gun. The suspect took off with more than $100 dollars cash and a cup of coffee.

One employee was working at the time and was not hurt.

The suspect was wearing a green hooded sweatshirt and glasses. Anyone with information on the suspect should contact Warwick Police.


Raimondo Sees R.I. As Beneficiary From Olympics In Boston


Governor Gina Raimondo sees a major opportunity for Rhode Island's economy if Boston lands the Olympic Games in 2024.  The U.S. Olympic Committee yesterday selected Boston as their focus city for the nation's bid on the games that year.  Raimondo says the entire regional economy would benefit from the games coming to Boston.  She says it would be a tremendous opportunity to showcase the state and the region to the world.


N.K. Woman Killed In Woonsocket Crash


A 23-year-old North Kingstown woman is dead following a single vehicle crash in Woonsocket.  Police say Katherine Zullo died at the scene after her car crashed into a utility pole early yesterday morning on Providence Street.  Zullo has worked at the Matunuck Surf Shop in Wakefield for seven years, and recently graduated from the University of Rhode Island.  Her death remains under investigation.


Town May Sue Over Firefighter's Benefits


North Providence may head to court to prove that former firefighter Paul Labbadia collected retirement benefits he did not deserve.  Officials say Labbadia has ignored their request that he set up a repayment plan for the 180-thousand dollars in undue retirement benefits.  They say he served less than the 20 years required to collect pension and health benefits from the town.  Labbadia is currently suspended from his position as Coventry fire chief over misconduct allegations.


Raimondo Inauguration Raises $132,000 From 25 Donations


Twenty-five donors, including businesses and individuals, contributed more than $132,000 to Gov. Gina Raimondo's inauguration.

Mark Weiner, a Democratic fundraiser who co-chaired Raimondo's inaugural committee, said the group worked within a budget of $150,000 that includes in-kind donations.

He says all the events, including an open house at the State House and a skating session Saturday, are privately funded.

The committee capped business and individual donations at $15,000. Donors who contributed the $15,000 maximum were real estate developer the Carpionato Group; CVS; GTECH Corp.; and Laborers' International Union of North America.

AT&T, Verizon and the Hassenfeld Foundation donated $10,000.

Political committees associated with legislative leaders gave $1,000 or less.

The donations paid for Tuesday's inaugural festivities, which included a special WaterFire lighting and a party for Raimondo supporters at a restaurant.


Truck Driver Gets Probation In Cooking Oil Case


A truck driver who helped two brothers steal 200,000 gallons of used cooking oil from restaurants in Rhode Island and Massachusetts has been sentenced to three months of probation.

60-year-old Anthony Simone Sr. was sentenced in federal court in Providence Thursday. His lawyer says Simone didn't initially realize he was stealing and pleaded guilty early, once he realized the truth.

Seventy-eight-year-old Andrew Jeremiah and 72-year-old Bruce Jeremiah were sentenced in December to two years of probation, with the first six months in home confinement. They pleaded guilty to conspiring to unlawfully transport stolen goods.

Authorities say the oil was brought to the Jeremiahs' business in Central Falls, Rhode Island, and taken to a Pittsfield, New Hampshire, company for processing into animal feed and biofuel.


R.I. 2014 Drug Overdose Deaths Unchanged From 2013


State health officials say Rhode Island made no headway in reducing the death toll from apparent accidental drug overdoses in 2014.

Numbers to be released Friday show that 232 deaths were recorded, the same as in 2013.

State Health Director Michael Fine and others say the increased availability of Narcan, a medication that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, likely helped keep the death toll from climbing even higher.

Health officials say they've made little progress in curbing the volume of prescription painkillers prescribed and distributed.

Of those who died of drug overdoses in the first six months of 2014, half involved pharmaceutical drugs.

Health officials urge doctors and other health providers to check the state's database of controlled substances before prescribing medication.


Raimondo Going To Bat For PawSox


Gov. Gina Raimondo says she will meet with the mayor of Pawtucket to talk about how to keep the Pawtucket Red Sox in Rhode Island.

Raimondo says the PawSox are an institution in Rhode Island and "we have to try as hard as we can" to make sure they stay.

It was reported in The Boston Globe in November that members of the Boston Red Sox ownership group were negotiating to purchase the PawSox, the Boston Red Sox Triple-A affiliate.

Officials at both organizations have not commented.

Raimondo says Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien reached out to her.

The PawSox have played in McCoy Stadium for more than four decades.

The team won the 2014 International League championship.


Pats Playoff Game Beneficial To R.I.


The New England Patriots playoff game Saturday in Foxborough is going to be a nice business boost for providence.  The Baltimore Ravens, their media entourage and others associated with the team have booked more than 800 hotel rooms in Providence.  The city is still working to bring in more business, with a last minute marketing blitz in Baltimore recruiting fans to stay in Rhode Island.  

 


Bill Would Exempt Social Security From Taxes


The first bill offered in the Rhode Island State House this year would exempt pensions and Social Security from income tax for those over the age of 65.  The measure would also exempt military pensions, railroad retirement benefits and some other retirement funds from taxes.  House Speaker Nick Mattiello is a strong supporter of the concept, but says he expects the final product will not be as broad as the measure is currently written.


Plans Underway For Affordable Housing In Providence


A nonprofit working to revitalize the Olneyville section of Providence plans to turn foreclosed properties in the neighborhood into affordable housing units.

The Olneyville Housing Corporation's executive director, Frank Shea, says they have acquired several foreclosed properties around Amherst and Chaffee streets and that about 38 affordable apartments could be created if funding and tax credits can be acquired.

The plans include housing for homeless individuals. The corporation is working on a five-year plan to transform the neighborhood.

According to the corporation, the median household income in Olneyville is nearly $20,000 less than the state median and its unemployment rate is higher than the state rate.

A development with 40 affordable homes opened in Olneyville in 2013.


Over 26,000 Sign Up With HealthSource RI


More than 26,000 people have signed up for coverage on Rhode Island's health exchange next year.

HealthSource RI was set up as part of the federal Affordable Care Act.

Enrollment figures released Wednesday show that about 20,300 people renewed their coverage for 2015 so far, or 78 percent of those who were covered in 2014. About 6,000 people signed up for the first time and about 500 small employers completed applications.

Enrollment for 2015 ends Feb. 15.

Last year more than 25,000 people signed up for coverage.

Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island, United HealthCare and Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island are offering plans through the exchange.


JC Penney To Close Providence Place Mall Store


Department store chain J.C. Penney Co. has notified owners of the Providence Place mall that it will close its outlet before the end of the year.

Management at the Providence store began notifying employees this week.

A spokesman for Providence Place mall said it's too soon to determine any impact on the property.

The Penney store opened in Providence Place in February 2006.

In the third quarter posted in November, Penney lost $188 million, or 62 cents per share. Earlier in 2014, it cut 2,000 jobs and closed 33 stores.


Portrait Of Former Gov. Chafee To Be Hung In State House


The portrait of former Gov. Lincoln Chafee is about to be hung in the State House, but the former chief executive says he won't attend the unveiling.

State officials are expected to receive his official portrait next week.

Chafee informed the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, which oversees the portrait project, that he'll skip the unveiling to avoid distracting from the start of Gov. Gina Raimondo's administration.

Rhode Island law calls for the commissioning of an official portrait of governors before they leave office.

About 124 portrait artists answered the council's call last spring to paint Chafee's portrait.

Chafee gave the job to Providence artist Julie Gearan, a faculty member at the Rhode Island School of Design and Roger Williams University.


Johnson & Wales Closing In On Marina Purchase


Johnson and Wales University is close to finalizing its purchase of the neighboring Port Edgewood Marina on the Providence-Cranston line.

Spokeswoman Madeline Parmenter says that the college has entered into a purchase and sale agreement and expects to close on this agreement early this year.

The school would not disclose the purchase price, or what they plan to do with the site.

According to a listing, the 3.2 acre property featuring 154 boat slips was on the market for $3.2 million.


Raimondo Drops Behavioral Health Chief


The head of the state Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals has resigned after being informed that Gov. Gina Raimondo would not reappoint him.

Craig S. Stenning was appointed director of the agency that oversees the care of adults with mental health needs in 2008 by Gov. Donald L. Carcieri. He was reappointed in 2011 by Gov. Lincoln Chafee.

Stephen Neuman, Raimondo's chief of staff, said the governor believes new leadership in the agency is needed. He said her decision was due to a "whole series of reasons," but he was not specific.

A U.S. Department of Justice investigation found civil rights violations in the agency's day programs for about 3,600 adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Stenning promised to close so-called sheltered workshops by 2017.

A new director has not been announced.

 


Consultant For 38 Studios Files Complaint Against Mollis


A consultant for failed video-game company 38 Studios has filed a complaint against former secretary of state A. Ralph Mollis, seeking to appeal a decision that he should have registered as a lobbyist.

Attorney Michael Corso filed his complaint Jan. 2 in Superior Court. It says a hearing process convened by Mollis was unlawful and an abuse of discretion.

Mollis adopted a decision last month calling on Corso to retroactively register as a lobbyist for 2010 or face a $2,000 fine.

Nellie Gorbea, who became secretary of state on Tuesday, said she will review 38 Studios and the state's lobbying laws before making a decision on the appeal.

Curt Schilling's failed video game company had received a $75 million state loan guarantee.


Raimondo To Join Faith Leaders Backing Anti-Poverty Drive


On her first full day in office, Gov. Gina Raimondo will join speakers from Rhode Island's faith community who are seeking support for legislation to fight poverty.

Faith leaders are scheduled to march Wednesday from the Gloria Dei Lutheran Church to the State House.

Raimondo and the Rev. W. Nicholas Knisely, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island are scheduled to speak.

Among legislation being sought are measures dealing with so-called payday loans, family cash assistance and legislation to prevent homelessness.

Several other states have targeted payday lending. Advocates argue that it offers access to credit for people who don't qualify for bank loans, but opponents call it a trap that makes money off the poor.

Other speakers scheduled include Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed and House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello.

 


Former Coach Guilty Of Child Molestation


A former Bristol youth football coach is guilty of molesting a young man for several years in the 1990s.  The victim testified that 61-year-old Jesse Perry began molesting him when he was ten-years-old.  Testimony in the bench trial also came from two other young men who say Perry inappropriately touched them.  Perry is being held without bail.


State House "Die-In" Held


A group that is working to help people addicted to drugs wants to make sure the opiate overdose crisis is on the radar of lawmakers.  More than 100 people with the group Rhode Island Cares staged a die-in at the State House in providence yesterday.  The group wanted to send a message on the first day of the legislative session that too many people are dying from overdoses, largely from heroin. 


Mattiello,Paiva-Weed Elected Leaders


As expected, the Rhode Island General Assembly has selected Nick Mattiello to be House speaker and Teresa Pavia Weed as Senate president.  Mattiello took over as speaker last year when Gordon Fox abruptly resigned.  Pavia Weed and Mattiello were both unanimous selections as leaders in their respective chambers.  Both pledge that a new era of cooperation with Governor Gina Raimondo has arrived. 


State Plans Audits Of Quasi-Public Agencies


The Rhode Island Bureau of Audits has set the first five-year schedule of audits for the state’s quasi-public agencies.

Sen. James C. Sheehan introduced legislation that passed last year to require the audits, to hold these agencies to a higher standard and ensure transparency. Regular audits for quasi-public agencies were not required by statute in the past.

In 2015 the board will audit the Tobacco Settlement Financing Corporation, Convention Center Authority, Health and Educational Building Corporation and the Turnpike and Bridge Authority. Audits will later be conducted for the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission, Quonset Development Corporation, Public Transit Authority and others.

Sheehan says these agencies perform essential government functions and manage significant public resources. He says it’s essential that their decisions and budgets are open to public scrutiny.


Kilmartin Launches Cell Phone Drive


 Attorney General Peter Kilmartin is launching a cell phone drive to benefit the victims of domestic violence.  Kilmartin says his office is collecting old phones for the organization Hopeline.  The old phones are given to domestic violence victims, which can be a life saving tool during an emergency.  The phones can be dropped off all month at Kilmartin's Providence office and at courthouses in Newport, Warwick and Wakefield.


Pawtucket Aims To Keep PawSox


 Pawtucket officials say they plan to do whatever possible to keep the PawSox baseball team playing in the city for years to come.  The PawSox have been a Boston Red Sox minor league affiliate since 1970, and their top level Triple-A team since 1973.  The team is reportedly in the process of being sold, although there is no confirmation on that from the team.  The PawSox drew an average of 74-hundred fans a game last year.

 


Raimondo To Be Inaugurated State's 1st Female Governor


Gina Raimondo will be sworn in as Rhode Island's first female governor in a ceremony outside the Statehouse.

Today's inaugural will be at noon on the south portico.

The ceremony will include a 19-gun salute, music by the Rhode Island National Guard's 88th Army Band and the Pledge of Allegiance, led by the Cumberland Little League team that competed in the 2014 Little League World Series.

It is open to the public.

Raimondo served as the state treasurer. She has pledged to be the "jobs governor." She wants to oversee a resurgence of manufacturing and invest in areas where the state already has competitive advantages, such as tourism.

Also being inaugurated are Lt. Gov. Dan McKee, Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, General Treasurer Seth Magaziner and Attorney General Peter Kilmartin.


5 Top State Officers In R.I. Receive Raises


Rhode Island's top five elected officials are getting raises.

By law, salaries paid to the governor and other general officers may go up once every four years. The pay raises reflect the rise in the Consumer Price Index for the Northeast for the previous four years, or about 8 percent.

The governor's annual salary is rising to $139,695 a year from $129,210. The attorney general will be paid $124,991, up from $115,610.

According to information from Allison Rogers, policy director at the Department of Administration, salaries paid to the lieutenant governor, treasurer and secretary of state are rising to $117,637 from $108,808.


Tobin,Citing Abortion,Rejects Raimondo Inauguration Invite


Rhode Island's Catholic leader has rejected an invitation to Gov.-elect Gina Raimondo's inauguration, citing their differences on abortion.

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin said Monday he rejected the invitation because of Raimondo's stance on "the grave moral evil" of abortion.

He added that he appreciated the invitation, but that he'll be offering Mass at the same time Tuesday.

Raimondo's office did not immediately return a call this morning seeking comment.

Tobin said after the Nov. 4 election he hoped to "build some bridges" with Raimondo.


Atwells Avenue Bridge Closes Today


The Atwells Avenue Bridge in Providence is closing today for rehabilitation.  The span is expected to be closed for around a year as the extensive work takes place.  The project will cost more than two-million dollars, and is designed to repair damage caused by flooding in 2010.  Officials say that closing the bridge completely instead of using lane closures will save money and time on the project.


Raimondo Inauguration Set For Tomorrow


Gina Raimondo will be sworn in as Rhode Island's 75th governor tomorrow.  Raimondo defeated Republican Allan Fung and Moderate Party candidate Bob Healey on Election Day, and is set to become the state's first female governor.  The swearing-in is slated for noon tomorrow in the South Portico of the State House in Providence.  However, the inauguration will be moved to Veterans Memorial Auditorium in the event of inclement weather.


Police Officer Struck By Fleeing Car


A Cranston police officer is recovering after being struck by a fleeing vehicle over the weekend.  The officer approached a car in the parking lot of a Cranston Street restaurant when the driver put the vehicle in reverse and struck him.  The officer was investigating suspected drug activity in the vehicle when he was struck, and fired several shots that struck the vehicle but missed the driver.  Alicia Mattera of Central Falls was arrested a short time later and faces multiple felony charges.


Elorza Becomes Providence Mayor Today


Jorge Elorza takes over as mayor of Providence today.  Elorza will be sworn in this afternoon at City Hall, with a post inauguration celebration scheduled for tonight at the Cranston Street Armory.  Elorza succeeds Angel Tavaras, who decided to run for governor but lost the Democratic primary to Gina Raimondo.  Elorza held a weekend of events leading up to today's inauguration, and encouraged city residents to help those less fortunate to mark his election as mayor.


Illinois Congressman Plans R.I. Visit


Illinois Congressman Luis Gutierrez is planning a trip to Providence this month.  Gutierrez and Rhode Island Congressman David Cicilline and others will be on hand for a forum January 14th on President Obama's immigration executive order.  The event is the first stop in a nationwide tour planned by Gutierrez .  He will be traveling the country to educate immigrants about applying for work permits and other benefits of the executive order.


Elorza Plans Weekend Inauguration Events


Providence Mayor-elect Jorge Elorza tomorrow kicks off a weekend of events leading up to his inauguration into office on Monday.  Elorza is asking that residents perform charitable acts tomorrow to recognize his election.  The Rhode Island Community Food Bank will be collecting donations in several locations around the city on Saturday as part of the effort.  The inauguration will take place at two p.m. Monday at City Hall.


Fall River Murder Suspect Nabbed In Newport


Police arrested a man in Newport on Thursday in connection with a New Year's Day murder in Fall River.

The Bristol County District Attorney's office says Jeffrey Souza, 24, of Fall River, has been charged with carrying an illegal, loaded firearm. The district attorney's office said it cannot comment further on Souza's connection to Thursday's murder as state and local police are still investigating.

Police responding to the intersection of Albert Street and Huard Street at around 1:17 a.m. found a man shot. Kyle Brady, 28, of Fall River, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Souza was arrested without incident by police in Newport shortly before noon Thursday. He has been charged in Rhode Island with being a fugitive from justice and will be arraigned Friday morning in Newport County District Court on that charge.

If Souza waives rendition, he will be transported back to Massachusetts to be arraigned on the illegal firearm charges either Friday or Monday, the Bristol district attorney's office said.


Non-Profit Hopes To Sell 19th Century Home


A nonprofit group hopes to sell a historic home to help finance day-to-day operations.

The Resources Holding Society took over the house once belonging to the 19th-century writer Edward Everett Hale.

James Aukerman, president of the group, says the property in South Kingstown is part of the cultural and physical landscape of South County and that a private benefactor will provide needed financial help.

The Pettaquamscutt Historical Society bought the 141-year-old house in 2006, restored it and opened it to the public. It closed it last summer due to a lack of money.

The South Kingstown Land Trust is considering whether to help a new owner financially. Joanne Riccitelli, director of land protection, said it would be a departure for the group, which protects land from development.


Traffic Stop Turns Up 126 Bogus Credit Cards


Rhode Island State Police have arrested a man accused of having 126 fraudulent credit cards.

Police say 22-year-old Jibri Eady, of Brooklyn, New York, was charged with possessing 15 or more counterfeit access devices and arraigned Wednesday in U.S. District Court. He was remanded pending a hearing on Monday.

Police say Eady was stopped Tuesday on Interstate 95 in West Greenwich, Rhode Island for speeding and he was taken into custody for driving with a suspended license. They say troopers found credit cards with his name and another person's name on Eady and inside his vehicle.

They say 133 credit cards were seized and 126 were found to be fraudulent, drawn from at least nine financial institutions.


Rhode Island A.G.: Research Gyms Before Enrolling


People pledging to join a gym as a New Year's resolution are being advised to do some research before signing up.

Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin says some consumers don't know their rights and aren't asking the right questions before they enroll at a gym or health club.

He says consumers should thoroughly read the contract and make sure it includes all fees and services, as well as promises made by salespeople. The total costs should be written down, as should details about how to cancel membership.

Kilmartin says consumers can also check with the Better Business Bureau to see if complaints have been filed.

He says anyone who wishes to file a complaint against a health club in Rhode Island may do so at http://www.riag.ri.gov .


Providence Ended Fiscal Year With Surplus


The city of Providence has ended its last fiscal year with a $1.1 million surplus.

An annual independent audit of city finances announced Wednesday confirms that the city had $1.1 million when fiscal year 2014 ended on June 30.

Mayor Angel Taveras says the surplus is the result of years of hard work, discipline and shared sacrifice. The city had a $1.6 million surplus at the end of fiscal year 2013.

Taveras worked to close a city budget deficit that once stood at $110 million. He says the remaining deficit stands at $8.6 million.

The mayor ends his single four-year term on Monday. He ran for governor but lost in the Democratic primary to Gina Raimondo, now the governor-elect.

Taveras will be succeeded by fellow Democrat Jorge Elorza.


Scammers Pretend To Be From County Court


Attorney General Peter Kilmartin is warning consumers about a new scam where someone claims to be from the Providence County Court.

Kilmartin says the scam artist demands payment of a monetary fine by a pre-paid debit card over the phone, or in person at Providence City Hall. He says a man contacted his office after he received a call from an individual claiming to be from the court, informing him of a warrant.

Kilmartin says the number that appeared on the consumer's caller ID was a fax number at the Rhode Island Supreme Court clerk's office. He says the scam is a highly sophisticated way to trick consumers.

The Rhode Island Judiciary does not contact individuals for outstanding warrants and law enforcement agencies don't accept payments in lieu of arrest.


State Stocks Ponds With Trout For Winter Fishing


The state Department of Environmental Management is stocking a total of about 3,000 trout in eight ponds throughout Rhode Island.

Trout are typically added to the ponds for ice fishing. The department says the ponds will still be stocked beginning Tuesday even though there's currently no ice because people can fish from shore.

The winter fishing season ends Feb. 28. The stocked fish are expected to hold over for the opening day of trout season on April 11.

Anglers must have a current fishing license and trout conservation stamp to keep a trout and there is a two trout per day limit.


Popular Providence Restaurant Heavily Damaged In Fire


The popular Pearl Restaurant and Lounge in Providence has been heavily damaged by a fire, but there were no reported injuries.

Fire officials say the blaze was reported at about 2 a.m. Wednesday and flames were already shooting out the doors and smoke was pouring from the second floor when firefighting crews arrived.

It took eight fire engines, five ladder trucks and two rescue vehicles to fight the blaze at the Charles Street restaurant.

The cause remains under investigation.

According to its website, the Pearly had a New Year's Eve party planned.


Atwells Avenue Bridge About To Close


Driving around Providence is about to get a little more complicated with the closure of the Atwells Avenue Bridge.

The state Transportation Department says the bridge is scheduled to close for a $2.5 million repair project starting Jan. 5, and will remain closed for about a year. The project will repair the top portion of the structure, damaged during the floods of 2010.

Officials tell The Providence Journal that closing the bridge entirely will cut the time it takes to complete the job in half.

The bridge crosses the Woonasquatucket River between Eagle Street and Tuxedo Avenue.

Information on detours during the project is available at http://www.dot.ri.gov/detourmaps .


State Inauguration Plans Set For Jan. 6


A celebratory WaterFire, open house and other events have been announced by Gov.-elect Gina Raimondo for her inauguration next week.

Inaugurations for all Rhode Island general officers are set for Jan. 6. Raimondo will begin the day with 9 a.m. Mass at her parish, St. Raymond's Roman Catholic Church in Providence. Swearing-in ceremonies will begin at noon on the South Portico of the State House.

A celebratory WaterFire will follow, beginning at 6 p.m.

Each general officer will host a party open to the public at restaurants.

Events will continue Jan. 10 when Raimondo and her husband, Andy Moffit, host an open house at the State House.

Raimondo and her family also will host a public skating session.


Rogers Player Collapses,Dies During Practice


A 15-year-old high school student in Newport has collapsed at basketball practice and died.

The Newport Daily News reports that Will Foreman, a sophomore at Rogers High School, was participating in a vacation-week practice session Tuesday with his coaches and teammates when he was stricken.

Coaches administered CPR until Newport firefighters arrived and took over. Foreman was declared dead at Newport Hospital.

No cause of death was announced Tuesday.

The school's girls' basketball team cancelled a game scheduled for Tuesday and boys' basketball activities have been called off indefinitely.

Grief counselors and School Department staff were to be at Rogers High School Wednesday to offer help.


State Students Fare Poorly On GED


The number of Rhode Island students passing the GED high school test is way down this year.  Officials say 225 people had passed the test through early December, way down from the 23-hundred that passed it in 2013.  Educators say the huge drop is likely because the test is new this year, and students are still adjusting to the new exam.  A similar decline was reported when the test was last changed in 2002.


R.I. Health Director Says Flu Now Officially "Widespread"


Rhode Island Health Director Michael Fine says the flu is officially widespread in the state.  Fine's declaration means that all healthcare workers who are not immunized must wear surgical masks when seeing patients.  Even those who had a flu shot this year may not be safe, as the vaccine is not well matched to this year's flu strain.  Hundreds of people die each year in the state from the flu, and Fine is urging anyone who has not been immunized to get a shot immediately, as it's still the best way for people to protect themselves.


Raimondo Names New HealthSourceRI Head


  There's a new leader of HealthSource RI, the state's health insurance exchange created by the Affordable Care Act.  Governor-elect Gina Raimondo is appointing Anya Rader Wallack to replace Christine Ferguson atop the exchange.  Rader Wallack currently is president of a Fall River-based health consulting company.  Raimondo says Rader Wallack brings the right mix of policy expertise, management skill and innovative thinking to this challenging position.

 


R.I. Gas It's Lowest In 5 Years


Gas prices in Rhode Island have fallen to the lowest point in five years.

AAA Southern New England says in its weekly survey released Monday that the price of a gallon of regular had fallen 10 cents since last week, to an average $2.52.

The last time gas was this inexpensive was in October 2009.

The price of a gallon of gas is 40 percent  lower than it was at this time last year, or $1.02 less. In the last month alone, gas prices have dropped 41 cents per gallon.

Prices in Rhode Island are still 23 cents higher than the national average of $2.29 per gallon.


Court Throws Out Fiefighter's Gay Pride Lawsuit


The Rhode Island Supreme Court has thrown out lawsuits by two Providence firefighters who said their constitutional rights were violated when they were ordered to drive a truck in a gay pride parade.

The firefighters, Theodore Fabrizio and Stephen Deninno, argued that they are Roman Catholics and therefore do not support or condone homosexuality.

Writing for the high court, Justice William Robinson said that the men appeared in the 2001 parade as public servants, and that did not constitute a form of expression. He said it was a legitimate work assignment.


Portsmouth Mom Files Complaint Over School Health Records


A Portsmouth woman has complained to the state attorney general's office after saying she was illegally denied access to her 10-year-old daughter's school health records.

Kristel Massarotti claims in the letter she repeatedly tried to get the fifth-grader's records from Portsmouth Middle School, but the school department only agreed to a partial release of the information.

The department, according to the complaint, said in a response that the additional records she requested were not public information.

Massarotti says her daughter has a medical condition and has a plan under the state's rehabilitation law.

The attorney general's office said it was reviewing the complaint.

School officials were not available for comment during the Christmas holiday.


Warwick Police Nab 2 For Bank Heist


 Warwick police have arrested two men in connection with a robbery at the Citizens Bank on West Shore Road.

 25-year-old Michael Watts and 26-year-old Andrew Feinstein, both of North Kingstown, face charges including second-degree robbery and conspiracy. Feinstein also was charged with possessing heroin.

Both were taken into custody by North Kingstown police. Watts has been remanded to the Adult Correctional Institutions in Cranston on $50,000 bail.

Police say they have recovered some of the money taken during Friday's robbery, as well as other evidence that links the two men to the crime.

It couldn't immediately be determined whether they had retained lawyers.


Fire Displaces Cumberland Family


A fire in a bedroom has displaced a family in Cumberland.

The Providence Journal reports that the fire happened about 4:20 a.m. Sunday in one of two units in a house on Boyle Avenue. Firefighters extinguished the flames within 20 minutes. There were no injuries.

The American Red Cross says it is helping the three adults and three children from the displaced family with emergency housing, food and other needs. Neighbors who live in the adjoining unit were able to return home.


Group Hopes To Bring Birds Back To Island


The Rose Island Lighthouse Foundation has started a $100,000 campaign to restore the habitat for herons and other shoreline birds on the 17-acre island in Narragansett Bay.

The foundation’s executive director, David McCurdy, tells the Newport Daily News  that there were about 300 pairs of herons laying eggs on the island a decade ago, but now there are none.

Some experts believe the disappearance has to do with the impact of humans, but others say it could be changes in the food supply or an overgrowth of brush on the island.

The foundation plans to clear out specific areas and plant cedar trees to attract the birds.


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