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1540 WADK.com Updates Archives for 2014-12

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.

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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 .

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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College Plan Gifts Reach Milestone


  The online gift tool on the state's 529 college savings plan is proving to be popular.  State officials say gifts through CollegeBoundFund's online tool have surpassed one-million-dollars.  The program is designed to help families save for future college education expenses that can be used at schools nationwide.  Governor-elect Gina Raimondo says she is a strong supporter of the program, and two of her children have accounts.

 

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Aldi's Considers Vacant Shaw's Location


A long vacant space in Westerly formerly occupied by a Shaw's supermarket may be getting a new tenant.  Supermarket chain Aldi's apparently is considering the 18-thousand square foot space at Franklin Plaza that Shaw's vacated in the summer of 2013.  Shaw's has continued to pay the lease on the vacant space.  Aldi's reportedly does not want to occupy the entire space, which has created a problem for the property owner who would be forced to find other tenants to fill out the space.

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Providence Cinema Says It'll Show "The Interview"


The owner of a Providence cinema says he'll show the film "The Interview."

Sony Pictures Entertainment decided to screen its film in a limited number of theaters. Cable Car Cinema & Cafe owner Daniel Kamil (kah-MEEL') says he hopes to start showing it Friday.

Kamil says he's surprised, but more relieved, that Sony is releasing it.

Sony's cancellation of the North Korea satire following terrorist threats from hackers drew widespread criticism, including from President Barack Obama.

Kamil says he doesn't believe anyone will retaliate against his cinema when he shows the movie. He says he has been inundated with requests for it and he thinks the showings will sell out quickly.

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State Approves Spending For Energy Efficiency


State utility regulators have approved spending more than $100 million for energy efficiency programs for residential, industrial and commercial customers.

The Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission unanimously approved the state's 2015 Energy Efficiency Program Plan. The plan funds the energy efficiency programs for electric and natural gas customers.

About $87 million was set aside for electric programs, such as providing high-efficiency lighting for homes and businesses. And $24.5 million was set aside for gas programs, such as rebates for high-efficiency heating systems and weatherization.

The plan is expected to generate about $2.45 in energy savings and other economic benefits for every $1 invested in the electric programs and $1.97 for every $1 invested in the natural gas programs.

The commission reviews the energy efficiency programs annually.

 

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Samuel Adams-Era Time Capsule To Be Opened Jan. 6th


Officials say they'll reveal the contents of a time capsule dating to 1795 and believed placed by Samuel Adams and other Revolutionary War luminaries early next month.

The state of Massachusetts and the Museum of Fine Arts say the contents of the capsule unearthed at the Statehouse will be unveiled on Jan. 6.

The small capsule is believed to contain items such as old coins, documents, newspapers and a metal plate owned by Paul Revere. Officials believe some of the items likely deteriorated over time.

Originally made of cowhide, the capsule was believed to have been embedded in a cornerstone when construction on the state Capitol began in 1795. Adams was governor of Massachusetts at the time. The contents were shifted to a copper box in 1855.

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State Distributes $5.3 Million In Federal Funding


Gov. Lincoln Chafee says 26 Rhode Island municipalities will receive nearly $5.3 million in grants to improve their neighborhoods.

The state manages the community development grant program for municipalities that don't receive funds directly from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The state distributes money from HUD to these towns.

This year many of the grants aim to increase the supply of housing available for low and moderate-income families and to further economic development projects in distressed neighborhoods.

Chafee says the grants will help municipalities offer more housing and create economic opportunities for Rhode Islanders.

Burrillville and Central Falls are each slated to receive $550,000. West Warwick was awarded $530,000 and Tiverton was given about $520,000. The grants still have to be approved by the municipalities.

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Raimondo Makes Two More Administration Nominations


Gov.-elect Gina Raimondo plans to nominate a labor official in Maryland to be the state's director of labor and training.

Raimondo announced Tuesday she'll ask the Senate to confirm Scott Jensen. Jensen is the deputy secretary of the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.         

She says Jensen developed a program in Maryland that has become a national model for providing people with the skills they need to compete in today's economy.          

Raimondo, a Democrat, also said she's nominating a member of her transition staff to be the human services director. Melba Depena led a crime victims' compensation unit in the treasurer's office before joining Raimondo's gubernatorial campaign.  

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State Extends Health Care Signup Deadline


Rhode Island's health insurance exchange is extending the deadline for residents hoping to sign up for coverage beginning on Jan. 1.

HealthSource RI announced on Monday that people who can't meet today’s original deadline will now have until Dec. 31 to enroll. They must also pay the first month's premium by Jan. 15.

HealthSource officials caution, however, that customers who enroll after today may not receive their insurance cards or have active coverage on the first of the year. That could mean having to pay upfront for any care they receive during the gap and be reimbursed by their insurer after submitting receipts.

Individuals can choose health plans and enroll for coverage through the HealthSource website. They can also call or visit walk-in centers in Providence or Warwick between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m.

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Reed Asks For Federal Funds For Heating Bills


U.S. Sen. Jack Reed says he's urging the president to boost funding for a program that helps low-income families and seniors pay their winter heating bills.

The Rhode Island Democrat and Maine's U.S. Sen. Susan Collins are leading a group of 43 senators trying to get more funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. In a letter to President Barack Obama they said no less than $4.7 billion should be available for it in the fiscal 2016 budget.

Congress provided $3.39 billion in heating assistance for the 2015 fiscal year.

Reed says the program serves 20 percent of the eligible population at the current funding level and average grants dropped by nearly $100 since 2010, to $424.

He says about 34,000 Rhode Islanders used the program last year.

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Traffic Changes Near S.K. Rail Station


The Rhode Island Department of Transportation says changes in traffic patterns will affect a South Kingstown rail station until August.

The DOT says the traffic changes will affect Railroad Avenue and access to Kingston Station off Route 138. It says work begins today under the Route 138 overpass, temporarily closing that part of the avenue. It says public transportation to the station won't be affected.

Access will be maintained from the north and the south on Railroad Avenue. Pedestrian access will be maintained under the bridge, linking the station and a new overflow parking lot.

The DOT has removed traffic islands on Route 138 at Railroad Avenue and allowed left turns for eastbound and westbound traffic. It says it'll make repairs to prolong the life of the bridge, which passes over Amtrak's Northeast Corridor.

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Labaddia Benefits Terminated


North Providence officials are bringing the pension and health benefits to an abrupt end for former town firefighter Paul Labbadia.  Town officials say Labbadia had not accrued enough time to qualify for retirement benefits when he stopped reporting for work in 2005.  Labbadia is currently suspended from his job as Coventry fire chief because of misconduct allegations.

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Mattiello Casts Doubt On Health Exchange


House Speaker Nick Mattiello says the future of Rhode Island's health insurance exchange is in doubt.  Mattiello says the cost of the exchange has not been justified so far.  The speaker says the exchange needs to provide efficient service to state residents.  If that is not possible, he says all options are on the table, including handing the program back to the federal government.

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State Offering Grants To Promote Local Products


Rhode Island is offering up to $230,000 in grants to farmers and fishermen to help market locally grown products.

The Department of Environmental Management says the grants are available through a program that aims to increase the economic competitiveness of the state's agriculture and seafood sectors.

The program is backed by $100,000 in state funds and $130,000 in matching funds from the van Beuren Charitable Foundation, the Henry P. Kendall Foundation and the Rhode Island Foundation.

Nonprofit organizations and small and beginning businesses are eligible to apply for the grants, which are capped at $20,000. No matching funds are required. Funding is provided up front and can be used for projects of up to two years.

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URI Gets More Than $400,000 In Tech Grants


The University of Rhode Island has been awarded three grants totaling more than $400,000 to buy state-of-the-art technology to support teaching and research.

The university announced the three grants from the Champlin Foundations. The money will pay for new teaching and research tools for in-vitro testing of pharmaceuticals, advanced characterization of powders and imaging of nanoscale materials and processes.

URI Foundation President Mike Smith says the projects will help expand opportunities for students and position the university as a leading institution. The Champlin Foundations have donated more than $13 million to the university since 1986.

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N.Providence Seeks To Recoup Benefits


North Providence officials are seeking to recoup about $180,000 in retirement benefits from a former member of the department who is under investigation in another town.

Coventry Fire Chief Paul Labbadia previously worked at the North Providence fire department. Labbadia is being investigated for possible misconduct in Coventry.

North Providence officials reviewed payroll records and found that Labbadia did not reach the 20 years of service with the department necessary to collect benefits from the town. Mayor Charles Lombardi says he intends to recoup the money.

Labbadia allegedly provided documents to the state retirement board indicating he worked as an on-call firefighter for more years than town records show, according to the report.

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Vote Planned On Electric Rate-Hike Request


The Public Utilities Commission will soon decide whether electric rates will increase 24 percent.

The commission considered the rate-hike request at a meeting last week and plans to vote tomorrow in Warwick.

A crowd chanted "just say no" during the 2 ½-hour meeting last week. The George Wiley Center, a poverty advocacy group in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, is encouraging people who are against the proposal to attend Tuesday's meeting as well.

Thomas Kogut, a spokesman for the PUC, has said many regional utility companies have filed for similar increases because of constraints on the gas pipeline that force up the price of electricity generation.

Opponents say a hike of about $21 a month for the average consumer is too much for many to pay.

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Gov.-Elect Picks Emergency Management Director


Governor-elect Gina Raimondo has appointed the head of emergency management in Providence to lead the state emergency management department.

Raimondo says Peter Gaynor has done an outstanding job in Providence. She says he has the background and training necessary to help the state prepare for emergency situations and keep Rhode Island families safe.

Gaynor served 26 years in the U.S. Marine Corps before becoming the director of the Providence Emergency Management Agency in 2008.

He succeeds current EMA Director Jamia McDonald. Raimondo indicated that McDonald would continue to serve in state government.

Raimondo also participated in a tabletop exercise to simulate an emergency situation Saturday at the state's emergency management headquarters in Cranston, Rhode Island. The participants went through the steps they would take during a blizzard.

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Holiday Train Runs Out Of Gas



The Polar Express train ride with about 75 people aboard ran out of gas on a Sunday run, stranding about 75 people for almost three hours.

The Newport Daily News reports that the train began the run about 4:30 p.m. near the Montaup Country Club and ran out of gas on the way back to its terminal.

Diesel gas was brought in, but the engine would not start.

Police brought in shuttles and all passengers were taken off the train by 8 p.m


The Newport & Narragansett Bay Railroad took over the holiday ride known as the Polar Express, named after the award winning children’s book and movie, from the Old Colony and Newport Railway this year.

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Elorza To Keep Safety Commish,Police Chief


 The mayor-elect of Providence says he's keeping the current public safety commissioner and police chief.

Jorge Elorza said Friday that Commissioner Steven M. Pare and Chief Hugh T. Clements have decades of experience in law enforcement and he's confident in their abilities and commitment.

Elorza says the department will implement new rules in January to address concerns about police conduct and the relationship between the police and the community.

The rules call for quarterly reviews of traffic stop data to determine whether racial disparities exist, and for additional checks to ensure officers are following department policies and procedures. Elorza also wants to seek funding for body cameras.

Pare became commissioner in 2011 and previously served as superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police. Clements joined the department in 1985.

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Brown Getting New Spokeswoman


Brown University is getting a new spokeswoman.

The university announced it has selected Cass Cliatt to succeed current spokeswoman Marisa Quinn.

Cliatt is the current spokeswoman at Franklin & Marshall College, a liberal arts college in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She begins at Brown on April 1.

Brown President Christina Paxson says Cliatt's background in journalism and digital communications and her experience in higher education position her perfectly to guide the continuing development of communications at Brown.

Cliatt has also worked as the director of news and editorial services at Princeton University. She is a graduate of Princeton and of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

Cliatt says she looks forward to sharing Brown's story.

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Historical Park Established In Blackstone Valley


The Blackstone River Valley is the newest national historical park.

U.S. Sen. Jack Reed has been pushing a plan for a Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park for years. The president signed the Rhode Island Democrat's legislation establishing the park Friday.

The park is along the Blackstone River and includes significant sites in old mill towns and buildings. The Old Slater Mill in Pawtucket  is the first successful cotton-spinning factory in the United States. Sites in North Smithfield and Cumberland and Whitinsville and Hopedale, Massachusetts, are also included.

Reed says the Blackstone Valley is a national treasure that is getting the recognition it deserves.

The area is already home to a national heritage corridor that links communities along the Blackstone River from Worcester, Massachusetts, to Providence.

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R.I. To Benefit From T-Mobile Settlement


Rhode Island will receive nearly $200,000 from a settlement with T-Mobile for billing customers for cellphone text services they didn't order.

The Federal Trade Commission announced Friday that T-Mobile will issue at least $90 million in refunds and fines for the unauthorized charges, a practice known as "cramming." The fourth-largest U.S. cellphone company is also paying $18 million in fines to the 50 states and the District of Columbia, and $4.5 million in fines to the Federal Communications Commission.

Rhode Island Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin said Friday that the state will receive nearly $200,000. He says the state also received about $220,000 from a cramming settlement with AT&T in October.

The FTC sued T-Mobile in July. T-Mobile is accepting claims online

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Wein To Be Honored


The founder of the Newport jazz and folk festivals is being honored by The Recording Academy.

George Wein, a jazz pianist-turned-impresario, was selected to receive the academy's Trustees Award for outstanding contributions in areas other than performance.

It will be presented during a February ceremony in Los Angeles and acknowledged during the 57th annual Grammy Awards.

Wein, the founder and chairman of Newport Festivals Foundation, Inc., has spearheaded hundreds of music events. He produced the first Newport Jazz Festival in 1954 and later created the Newport Folk Festival.

He says he's thrilled to be recognized for his life's work and he's grateful to join a remarkable list of award recipients.

Past winners include Stephen Sondheim, Quincy Jones, Carole King, Frank Sinatra and Clive Davis.

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Roger Williams Expands In Old 38 Studios Space


Bristol-based Roger Williams University is significantly expanding its presence in Providence with a move to the building that once housed ex-Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling's 38 Studios.

The university is announcing today a 12-year, nearly $23-million lease for 77,000 square feet at One Empire Plaza downtown. The space will be used by the law school, the School of Continuing Studies, the Latino Policy Institute and HousingWorks RI and will nearly double Roger Williams' city footprint.

The space will replace the school's current Washington Street location. It's expected to open in spring 2016 after an $11 million renovation by Berkeley Investments, the building's owner. The lease begins in May of that year. bankruptcy in 2012.

Roger Williams will have the first four floors and a portion of the fifth floor — about three-quarters of the building.

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Restraunt Owner Indicted For Tax Fraud


  A Narragansett restaurant owner is facing federal tax fraud charges.  Prosecutors say Anthony Delfarno filed fraudulent tax returns in order to collect more than three-million dollars in tax returns over the last several years.  He allegedly used personal information of family members to generate tax documents for himself.  Delfarno owns Soho Ristorante in Narragansett, and he was arrested yesterday at his East Greenwich home. 

 

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Traffic Stop Leads To Big Pot Bust


  A California man is in custody after police say he was found with 60 pounds of marijuana during a traffic stop in West Greenwich.  State Police say 30-year-old Justin Renfrow of Grass Valley, California, was pulled over Wednesday on Route-102.  The arresting trooper says he also found more than 15-thousand-dollars in cash inside the vehicle.  Renfrow is facing multiple felony charges and is being held without bail.

 

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No Decision On Labbadia Benefits


  North Providence officials are delaying a decision on whether former firefighter Paul Labbadia deserves his benefits.  Town officials believe Labbadia has collected over 180-thousand-dollars in pension and healthcare benefits he did not deserve.  The town is going to take more time to review the situation before making a decision.  Labbadia is suspended from his current job as Coventry fire chief over allegations of misconduct.
 

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Study Shows Many In R.I. Struggling


  A new study indicates that many people in Rhode Island are struggling to make ends meet.  The study from the Economic Progress Institute says a family with two children needs to earn at least 60-thousand-dollars a year to meet their basic needs.  The report says that Rhode Island's cost of living is high and wages are low, with a quarter of all families not earning enough to get by.  Some relief is on the way January first, when the state minimum wage rises by a dollar to nine-dollars an hour.
 

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Providence Development Official Leaving


Providence Economic Development Director James Bennett is leaving the position for the private sector.  Bennett has held the position since 2011, and is agreeing to stay on until Mayor-elect Jorge Elorza can find a replacement.  Bennett is credited with helping streamline office operations with online permitting, rewriting of the zoning code and freezing the commercial tax rate for three straight years.

 

 

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Navy Discards Turbine Plans


The U.S. Navy is dropping plans to build a wind power station at Naval Station Newport.  The Navy instead is conducting a study into the installation of solar panels on the base that could generate ten megawatts of electricity.  The panels would be placed on rooftops and brownfields around the station.  Neighbors and public officials had opposed the plan for several large wind turbines at the station because of the impact they would have on views.

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Newport City Council Approve Police Contracts


Newport's City Council has approved two labor contracts that will provide the city's police officers with pay raises of 10 percent over four years.

The Newport Daily News reports the council voted 5-1 in favor of the pacts, one retroactive from July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014. The other runs until June 30, 2017.

The increase in salaries to active police officers will be $1.26 million over the contracts' four years.

City and union officials had said hurdles to reaching an agreement were the city's proposed changes to the police officers' contributions to their pension plan and health insurance costs.

The contracts require the city to maintain a force of at least 78 police officers, which is the current number.

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State Ends Hedge Fund Investment


 The state Investment Commission is cutting ties with a New York-based hedge fund.  The panel invested more than 60-million-dollars with Mason Capital, and it has grown by one-percent in each of the last three years.  Governor-elect Gina Raimondo chairs the commission, and the move signifies a shift in investment strategy. 

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Raimondo Turns To Connecticut To Fill Cabinet Post


Governor-elect Gina Raimondo is reaching into Connecticut for her new state Commerce secretary.  Raimondo says current Connecticut Education Secretary Stefan Pryor has accepted the cabinet position.  Pryor still works for the state of Connecticut, but had previously informed Governor Dan Malloy that he would not be returning to the post in January.  He will earn 195-thousand dollars a year in his new job.

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Raimondo Economic Policy Summit Set For Tonight


Incoming Gov. Gina Raimondo is holding a summit to bring together dozens of business and other leaders ahead of her inauguration next month.

Raimondo's transition team says more than 80 participants have been invited to participate in this evening's 3-hour-long summit, mostly from the private sector.

Raimondo says the summit is a chance for her to get ideas and feedback from people who she says are "on the front lines of policy, business, labor, social service and innovation."

The meeting was initially planned to be mostly closed to the media, but Raimondo's transition team later decided to let the media attend.

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Race Organizers To Pay For Dune Damage


Organizers of the Newport Marathon have agreed to pay for the damage done to the sand dunes at Easton Beach during the October race.

John Mattews, the president of Eident Sports Marketing, told the Newport Daily News on Monday that his organization will pay $4,803 that was needed to replace vegetation and restore the dunes. The Oct. 12 event featured the marathon and also included a half marathon and 5K.

Runners and spectators were asked to keep off the dunes.

But in a letter to Eident, the city says about 3,600 square feet of unprotected dunes were subjected to significant foot traffic near the Middletown line.

More than 5,000 people participated in the races.

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R.I. Gasoline Prices See Double-Digit Drop


  Gasoline prices are continuing their free fall in Rhode Island and across the country.  Triple-A Southern New England says the average cost of a gallon of self serve regular gas fell eleven-cents in the last week to two-dollars and 75-cents.  That's 23-cents lower than a month ago, and is down 76-cents over last year.  Gas prices can vary from station to station, and Triple-A urges drivers to shop around and reward those with lower prices.

 

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Accidental Overdose Deaths Soar


The number of deaths related to the accidental overdoses of heroin and other opioids is continuing to rise in Rhode Island.  State health officials say there have been 212 accidental overdose deaths since January 1st.  They say that ten of them have come this month.  Department of Health Director Michael Fine says if people know someone struggling with drug abuse, help them get into treatment today.

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Man Aquitted In Providence Murder Case


A jury says Felix Olivares of Providence is not guilty of murder in connection with the killing of another man last summer.  The jury found Olivares not guilty on all charges related to the killing of a man in the Wiggin Village Housing Project in August of 2013.  Jurors heard testimony that placed Olivares at the scene of the killing, but that he did not fire any shots.  The man suspected of firing the deadly shots is identified as Ricky Maloney, who authorities say fled the state and has not been caught.

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Pawtucket Man Hit By Stolen Pizza Delivery Vehicle


A Pawtucket man has a broken arm after being struck by a stolen pizza delivery car.

WPRI-TV reports  61-year-old Joe Korngor was struck by the car at about 5 p.m. Sunday while walking along Newell Street. The stolen vehicle then struck a parked car, knocking off its bumper.

The occupants of the stolen car fled the scene, but one was later arrested. Police say they expect to make more arrests.

The suspects' names have not been released.

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R.I. Changes Rules For Judicial Nominees


Rhode Island residents will be given a chance to comment before the state interviews judicial candidates for the Family and District courts.

The Judicial Nominating Commission changed its rules last week.

Under the old system, the candidates would be interviewed before any public hearing. The change gives the panel an opportunity to hear any public concerns before they question the candidates.

The state plans to begin advertising Monday for the lifetime tenure District Court seat that was held by Judge Frank J. Cenerini before his retirement Oct. 31.

There also will be a vacancy on the Family Court after Judge Francis J. Murray Jr. steps down at the end of the year.

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Congress Passes Whitehouse Foreclosure Bill


A bill introduced by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse designed to protect military service members from foreclosure is becoming law.  The measure extends a provision that protects service members from losing their home for one-year after their field service is completed.  Whitehouse says that after fighting for their country, veterans should not have to fight to keep a roof over their heads.  He would like to see this protection made permanent, but is pleased that it now is extended until January of 2016.

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Groundbreaking For Nursing Center Today


Ground is being broken today on a nursing education center at the former South Street Power Station on the Providence River.  The building that used to provide electricity to Providence and much of the state is being repurposed for nursing students at Rhode Island College and URI.  The 215-million-dollar project will be helped along with over 50-million dollars in state and federal tax credits.  The overall project will include classroom and administrative space, a 650-space parking garage and over 200 apartments.

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Coventry Fire District May Face Bankruptcy


The troubled Coventry Fire District appears headed into financial turmoil.  Taxpayers last week voted to cut the district budget by 14-percent, replacing several board members in the process.  The district lawyer is also expected to quit, and officials say the new budget will not allow the district to cover its expenses.  The financial trouble comes following reports that suspended Fire Chief Paul Labbadia was seen playing golf and drinking alcohol while on duty.

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Salve Plans Rehab,Additon To O'Hare Center





The Newport Daily News Reports that Salve Regina university is planning a $20 million renovation of the 67,000-square-foot O’Hare Academic Center  as well as a 23,000-square-foot addition. Construction is expected to begin in the spring and be completed by December 2016.

The Center houses 50% of the University’s classrooms and all of it’s laboratories, in addition to faculty offices, the Bazarsky Lecture Hall and the Jazzman’s Café.

The O’Hare Academic Center originally was dedicated in 1968. While there have been minor renovations to some interior spaces, there has not been a major upgrade since it was built.


 

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Coventry Man Busted For Drugs,Guns


  A Coventry man is facing a long list of charges after police say he was found in possession of drugs and several assault weapons.  Police say Justin Graham had an AK-47, two AR-15 assault rifles and two pounds of the drug ecstasy, along with 18-hundred ecstasy pills.  The drugs and guns were discovered at Graham's home on Hill Farm Road in Coventry.  Graham was ordered held on a federal detainer on drug charges related to the large amount of ecstasy.

 

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Non-Profit Legal Services Halts Work


  A non-profit legal services center serving Rhode Island residents is shutting down most of their operations.  The Rhode Island Center for Law and Public Policy was founded in 2008 to provide legal services for low income residents.  Officials with the center say they need more funding in order to continue operations.  Most of the programs at the facility will cease on December 23rd.

 

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Raptakis Wants Towns Out Of RhodeMap R.I.


  Coventry Senator Leo Raptakis is introducing legislation that would exempt the three towns he represents from the RhodeMap RI plan.  Raptakis says the ruling councils of Coventry, East Greenwich and West Greenwich have all passed resolutions opposing the economic development plan.  He says the legislature must recognize the rights of a community to run their own affairs.  Raptakis will introduce the measure when the legislature reconvenes next month.

 

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State Rep's Son Charged After Crash


 The son of Rhode Island state Representative Deborah Fellela is facing a felony charge in connection with a hit and run crash last month.  Police say Matthew Fellela was involved in a crash on Interstate-95 in North Greenwich November 22nd, and left his vehicle at the scene.  Fellela was located at his mother's house more than nine hours later.  The charges against Fellela have been upgraded to a felony because the victim's injuries escalated.
 

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Award For Barrington Group Fighting Youth Drinking


 State officials say a drug prevention coalition in Barrington has been nationally recognized for its work to reduce underage drinking.

The state Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals announced Thursday that the BAY Team was honored with a "Coalition of Excellence" award from Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America.

Data show that past 30-day alcohol use fell 30 percent for high schoolers and 50 percent for middle schoolers in Barrington between 2007 and 2013. The team reported a 36 percent increase in youth reporting difficulty accessing alcohol from 2009 to 2013. The organization has worked with local liquor stores and restaurants on alcohol sales to minors.

The BAY Team competed with 44 other coalitions. It will accept the award in February in Washington.

 

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Spreading Out Costs Mulled To Help Consumers


State regulators are looking at spreading out the cost of National Grid's request for a double-digit increase in electric rates.

Proposed new electric rates that could take effect Jan. 1 would raise rates by 23.6 percent for the typical residential customer. National Grid serves 486,000 customers in Rhode Island.

State regulators can do little to cut the rates, which are being pushed up by demand for natural gas in New England.

The Public Utilities Commission is considering spreading out the increase over as many as 12 months, rather than six months that are more typical.

The three members of the agency are scheduled to meet Tuesday and are set to make a final decision Dec. 23.

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State Panel Backs Economic Development Plan


A state panel has backed an economic development plan that supporters say Rhode Island needs and that opponents call a form of socialism.

The State Planning Council voted unanimously Thursday in favor of the Rhode-Map RI plan.

The 18-month work project outlines six goals and offers hundreds more suggestions on how to make the most of the state's assets and include its diverse populations.

Criticis say the plan will force local residents to cede property rights to the federal government.

House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello is not required to bring the plan to a vote or follow its suggestions. He says he prefers to focus on developing specific policies, strategies and legislation for job-creation and improving the state's economy.

 

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R.I. State Police Step Up Holiday Patrols


Rhode Island State Police are stepping up patrols through New Year's Day in an effort to crack down on drunken driving.

The effort, called "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over," begins today. It will also target people who are driving aggressively, texting while driving, driving without a seat belt or transporting children in the car without a proper car seat or booster seat.

Police say that on average, 31 percent of crash fatalities involve drunken driving.

State Police Superintendent Steven O'Donnell asks people to stop anyone who chooses to drink and drive, and to remember to buckle up when driving to help create a safer environment.

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Newport,Police Union Agree On 4-Year Contracts


Newport and the police union have reached agreement on two labor contracts that would provide pay raises of 10 percent over four years.

The Newport Daily News reports that the City Council postponed voting on the proposed contracts. One is retroactive from July 1, 2013, to June 30, 2014. The other pact is for July 1, 2014, to June 30, 2017.

The increase in salaries to active police officers will be $1.26 million over the contracts' four years.

City and union officials had said hurdles to reaching an agreement were the city's proposed changes to the police officers' contributions to their pension plan and health insurance costs.

The contracts require the city to maintain at least 78 police officers, the current number.

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R.I. Receives Grant For Pre-K Programs


 Rhode Island is receiving more than two-million-dollars from the federal government to expand pre-kindergarten programs in low income communities. Rhode Island is one of 18 states to be awarded the competitive grant money.  The funding will increase the number of state funded pre-K sites from 17 to 60 over the next several years.  The sites will be in Providence, Ventral Falls, Pawtucket and several other locations around the state.

 

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R.I. Is 15th Healthiest State


 A new report places Rhode Island as the 15th healthiest state in the country.  The report from the United Health Foundation says the state's strengths include a large number of primary care physicians and high immunization coverage.  The report also cites some challenges, including Rhode Island's high rate of drug deaths and binge drinking, along with a large number of preventable hospitalizations.
 

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Sakonnet Bridge Toll Equipment For Sale


 Electronic toll collection equipment purchased for the Sakonnet River Bridge is for sale.  The two-million-dollars worth of equipment was bought by the Turnpike and Bridge Authority before the General Assembly voted to ban tolls from the bridge.  The authority is also trying to figure out how to collect around 250-thousand-dollars in tolls from people who crossed the bridge without an EZ-Pass transponder before tolls were banned.

 

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Turnpike And Bridge Authority Approves Plan


  The Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority is giving the go ahead to a ten year maintenance plan for the four bridges it controls.  The 225-million-dollar plan is the first one offered since the authority took over control of the Jamestown-Verrazano Bridge and the newly constructed Sakonnet Bridge.  The authority already was responsible for maintenance of the Pell Bridge and the Mount Hope Bridge.

 

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Improved Kennedy Plaza Re-Opens Next Month


An overhauled Kennedy Plaza in downtown Providence is slated to reopen to transit passengers and pedestrians on Jan. 17.

The city's transit hub has been closed since the summer. Initial estimates had the plaza reopening in late fall, but the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority says work took longer than expected. Some design modifications were made along the way.

A RIPTA spokeswoman says she appreciates the public's patience, and believes passengers will feel it was worth the wait once they see the changes.

The plaza will have new lighting, improved signage and trees. The aim of the overhaul is to create a safer, pedestrian-friendly plaza with efficient transit connections.

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Providence Bar Loses License


Another Federal Hill bar is losing its licenses to operate.  Providence regulators have shut down the Ice Lounge on Atwells Avenue.  The second story bar has a history of minor offenses including having unlicensed entertainment and hookah smoking.  However, a fight in October that left the bar damaged and at least one patron injured was the last straw for city officials.

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Former R.I. Senator Sapinsley Dies


Former state Senator Lila Sapinsley is dead at the age of 92.  Sapinsley was found dead in her room at Laurelmead in Providence yesterday.  Sapinsley served five terms in the state Senate in the 1970s and 1980s, and was the first woman to hold the title of majority leader.  She was a one-time constitutional delegate who also had a lead role in forming the Community College of Rhode Island. 

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Raimondo Announces Plan To Expand College Savings


Governor-elect Gina Raimondo is announcing a plan aimed at ensuring that thousands of children born in Rhode Island every year have savings for college.

She is looking to expand a program that since 2010 has provided a $100 contribution to a college savings account to any child born in the state. Only about 400 children are enrolled.

Under the plan being announced Wednesday by Raimondo, the current treasurer, babies will receive the savings if their parents check a box when they fill out a standard form at the hospital. Before, families had to fill out several pages of forms and open a special account.

Raimondo says the change is expected to benefit thousands of families and could help create a more skilled workforce.

Maine and Nevada have similar programs

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Pension Records Of Suspended Coventry Chief Probed


State officials are reviewing pension records of Coventry Fire District Chief Paul Labbadia who's being investigated for possible misconduct.

WPRI reports that in a Nov. 21 letter it obtained, Frank Karpinski, executive director of the Employees Retirement System of Rhode Island, asked Chief Paul Labbadia for information showing he worked in North Providence for the 10 years required to receive a pension credit.

Karpinski said there may be a discrepancy between years Labbadia worked and what he was paid.

Labbadia's lawyer declined to comment.

Labbadia was suspended with pay Nov. 3 after a news video report showed him drinking alcohol during the workday, using a department-paid vehicle for golfing during work and driving the fire vehicle to a party. He denied wrongdoing and says he's on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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Raimondo Economic Summit Opened To Media,Public


An entire three-hour economic summit called for by Gov.-elect Gina Raimondo will be open to the public after all.

Jonathan Duffy, a co-chairman of her transition team, said Tuesday that after speaking to Raimondo, the meeting scheduled for Dec. 16 to discuss ways to fix Rhode Island's economy will be open to the media.

He said Monday that the meeting among 80 participants would be closed after Raimondo's initial remarks.

The Providence Journal reports that the invited group is nearly all from the private sector and their areas of expertise are in manufacturing, work-force development, small-business and the tourism industry.

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Portsmouth To Challenge Ruling On Sakonnet Tolls


The Portsmouth Town Council will appeal a federal court judge's dismissal of its challenge to tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge.

The Newport Daily News reports that the council voted 5-1 Monday to appeal last Wednesday's ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Ronald R. Lagueux in Providence.

The bridge opened in April 2013 and began collecting a 10-cent placeholder toll. The toll ended less than a year later in June when the General Assembly changed the law to prohibit tolls on the bridge.

The town said federal law prohibits a toll on bridges after they're open. It also wants the return of more than $1 million in tolls.

Town Solicitor Kevin P. Gavin says Lagueux did not deal with the main point of Portsmouth's challenge concerning federal rules prohibiting tolls on bridges that are open.

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State Awards $3.85 Million To Protect Open Space


 The state has awarded $3.85 million in local open space matching grants to 15 communities, land trusts and conservation organizations to protect nearly 1,200 acres of open space and farmland throughout Rhode Island.

Gov. Lincoln Chafee and Department of Environmental Management Director Janet Coit distributed the grants Monday at the Statehouse. Voters approved bond measures for open space in 2008 and 2012.

The state grants will be matched by local bond funds and federal grants. State officials say that more than $11.6 million will be spent on land preservation throughout Rhode Island.

The lands that will be protected include a 50-acre parcel of undisturbed forested land in Lincoln, 34.8 acres of farmland in Little Compton and 22.7 acres of forest and open meadow in South Kingstown.

 

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Officials Warn Of Rabid Raccoon In Newport


 Rhode Island health officials say a raccoon that may have had contact with several people in Newport has tested positive for rabies.

The state Department of Health said Monday the raccoon was captured Saturday near city hall, Thompson Middle School and a RIPTA stop.

Officials define contact as a bite, a scratch or the animal's saliva touching the eyes, nose, mouth or an open wound. Without proper treatment for exposure, rabies can develop and the resulting infection is almost always fatal. Anyone who may have come in contact with the raccoon should contact the D.O.H. immediately at (401) 222-2577.

In addition, anyone who has a pet that may have had contact with the raccoon near that location must contact the city's animal control officer at (401) 222-3070.

 

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A.C.L.U. Sues Providence Police For Moving Protesters


The American Civil Liberties Union is suing the city of Providence for allegedly violating the free speech rights of protesters when police ordered them to move further and further away from a fundraiser for Gov.-elect Gina Raimondo during her gubernatorial campaign.

The lawsuit was filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Providence over the department's actions during a September 2013 fundraiser held at the Casino at Roger Williams Park. The ACLU says the case is especially egregious because it happened six months after a judge found Providence police had violated a woman's free speech rights in a similar case.

A Providence police spokeswoman said Monday the department had no immediate comment.

The lawsuit says police repeatedly ordered protesters further away from the building, eventually to 285 feet from the entrance.

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Gas Prices In R.I. Drop For 14th Straight Week


 Gas prices are continuing their decline in Rhode Island, falling another 7 cents in the last week.

Monday's price survey from AAA Southern New England found the average price for a gallon of self-serve regular in the state is $2.86. This week marks the 14th consecutive week of decline.

The price locally is down 15 cents in the last month. The current average in Rhode Island is still 19 cents more than the national per-gallon average of $2.67.

The average price in Rhode Island a year ago at this time was 63 cents higher, or $3.49 a gallon.

The AAA survey found a 28-cent range in prices, from a low of $2.72 to a high of $3 a gallon.

 

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Report: 1 Of 4 Teacher Grads Find Jobs In R.I.


 A report by the state Department of Education says about one of four recent graduates from Rhode Island's teacher preparation programs are employed as teachers in the state.

In 2012-2013, 649 students received their Rhode Island teaching certification from one of nine teacher training programs in the state. But only 167 went on to teach in Rhode Island in the following school year.

The report says that in 2012-2013, of the 190 Rhode Island College students who received their Rhode Island teacher certification, only 54 found jobs here.

At the University of Rhode Island, 161 students were certified in Rhode Island in 2012-2013 but only 42 worked here.

Of 86 students certified at Providence College, 13 found employment in Rhode Island.

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Quonset To Celebrate Job Growth


Rhode Island officials are preparing to celebrate jobs and business development at the Quonset Business Park and its Port of Davisville.

The former naval air station and construction battalion base has been a focus of effort to promote economic development in the area since 2005.

Today, the business park will recognize its 10,000th employee. Among the officials expected to attend are Gov. Lincoln Chafee, Gov.-elect Gina Raimondo, Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, Congressmen Jim Langevin and David Cicilline, state House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello and Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed.

The business park operated by Quonset Development Corp. is home to almost 200 companies, and the Davisville port is a top auto importer.

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Raimondo: Roberts For Health & Human Services


Gov.-elect Gina Raimondo announced Sunday she will nominate outgoing Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts to head the Executive Office of Health and Human Services.

Roberts, a longtime advocate on health care issues, headed the state Health Care Reform Commission that set up Rhode Island's health insurance exchange, HealthSource RI, under the federal health care overhaul. She did not seek re-election as lieutenant governor because of term limits.

Raimondo said Roberts has the key combination of management skills and compassion for the job.

Roberts said she was ready to get to work.

Among the issues facing Raimondo and Roberts will be the future of HealthSource RI as it and other state exchanges set up with federal funds must begin paying for themselves. HealthSource has gotten high marks but some lawmakers say Rhode Island may be better off joining the federal exchange to avoid paying annual operating costs estimated to be at least $17 million.

Raimondo has said she wants to keep HealthSource local and has pledged to scrutinize its budget and get "creative."

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State Commission Hears Complaint About Car Tax


A state commission has heard from people who want to change Rhode Island's system for valuing automobiles for taxation, saying the present method overestimates what vehicles really are worth.

It's an issue that both Gov.-elect Gina Raimondo and Providence Mayor-elect Jorge Elorza also said during their campaigns they would like to see some action on.

One witness, Rob Cote, told the Vehicle Value Commission on Friday that he would like to see cars assessed by their average trade-in value, not their clean retail value. Cote, a longtime advocate for changing the method, said there's a big difference in those numbers.

Commission members said action would have to come from the legislature and they would like to meet with Raimondo.

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Christmas Tree Fire Safety Tips Offered


State Fire Officials say fires caused by Christmas trees are not common but can be extremely dangerous when they occur and have issued a series of safety tips to avoid fires during the holiday season.

They say Christmas trees should be watered daily, kept away from heat sources, and disposed of quickly after the holiday.

For those who haven't picked out a tree yet, they suggest buying a cut tree that's as fresh as possible. If needles break off before bending in half, the tree is probably too dry.

Consumers should also follow manufacturer's directions when installing electric holiday lights.

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Final Hearing On Breakers Center Tonight


Newport Officials are set to hold their final hearing this evening on a proposal by the Newport Preservation Society  to build a welcome center on the grounds of the Breakers.  The Zoning Board Of Review has said it will issue its decision next month on the plan. Neighbors and some of the descendants of the Vanderbilt family, which built the Gilded Age mansion, are against the idea, saying it will detract from the national landmark.  Tonight’s hearing begins at 6:30 in the cafetorium of the Pell Elementary School on Dexter Street.

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Economist: R.I. Needs Boost In Health,Education


An economist from the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston has told Rhode Island planners that boosting the growth of education and health care might be the best bet for higher employment.

Senior economist Mary Burke told Rhode Island's new Council of Economic Advisors on Friday that she questions whether trying to bring in more high-tech manufacturing is the answer for Rhode Island.

Burke noted the health care and education sector is the largest non-farm employer in Rhode Island, but hasn't made the recent growth seen in other New England states.

Burke also said Rhode Island's severe unemployment during the recent recession may have been fallout from a concentration of jobs in hardest-hit industries, and that Rhode Island goods have been in more direct competition with cheaper Chinese exports for two decades.

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Pair Sentenced For Identity Theft


Two Rhode Island men have been sentenced to prison for fraudulently obtaining federal tax refunds using the stolen personal information of more than 1,200 people.

The state attorney general's office says 23-year-old Julian Balbi of Providence was sentenced in federal court on Friday to 30 months in prison. A co-defendant, 23-year-old Richard Lara of Providence, received a 60-month prison sentence in the same court Thursday.

Prosecutors say the scheme involved using stolen personal information to file fraudulent tax returns totaling nearly $1.9 million. Rhode Island State Police arrested Balbi and Lara during a routine traffic stop in January 2012 and found 87 U.S. Treasury tax refund checks made out to other people.

Lara and Balbi previously pleaded guilty to aggravated identity theft, conspiracy and theft of government property.

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Hundreds Rally, Block Streets In Providence


Several hundred people rallied in Providence and blocked downtown streets to protest a grand jury's decision to not indict a white police officer in the chokehold death of an unarmed black man in New York City.

City police also said they had to stop some protesters from walking onto Interstate 95 Friday night, but no arrests or violence were reported.

People marched and shouted "black lives matter" and other sayings to protest a grand jury's decision to not indict a white New York City officer in the chokehold death of an unarmed black man, Eric Garner. They also protested a similar grand jury decision in the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

Demonstrators stopped at several intersections and sat down. They also lay down outside the Providence Place mall.

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Reed Calls Carter Strong Choice For Defense Chief


Sen. Jack Reed says President Barack Obama made a "strong choice" in choosing Ashton Carter to lead the Defense Department.

Obama on Friday nominated Carter, former deputy secretary of defense, to succeed Chuck Hagel, who resigned last week.

Reed, a Democrat, was mentioned as a possible successor to Hagel himself, but immediately dismissed the possibility, saying he was happy serving Rhode Island in the Senate.

Carter is an academic and physicist who has held several jobs at the Pentagon.

Reed says Carter is an effective leader who has demonstrated integrity and sound judgment throughout his career. He says Carter has a commitment to people who serve in the armed forces and a command of national security policy.

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Nightclub Fire Memorial Gets Go-Ahead From State


 The group working to build a memorial at the site of a 2003 nightclub fire that killed 100 people says it has received the go-ahead from the state.

Gina Russo of the Station Fire Memorial Foundation says  that the Department of Environmental Management and the Department of Transportation have approved the project. She says calls it a big step, and says they'll start work in the spring.

Among their first steps will be bringing in gravel to smooth out the site, install wiring and put in a well system for irrigation.

They will not dig directly on the fire site.

Russo says they have about $200,000 in the bank and are still working to raise the $2 million they estimate they need to build and maintain the memorial.

 

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Brothers Sentenced For Stealing Grease


 Two elderly brothers from Cranston are facing a sentence of home confinement for stealing used cooking oil from restaurants.  Prosecutors say Andrew and Bruce Jeremiah stole over 100-thousand-dollars worth of grease from dozens of restaurants over a two-year period.  The men were finally caught in November of 2012 during a sting investigation.  The judge sentenced the men to home confinement because of their age and health issues.

 

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Providence Tree Lighting Is Tonight


  The Providence Christmas tree lighting has been moved up one day, and is now scheduled for tonight.  Mayor Angel Tavaras says inclement weather is forecast for tomorrow, and that was the reason for the switch.  The lighting will take place at 6 p.m. at the Alex and Ani City Center.  The event is free and open to the public.

 

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U.R.I. Announces Staff Hirings


 The University of Rhode Island is adding 55 new faculty members over the next four years.  The initiative will cost more than five-million-dollars, with the positions spread out over different college programs.  This year the university reported record enrollment of more than 16-thousand students.  The 32-hundred-student freshman class this year is also the school's largest ever.
 

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Raimondo Meets With Obama Today


Rhode Island Governor-elect Gina Raimondo is sitting down with President Obama at the White House today.  Raimondo is one of several newly-elected governors who will be meeting with the President today.  The President and Raimondo are expected to discuss job creation, expanding pre-kindergarten access and getting more people enrolled in health coverage.  In addition to the private meeting with the President, Raimondo will also participate in a group lunch with the other attending governors.
 

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Judge Says Lawsuit Over Sakonnet Toll Now Moot



A federal judge has tossed out a lawsuit brought over the short-lived tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge, saying it was moot because the tolls are no longer being collected.

The Newport Daily News reports U.S. District Judge Ronald Lagueux on Wednesday dismissed the lawsuit filed by the town of Portsmouth.

The bridge opened in April 2013 and began collecting a 10-cent toll in August of that year.  That ended less than a year later when the General Assembly changed the law to prohibit tolls on the bridge.

The town had argued that federal law prohibits a toll being placed on any bridge after it is already open. It also asked that more than $1 million in tolls collected be reimbursed.

Lagueux also rejected that request.

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R.I. Education Leaders At White House College Summit


 

Two education leaders from Rhode Island are participating in a White House summit on how to help more students prepare for college and get a degree.

Providence Schools Superintendent Susan Lusi and Rhode Island College President Nancy Carriuolo are among the hundreds of college presidents and others participating in Thursday's College Opportunity Day of Action. President Barack Obama , first lady Michelle Obama and Vice president Joe Biden are among those in the administration participating.

Lusi and Carriuolo have worked together with other groups to increase the number of Providence residents with a postsecondary degree, part of a larger effort across 55 cities. The goal is to increase by 52,000 the number of adults who have a degree in those cities by December 2016.

 

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Pawtucket Mayor To Investigate Police Major's Work Schedule


Pawtucket Mayor Don Grebien says the city will investigate a news outlet's report that a police officer went golfing and did other personal activities while he was listed as working.

Grebien told the Hummel Report  "there's no excuse" for reports of Maj. Bruce Moreau's personal activities. The mayor says there's a pattern that officials need to examine.

Moreau, a nearly 30-year police veteran, denies golfing on a work day. He says he has an alternate work schedule when he sometimes leaves early and comes in late.

The Hummel Report says Moreau spent hours with his father at lunch and golfing one day in October and did some work, claiming overtime.

The report says his salary this year was $82,283 and he also was paid nearly $20,000 in overtime.

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Legal Challenge Over 2 Pit Bulls Heads To Superior Court


 A legal challenge over two pit bulls in North Kingstown's pound because their owners live within a mile of a private school is headed to Superior Court in Providence.

Municipal Court Judge Joseph White ruled Wednesday that because the lawyer representing the family that owns the dogs facing euthanasia raised a state constitutional issue required him to refer the case to Superior Court.

The case involves two pit bulls owned by Kristy Miserendino, her mother, Kim, and her boyfriend. A woman filed a complaint in July that she was nipped or bitten by the dogs.

A town panel found the dogs to be vicious and later informed the family of a town law that forbids anyone from owning a dog considered vicious within a mile of a school.

 

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Arrest Made In Casino Robbery Case


A Woonsocket man is facing charges accusing him of following a woman who won money at Twin River Casino and stealing her purse.  Police say Abdulaye Fall was caught on video following the woman from the casino to her home in Providence.  He allegedly then grabbed 72-year-old La Yang's purse with her three-thousand-dollars in winnings as she got out of her car.  Fall is charged with first degree robbery and is being held without bail. 

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Kilmartin Challenges Electric Rate Hike


  Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin is challenging National Grid's effort to deal the state a large electric rate increase.  National Grid's proposed hike would increase the average state resident's power bill by 22-dollars a month.  Kilmartin says families and businesses will be hurt by this increase if it's allowed to stand.  The AG says that he doesn't know how many families would consider a 26-percent rate increase to be in their best interests.

 

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Raimondo To Reappoint Prisons Chief


Governor-elect Gina Raimondo is planning to reappoint AT Wall to his position as director of the Department of Corrections.  Wall has a law degree from Yale University, and has worked in corrections since 1976.  Raimondo says Wall is a national leader in corrections and the state is fortunate that he calls Rhode Island home.  Raimondo yesterday also reappointed Janet Coit as director of the Department of Environmental Management.

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Raimondo: Coit To Stay Top Enviromental Official


 Gov.-elect Gina Raimondo says she wants the state's top environmental to stay on when she takes office next year.

Department of Environmental Management Director Janet Coit was first appointed by outgoing Gov. Lincoln Chafee in 2011.

Raimondo said on Wednesday that Coit has been a strong advocate for the environment and a skilled manager of a complex department. She says Coit has a passion for conserving our natural resources.

Coit says she is honored to have the opportunity to continue serving the people of the state, and she says she is inspired by the prospect of being part of the Raimondo administration.

Raimondo says she'll submit Coit's name to the Senate in January for re-confirmation.

 

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Board O.K.'s Tuition Hikes At R.I. Public Colleges


 

 

Students at Rhode Island's three public colleges would pay more for tuition and fees under a plan approved by the state Board of Education.

The Rhode Island Board of Education approved the hikes as part of a budget request during a meeting on Monday. They are forwarding the request to incoming Gov. Gina Raimondo.

The increases would affect both in-state and out-of-state students at the University of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College and the Community College of Rhode Island.

URI students would pay 2.8 percent more annually. Tuition at RIC and CCRI would rise between 7.8 percent and 8.6 percent.

In-state tuition at URI would jump $356 per year to $12,862; at RIC by $595 to $8,197; and at CCRI by $316 to $4,266.

 

 

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Raimondo Names Chief Of Staff


 Gov.-elect Gina Raimondo has appointed a chief of staff who has worked for governors in three other states.

Raimondo, a Democrat, on Tuesday named Stephen Neuman as her top staffer.

Neuman is currently the director of public affairs for Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley. He has also worked for governors in North Carolina and Missouri and was chief of staff for Barack Obama's winning North Carolina campaign in 2008.

A spokeswoman for Raimondo says she has followed O'Malley's work for years, and Neuman's experience with him and elsewhere will be invaluable in Rhode Island.

Neuman is 38 years old and is a graduate of Washington University School of Law and the University of Missouri-Columbia. He previously was an attorney for the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom.

 

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Reed Plan To Establish Historical Park In Blackstone Valley Goes To Congress


A plan to establish a national historical park in the Blackstone Valley is going before Congress.

U.S. Sen. Jack Reed has been pushing the plan for a Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park for years. The Rhode Island Democrat's office said Wednesday the plan was due for votes in the House and Senate by next week as part of the National Defense Authorization Act.

The plan would put a new national historical park along the river, which includes several old mill towns and buildings including the Old Slater Mill in Pawtucket, the first successful cotton-spinning factory in the United States.

The area is already home to the John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor, which links 24 communities along the Blackstone River from Worcester, Massachusetts, to Providence.

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Builder Sentenced For False Claims


  A Cranston builder is avoiding prison following a federal conviction for filing false claims and false documents.  Prosecutors say Donald Ihlefeld [[ ILL-uh-feld ]] owned the Alhambra Building Company in Warwick when the crimes took place.  Ihlefeld admits that he filed false claims in order to collect close to two-million-dollars in federal funds during the renovation of a former West Warwick textile mill.  His sentence calls for two years probation and 200 hours of community service.

 

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Firefighter In Trouble Over Gesture


  A Providence firefighter is in hot water after making a gesture of support to protesters outside the Public Safety Complex last week.  The crowd was protesting the decision by a Missouri grand jury not to prosecute a white police officer who killed an unarmed black teen.  The firefighter is not being publicly identified by the department.  Officials say he will be facing a disciplinary hearing in the near future.

 

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Raimondo Doubled Fung's Campaign Spending


  Governor-elect Gina Raimondo outspent her Republican opponent Allan Fung by more than a two to one margin in the campaign this fall.  Raimondo spent well over five-million-dollars on her campaign through October 27th, while Fung spent over two-million-dollars between the beginning of the year and this week.  Moderate candidate Bob Healey spent a total of 36-dollars on his campaign and received 22-percent of the vote.

 

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Middletown Officials Study Bringing Broadband Service To Aquidneck Island


 Middletown economic development officials have called for a meeting early next year to learn how to bring broadband service to Aquidneck Island.

The Newport Daily News reports that Town Planner Ronald M. Wolanski says officials don't want to lose businesses and broadband would make the area more attractive to those that might relocate.

Municipalities nationwide have installed fiber broadband to increase businesses, reduce buffering of video conferencing and movie streaming and speed up other Internet activities. Broadband operates as much as 60 times faster than Internet connections now offered on Aquidneck Island.

Local Internet providers have indicated they do not have plans to bring fiber broadband to the island.

The meeting is tentatively set for Jan. 13 at Middletown Town Hall.

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U.S. To Defend America's Cup Outside Of The Country



The America’s Cup is going offshore, to a British territory that sits at the northern tip of the Bermuda Triangle.

In a shake-up to the tradition of the oldest trophy in international sports, organizers announced Tuesday that Bermuda beat San Diego for the right to host the next America’s Cup in June 2017.

The decision was made two weeks ago by software billionaire Larry Ellison, who owns two-time defending champion Oracle Team USA, after consulting with team CEO Russell Coutts, a New Zealander.

This will be the first time a U.S. defender holds the America’s Cup outside the United States. It also will be the first time in the regatta’s 163-year history that a defender sails the races in foreign waters by choice rather than necessity.

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Ruling On Breakers Center Not Expected Until Jan.


Hearings continue in the battle over whether to build a visitors center at The Breakers in Newport, but a decision is not expected until January.

The Newport Daily News reports that the city's Zoning Board of Review plans to issue a decision Jan. 5. Testimony began Monday and is expected to continue Tuesday. A third hearing date is tentatively set for Dec. 8.

The Breakers is the city's most famous mansion and is a national historic landmark.

The Preservation Society of Newport County wants a welcome center on the grounds as a more comfortable place for tourists to buy tickets, use the restroom and buy sandwiches. Critics have argued it will detract from the estate's character. Some have suggested it be built in a parking lot across the street.

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Airline Industry Changes Hurting T.F. Green


 

With fewer nonstop flights, airline seats and take-offs, the number of passengers at T.F. Green Airport has declined by 40 percent in nine years.

Experts say there's nothing wrong with the airport, but it's been hurt by changes in the airline business.

An aviation analyst says airlines that focused on connecting hub airports are instead making money serving primary airports. That has led to fewer direct flights between secondary airports, such as Providence.

Travelers must instead fly from one secondary airport to a connecting hub and catch a connecting flight to a destination at a secondary airport.

Also, 11 airlines that used Green are now down to five.

Kelly Fredericks, president of the Rhode Island Airport Corp., said he'll try to win back flyers who use Logan International Airport.

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Plans For 2015 Indy Race In Downtown Providence Now A No-Go


Indy cars won't be zooming through the streets of Providence anytime soon.

A company that had been planning a race through downtown streets for August 2015 now says it has "moved on."

Mark Perrone, president of New England Grand Prix, says the economics of a deal with the city did not work.

Ann Gooding, a spokeswoman for Mayor Angel Taveras, says the city could not reach agreement with the organizers about which routes the cars would use and measures to ensure the safety of pedestrians and vehicles.

Perrone says he might still be open to doing an event in Providence at another time.

He says they are planning an Indy car event in Boston in 2016.

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R.I. Gas Prices Continue To Fall


Gas prices are down in Rhode Island again.

AAA Southern New England says its weekly survey released on Monday found regular unleaded gasoline was averaging $2.93 per gallon, a drop of two cents from last week.

Prices have fallen 17 cents per gallon in the last month. A year ago, the price of a gallon of gas in Rhode Island was 19 percent higher, or $3.48.

The last time gas prices were this low in Rhode Island was in 2010.

Nationally, AAA says the average price of a gallon of regular unleaded is $2.77, or 16 cents less per gallon.

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200 Demonstrate At State House Over Ferguson Shooting


About 200 demonstrators have marched on the State House during a second protest of the Missouri grand jury decision to not indict a police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager.

The demonstration began Monday night as protesters marched to the State House escorted by police.

State Police also were at the State House to keep an eye on the protest.

The event ended at about 9:30 p.m. with protesters thanking the State Police.

It was the second protest that took place nearly a week after demonstrators shut down I-95 for 15 minutes. That demonstration drew criticism from many, including the local NAACP

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Amos House Breaks Ground


A nonprofit agency that works with the homeless and those who have struggled with substance abuse has officially kicked off a project to build a $6 million community center in South Providence.

Amos House held a groundbreaking on Monday for the 29,000-square-foot building, which will house a dining hall, classrooms, community rooms, training centers and offices.

President and CEO Eileen Hayes says the group has outgrown its headquarters, which currently hosts programs including a soup kitchen that serves 800 meals a day.

The group helps around 15,000 people per year. It also provides transitional and permanent supportive housing, runs job training and literacy programs and offers other social services.

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North Kingstown Bank Robbed


 Police are investigating the robbery of a Webster Bank branch in North Kingstown.  The masked suspect did not display a weapon but demanded cash from the teller.  The man escaped in an older Jeep Cherokee with an undisclosed amount of money.  North Kingstown Police have posted pictures of the suspect on their social media pages, and are urging anyone who recognizes the man to contact them immediately.

 

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Tax Breaks Key To I-195 Deal


 A developer seeking to build student housing on former Interstate-195 land in Providence has a clause that would allow them to back out on the deal.  Texas-based Friendship and Clifford can withdraw from the project if they are unable to reach a deal with the city on tax breaks.  The developer is seeking a 12-year tax abatement agreement, which is the standard term for this type of project.  The sides have until March 1st to finalize the deal.
 

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House Panel To Review Deficit Plan


 The Rhode Island House Finance Committee is meeting this week to review plans to address a projected budget deficit in the current fiscal year.  The panel will hear testimony on corrective action plans for agencies where spending is higher than budgeted amounts.  Office of Management and Budget officials will be on hand for the hearing, which is Thursday at the State House.

 

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Newport Man One Of Two Facing Child Porn Charges


A Providence man is due in district court on charges he shared images and video of child pornography, and a Newport man faces similar charges.

State police say 30-year-old Harry Hernandez is scheduled for arraignment Monday after being arrested by members of the Rhode Island Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

He is charged with possession and transfer of child pornography. Police say they traced someone sharing the images and video to Hernandez's Internet connection and found the material during a search of his house Monday.

It was not immediately clear whether Hernandez had a lawyer.

Thirty-two-year-old Stephen-Lawrence Ellis of Newport was charged last week with possessing and transferring child pornography. He did not enter a plea during his arraignment and was released on $25,000 surety bail or $2,500 cash.

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Fire Damages Popular Glocester Eatery


 An investigation is underway to determine the cause of a fire that inflicted heavy damage to a popular Glocester eatery.  The fire broke out early yesterday morning in the bar room at Snow's Clam Box on Putnam Pike.  The fire was reported to authorities by a woman who lived upstairs with her son, and both escaped safely.  It took around an hour for several responding fire departments to bring the blaze under control.  The investigation is being handled by the state Fire Marshal's Office.

 

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North Providence Buys Snow Equipment


 North Providence is ready for winter with a new fleet of used snow plows.  Mayor Charles Lombardi says the city paid 23-thousand-dollars for two dozen pieces of heavy equipment at a state DOT auction.  Nineteen of the vehicles are old dump trucks fitted with snow plows, and another is a street sweeper.  Lombardi refers to himself as a motorhead, and says he plans to use some of the plows for parts.  He says at least eight of the plows will be put into immediate use this winter. 
 

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Court Hearing Set Into 38 Studios Lobbying


A court hearing is set for arguments to determine if Secretary of State A. Ralph Mollis abused the judiciary system when he involved the Superior Court in his administrative examination of possible unregistered 38 Studios lobbying.

A hearing officer determined in September that attorney Michael Corso engaged in unregistered lobbying in 2010, resulting in a bill that included a $75 million state-backed loan guarantee to 38 Studios.

The determination was made in a hearing process and an effort by Mollis to involve the Superior Court.

Corso's attorneys, Anthony M. Traini and Michael J. Lepizzera Jr., have argued that Mollis tried to improperly use the judicial system.

Mollis' lawyers say he filed a dismissal to speed up the proceedings.

A court hearing is scheduled for oral arguments on Tuesday.

 

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R.I. Dam Seen As Impediment To Fish Passage Set For Removal


A dam that environmentalists say is a major impediment to fish passing in the Pawcatuck River in South Kingstown is set to be removed.

The project received $2.3 million in federal money following Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

Scott Comings, associate state director for the Nature Conservancy, said removing the concrete dam will restore the river's connection from Little Narragansett Bay to Worden's Pond, improving fish passage and reducing the risk of flooding.

At one time, 10 dams operated. Three were removed and three washed out.

The dam being removed was built to direct water to a man-made sluiceway. Water flowing through the sluiceway was used to power the mill, which is no longer used.

 

 

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