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1540 WADK.com Updates Archives for 2017-12

Police Intercept Large Marijuana Shipment

Police in Massachusetts say they arrested a Rhode Island man when he arrived at a shipping company to pick up two crates containing more than 100 pounds of marijuana. Wareham Police say 40-year-old Michael Chen, of Providence was arrested  after he took possession of the wooden crates from Cape Cod Express, a Wareham Massachusetts-based shipping company. The company had notified police because the packaging seemed suspicious.

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Cold Weather Precautions Issued

As a deep freeze sets in across half the country, officials are urging people to help those most vulnerable, especially the homeless and the elderly. Forecasters are warning people to be wary of hypothermia and frostbite from the arctic blast that's gripping a large swath from the Midwest to the Northeast. The prolonged, dangerous cold weather has sent advocates for the homeless scrambling to get people off the streets and to bring in extra beds for them.

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RIPTA Extends Service Due To Severe Cold

The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority is extending its hours through today due to the severe cold weather.  The transportation center at Kennedy Plaza in downtown Providence will remain open until ten p.m., so that passengers have a warm place while waiting for their buses.  The building usually closes at seven p.m. However, ticket booth hours are not being extended.

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Catholic Church Heating Assistance Program

The Diocese of Providence is offering help to keep people warm during the current cold snap.  The "Keep the Heat On" program helps those who have exhausted other public and private assistance programs.  Information is available online at heatri.com.

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Providence City Council Seeks Applicants For Review Panel

The Providence City Council is seeking applicants for the city's External Review Authority.  Council will appoint eight of the nine members to the panel.  Mayor Elorza has appointed attorney Michael Fontaine.  The panel, which will investigate complaints about the police department, has been inactive for more than ten years.

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Health Dept. Approves Closing Hospital ER

The state Department of Health is approving the closing of the emergency department at Memorial Hospital in Pawtucket.  The decision is effective January 1st and officials say that closes the hospital.  The approval is conditioned upon the hospital's owners, Care New England to operate a walk-in clinic and provide funds to Pawtucket and Central Falls to offset driving to other emergency departments.  Care New England decided to close the hospital after years of operating millions of dollars in the red.

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Frigid Temps Continue And Snow Is Forecast

Rhode Island remains in the grip of the coldest weather of the season with temperatures barely getting into the 20s today.  Forecasters say snow is likely to cover the area late Saturday afternoon and could accumulate a couple of inches before ending overnight.  Sunday is expected to be dry, but bitterly cold with a blustery wind to close out 2017.

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Seamen's Church Institute open as warming center

Seamen's Church Institute on Market Square, will be open as an overnight warming center every night through Tuesday, starting at 4 p.m., for people seeking shelter from the cold.
Guests will be provided a cot, blanket, pillow, hot meal and snacks. Guests will also have access to free showers, laundry, toiletries, winter coats, hats, scarves and other clothing. Games and movies will be available. Checkout time will be 7 a.m. and will include a hot meal.

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Providence firefighters offering free rides home on NYE

In an effort to reduce the number of drunk driving accidents, Providence firefighters are offering free rides to New Year’s Eve revelers.

Providence Fire Fighters IAFF Local 799 is launching “Safe Night” by providing free rides home from bars and restaurants within Providence city limits. 

Officials say a limited number of off-duty Providence Fire Fighters will be available to field calls and offer rides so delays can be expected. 

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Three People Suspected Of Passing Counterfeit Money

Smithfield Police are looking for three people who are passing counterfeit money.  Authorities say one of the men used fake 20-dollar bills to load a Green Dot prepaid card at a 7-Eleven on Douglas Street.   The two men and a woman came into the store together.  

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Slight Increase In Flu Cases In RI

There's been a slight increase in the number of flu cases reported in Rhode Island.  However, it's not at the level of widespread according to health officials.  A state Department of Health spokesman says to date this year there have been 43 hospitalizations and one flu-related death.  Experts say it's not too late to get a flu shot.

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CNE Signs Negotiation Extension With Potential Partner

There's a one month extension for exclusive negotiations between Care New England and its potential merger partner.  With an end of the year deadline looming, CNE announced yesterday it has signed the extension with Boston-based Partners HealthCare.  In a joint statement the two groups say they continue to work on the complex process and remain optimistic an agreement will be reached.  Care New England is currently working to close Memorial Hospital in Pawtucket.

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Shelter system prepares to protect people from coming cold

Rhode Island's largest homeless service group is working to get more homeless people out of the cold and into a shelter as temperatures drop around the state.

Crossroads Rhode Island is stacking mattresses to the ceiling at its shelter in Providence, as staff gets ready to accommodate more people. Crossroads Chief Operating Officer Michelle Wilcox says that they expect more people to use their overflow shelter in the coming days.

Wilcox says it's important that the shelter's outreach team is reaching people who don't normally use the shelter system to come in from the extreme cold.

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Bill To Prevent Children Unattended In Vehicle

A bill is going to be reintroduced in the General Assembly to make it an offense in Rhode Island to leave a child under the age of seven unattended in a vehicle for more than 15 minutes.  It would be a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to one-thousand-dollars and up to a year in jail.  Coventry state Senator Leonidas Raptakis says the penalties in his legislation are similar to those for leaving animals in vehicles unattended. 

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Free Train Service Ends Tomorrow

The free train service between Wickford Junction and Providence is coming to an end tomorrow.  RIDOT has offered the service since July as an effort to increase train ridership.   The number of commuters was far behind projections, leading to the offer of free service as a way to encourage people to try the service and hopefully stay with it.

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Cost Of I-95 Project In Downtown Providence Increases

The cost to repair and expand northbound Interstate 95 in downtown Providence is continuing to increase.  The price to replace aging bridges and an interchange as well as add new lanes has increased by more than 50-percent to 342-million-dollars.  RIDOT wrapped up a four-year, 105-million-dollar project on the southbound lanes in July.

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New CEO AT Maher Center

The Newport Daily News reports that Rose Morton has been named the new executive director and CEO of the James L. Maher Center.
Morton took over the position on Friday when William “Bill” Maraziti retired. He was the executive director for the past five years.
Morton was hired by the Maher Center four years ago as human resources administrator, later became the director of supported living and was serving as chief operating officer before stepping in as CEO last week.

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School construction among top 2018 priorities for Raimondo

Gov. Gina Raimondo says a school construction initiative is among her top priorities for 2018.

The  governor  says she supports the recommendation of a school infrastructure task force, but says she's still examining the details. The task force recommends the state borrow $500 million to repair schools by 2022.

She continues to back a plan for a new Pawtucket Red Sox stadium, but says it's not her top economic development priority. She says that would be continuing initiatives on job training and education.

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Gas prices fall 4 cents per gallon in R.I.

The price of gas in Rhode Island has fallen four cents per gallon, to an average of $2.48 for regular unleaded.

A weekly survey from AAA Northeast released on Tuesday finds that gas prices have fallen an average of 12 cents over the last month.

The average price in Rhode Island is still four cents above the national average of $2.44 per gallon.

The price has risen 11 percent from last year at this time, when it was averaging $2.28 per gallon in the state.

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New England braces for bitter cold

The National Weather Service says there's the potential for record-breaking cold this week in New England as a big chill sets in. Meteorologist Andy Pohl says temperatures will max out in the single digits in parts of northern New England on Thursday. Temperatures in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island are not expected to rise out of the 20s all week and could dip into single digits.

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8 Eastern states suing EPA over upwind air pollution control

The attorneys general in eight Eastern Seaboard states are suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over air pollution that blows in from upwind states. Democratic New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says the lawsuit was filed Tuesday to force President Donald Trump's administration to take action to ensure upwind states control pollution. Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont also are part of the lawsuit. The EPA won't comment.

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Conditions Sought Ensuring Health Care In Pawtucket

Pawtucket Mayor Don Grebian is asking the state Department of Health to place conditions on Care New England and Memorial Hospital.  With the impending closure of the hospital, the goal of the request is to ensure city residents have access to health care services.   Last week Care New England released a plan for maintaining community-based care in Pawtucket.  Grebien says he wants to make sure the commitment becomes a reality.

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Newport City Council Interviews Completed

Interviews with the ten applicants for an upcoming vacancy on the Newport City Council are complete.  They were questioned by city councilors last week.  According to "The Newport Daily" an appointment will be made soon after the first of the year.  The vacancy was created by the resignation of Councilor-at-Large John Florez, effective on January ninth. 

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Congressman Cicilline Returning From Afghanistan

Congressman David Cicilline is headed back from Afghanistan.  The Rhode Island Democrat spent Christmas Day visiting with U. S. troops.  He had Christmas morning breakfast with Rhode Islanders and helped serve lunch at Operation Resolute Support headquarters.  During his visit Cicilline also received a briefing from the U.S. ambassador-designate John Bass, and visited tactical bases in the region. 

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Elderly Woman Victimized By Scam

West Warwick Police are looking for the woman who stole thousands of dollars from an elderly victim.  Police say a Hispanic woman and a man approached the victim in the Walmart parking lot and told her they had won the lottery, but couldn't collect the winnings because they were in the country illegally.  They convinced the victim to withdraw money from a bank for taxes in exchange for splitting the winnings with her.  After the victim gave the couple the money they drove away. 

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R.I. Native Killed In Plane Crash

A Charlestown native is being mourned after the plane she was on crashed during takeoff in Florida.  The crash happened Saturday as Krista Clayton and four friends were headed for a trip to Key West and their plane crashed at the end of the runway at Bartow Municipal Airport and caught fire.  There were no survivors.  Clayton leaves behind a fiance and two daughters as well her parents and five brothers and sisters.

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Nightclub Tries To Remain Open After Liquor License Not Renewed

The attorney representing the Vault nightclub in Providence is asking state officials for permission to reopen the establishment.  Lawyer Nicholas Hemond claims the city's licensing board is not renewing the club's liquor license based on a handful of complaints without considering the club's side.  The board heard complaints from neighbors as well as the police department as to the club being a nuisance.

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Lawmakers to begin 2018 session focused on budget deficit

The leaders of Rhode Island's Democratic-controlled General Assembly will begin the year with a laserlike focus on addressing the state's budget deficit.

House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello and Senate President Dominick Ruggerio open this year's legislative session on Jan. 2 facing a budget deficit of about $60 million in the current fiscal year due to overspending and a structural deficit of more than $200 million for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

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R.I. plans free hike for New Year's Day

The state has planned a free hike for the public on New Year's Day.

Rhode Island's Department of Environmental Management is offering a guided walking tour of Beavertail State Park in Jamestown.

The event is part of the annual First Day Hikes program, an effort by all 50 state park systems to encourage people to start the new year in a healthy way and enjoy nature.

The National Association of State Park Directors says more than 50,000 people took part last New Year's Day.

In Rhode Island, hikers will explore the state park on a one-mile tour that's expected to take two hours. The group is assembling at noon.

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US fishermen fear forests of power turbines

East Coast fishermen are turning a wary eye toward the offshore wind industry. In New Bedford fishermen say they dread the thought of navigating hundreds of turbines. Scallopers from Maine to North Carolina are suing the federal government to halt a wind farm proposed off Long Island. Fishermen in Maryland and North Carolina are voicing similar concerns. A Rhode Island company operating the nation's only offshore wind farm says the two industries can coexist.

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Bill would force White House hopefuls to release tax returns

Two state lawmakers say they'll reintroduce a bill in the upcoming legislative session to prevent presidential candidates from appearing on Rhode Island's ballot unless they release their tax returns. Democratic state Rep. Teresa Tanzi and Sen. Gayle Goldin say people have the right to know about potential conflicts of interest. A similar measure stalled last session. Republican President Donald Trump did not release his tax returns during the campaign.

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E-Bikes Coming To Providence

Providence is launching an electric bicycle sharing system.

Mayor Jorge Elorza says "JUMP Bikes" will begin this summer. He says it's New England's first electric bike share system.

The city is getting 400 electric-assist bikes.

Elorza says the bike share program will position Providence to be a more sustainable, healthier and fun city for years to come.

The e-bikes can go up to 20 miles per hour. They have electric motors but do require some pedaling.

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All Back To Normal at T.F. Green

The main runway at T.F. Green Airport in Warwick  has reopened following a partial electrical outage.

The Rhode Island Airport Corporation announced the reopening Sunday morning.

Officials had closed the airstrip on Saturday as a precaution after the outage darkened edge lighting, which provides visual references for pilots along the entire length of the runway.

Most incoming flights landed on another runway during the closure and as electricians worked to repair the outage, which was discovered Saturday morning.

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Providence hires 6 new culture coordinators for schools

The Providence School Board has hired six "culture coordinators" for the city's middle schools in an effort to reduce student absenteeism. Mayor Jorge Elorza and Superintendent Chris Maher announced the hiring on Thursday. The goal is to promote student engagement through the coordinators, who serve as liaisons between the school and the community. The hiring of a seventh coordinator is expected to be approved in January

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State buys 30 acres of land to keep as open space

Rhode Island has purchased 30 acres of forest to be permanently preserved as open space. The state Department of Environmental Management used $132,000 in bond money approved by voters to purchase the Hopkinton property from Virginia Jalbert. The property will be open to the public for activities such as hunting and hiking.

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Grant For RI Community Food Bank

The Rhode Island Community Food Bank is getting a one-hundred-thousand-dollar grant.  The Rhode Island Foundation says its grant will help provide more than three-hundred-thousand meals to the needy.  The Food Bank's 2017 Report on Hunger says one in eight households deals with hunger and that food pantries statewide are helping 57-thousand people every month.  

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RIDOT Signs Contract To Rebuild 6/10 Connector

The plan to rebuild the 6/10 connector is moving forward.  The state Department of Transportation signed a contract yesterday with a team of companies to undertake the 410-million-dollar project.  Seven of the interchange's nine bridges are structurally deficient.  A project commencement ceremony is planned for early January.

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Governor And GOP Chair Differ On Tax Law

Governor Gina Raimondo says the Republican tax bill signed into law this week by President Trump is bad for Rhode Island.  She says most of the tax relief goes to the very wealthy while potentially raising taxes for middle class families.  However, state Republican Party Chairman Brandon Bell responds that tax reform is good for the state. He adds that Rhode Island would also be better off with a governor focused on getting the state's fiscal house in order and reducing its high tax burden.

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Slight Increase In RI Unemployment Rate

The November unemployment rate for Rhode Island is four-point-three percent.  That's up a tenth of a point from the October figure.  It's estimated there were about six hundred jobs added in the state last month.   Nationally, the jobless rate for November is four-point-one percent.

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Federal Gov. Gives Environmental Approval To Truck Tolls

The Federal Highway Administration is approving the first two tolls in the state's truck toll network.   Yesterday's approval means the tolls on Interstate 95 in Richmond and Exeter won't have any environmental impact.  The Rhode Island Trucking Association claims the tolls will bring higher prices for consumer goods.  The group is also threatening to sue the state once the network is operational.  

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Former Pawtucket DPW Manager Due In Court Today

A former manager with the Pawtucket Department of Public Works is due in court today.  Normand Lamoureux was the department's second in charge when he was arrested two weeks ago and removed from his post.  Court documents show Lamoureux had warrants for violating a no-contact order and credit card fraud.  Police say they found drug paraphernalia in his car when he was arrested.

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Salvatore New Providence City Council President

David Salvatore is the new president of Providence City Council, being elected to the post yesterday.  Salvatore has represented Ward 14 since 2011.  Salvatore replaces acting President Sabina Matos, who has held the post on an interim basis since May after Luis Aponte resigned when he was charged with embezzlement. 

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Winter Weather Advisory In Effect

A winter weather advisory is in effect for northwest Rhode Island from 11 a.m. today through tomorrow morning.  A mix of snow and freezing rain can be expected by this afternoon, creating slippery driving conditions.  Areas along the coast will see mostly rain, but those inland will see sleet and freezing rain tonight into tomorrow.  Everything will change to rain by tomorrow afternoon.

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City Council Working To Fill Vacancy

Newport City Council members last night continued their interviews of applicants for the pending vacancy on the council caused by the resignation of Councilor-at-Large John Florez, effective January 9th.
The Newport Daily News reports that the council has now completed interviews of all 10 applicants. One withdrew before the interviews began.
Mayor Harry Winthrop said the six remaining council members besides Florez will decide who to appoint to the council, either at a special council meeting to be called sometime after Jan. 1, or at the first regular meeting of the council on Jan. 10.

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Report says DCYF needs to make immediate changes

Rhode Island's Office of the Child Advocate says the state's child welfare service still hasn't met "vital" recommendations.

The office centered on the deaths of two children under the care of the Department of Children, Youth and Families in its report released Wednesday.

While acknowledging the department is working on improving its policy, the report states it needs to make immediate changes to safeguard children.

This is the second time this year the office released a report critical of the agency.

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Roger Williams University president joins immigration group

The president of Roger Williams University has joined a national coalition of school leaders who are working to improve immigration policies.

University President Donald Farish joined the Presidents' Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration. According to a statement on the group's website, the alliance is dedicated to "increasing public understanding" of how immigration policies affect universities and communities.

Farish says he joined the alliance to ensure people are welcomed and supported when they immigrate to the U.S.

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RIDOT Says Road In North Kingstown Reopens

Railroad Avenue in North Kingstown is open again at the site of the former Slocum Bridge.  The bridge was scheduled for replacement in 2018.  However, with the posting of a weight limit in October, the state Department of Transportation says it quickly obtained the permits and approvals needed to do the project this fall.  The bridge was replaced with a drainage structure to handle stormwater running under the road. 

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Patient Numbers Increase At Miriam Hospital

Miriam Hospital in Providence is seeing a significant increase in the number of patients.  It's primarily attributed to the impending closure of nearby Memorial Hospital in Pawtucket.  Miriam parent company Lifespan says a lot more people are showing up for emergency care.  Based on patients' zip codes, a Lifespan spokeswoman says many patients at Miriam are coming from Central Falls and Pawtucket, an area previously served by Memorial.

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Two Charter Schools Get Preliminary Approval

State officials are giving preliminary approval to two new charter schools in Providence.  The schools would serve nearly 500 students.  While a positive for parents and students final approval would be costly to funding for Providence Public Schools with an impact of almost four-million dollars.

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Jeweler Pleads Guilty To Fraud Charges

A jeweler is facing up to 22 years in prison and fines after pleading guilty yesterday on federal charges in Providence.  Prosecutors claim Gerald Kent of Groton, Connecticut, defrauded a finance company of more than five-million dollars through his Johnston business.  Kent is scheduled to be sentenced March 9th.

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Providence Board Closes Nightclub

The Providence Board of Licenses is declining to renew the liquor license for the Vault night club.  Neighbors of the nightclub on Federal Hill say it has been a nuisance for years.  Owners of the Atwells Avenue club are appealing yesterday's decision to the state Department of Business Regulation. 

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Wind Turbine Bids Due Today

Offshore wind farm developers are submitting proposals for large-scale operations off Massachusetts. Deepwater Wind says it will submit two proposals by today's deadline for companies seeking to supply at least 400 megawatts of offshore wind energy to Massachusetts power companies. One plan calls for about 25 turbines generating 200 megawatts of power. The other is a 50-turbine array able to generate 400 megawatts. Two other companies also are expected to vie for the lucrative contracts.

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PPS Opposes Brown University Plan

Brown University is facing opposition to a plan to demolish five houses between Waterman and Angell streets.  The Providence Preservation Society says it's opposed to what it describes as the continual erosion of historical buildings in the College Hill neighborhood.  The houses, dating from 1849 to 1885, would be replaced by a new performing arts center.

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Jamestown Police Issue A Coyote Warning

Jamestown police are warning people to keep their dogs leashed or in their vehicles.  The warning follows a woman being bitten when her dogs got into a fight with a coyote Sunday morning at Beavertail State Park.  Barbara Szepatowski and her dogs were treated for minor injuries.  Police caution the public to be alert because coyotes are present at Beavertail and in other parts of Jamestown as well.

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Drug Overdose Deaths Down In RI

The overdose death rate in Rhode Island is down nine-percent for the first eight months of 2017.  There were 208 overdose deaths, down from 227  for the same eight month period in 2016.  Governor Gina Raimondo calls the decrease a slight ray of hope.

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CVS Announces One-Million-Dollars To Nonprofits

Almost 80 non-profits in Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts are sharing in one-million-dollars generated by last summer's CVS Health Charity Classic golf tournament.  The donations were awarded yesterday at the CVS headquarters in Woonsocket.  The 20th annual CVS golf tournament will be held June 25th, 2018, at the Rhode Island Country Club in Barrington

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Mayor Urges Action On PawSox Stadium Plan

Pawtucket Mayor Don Grebien is urging fast action by the General Assembly to approve public funding for a new baseball stadium.  He warns the threat of losing the Pawtucket Red Sox to Worcester is real. Grebien says if the legislature doesn't make a deal to keep the team in Pawtucket, the city will take action on its own.  Team executives and Worcester officials met again Friday but no details have been released.

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Bumper Cars On Ice Come To Providence

Providence's newest attraction is bumper cars on ice.  The bumper cars share the ice rink at the Alex and Ani City Center and people can take a 20-minute spin for 12-dollars.  The city owns the cars and expects to use them on land during the warmer months. 

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BBB Warns Of Fake Fingerlings

The Better Business Bureau is warning consumers about fake Fingerlings.  The agency has received numerous complaints about receiving fakes or nothing at all.  The BBB is advising people to buy products from reputable businesses and if the price is too low that should be a red flag.

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Church Fire Ruled Arson

Authorities are ruling a fire at a Smithfield church as arson.  The fire occurred around 6 a.m. Monday at New Life Worship Center.  The fire damaged the building's exterior and there was smoke damage throughout.  No one was injured.

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Parent Says Student In Wheelchair Was Stuck On Cold Bus

A bus company is blaming a problem with a wheelchair lift on a school bus as operator error.  Randy Lutz says his eleven-year-old son, who has cerebral palsy, has a cold after Monday's ordeal.  He says he received a call from the First Student bus company to come pickup his son because the lift on the bus wasn't functioning.  Lutz says for more than an hour the large door on the bus was open allowing cold air to blow through the vehicle.  The bus company says the drivers have been retrained as of yesterday.

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Fire at Smithfield church under investigation

An early-morning fire at a Smithfield church is under investigation.

The fire at New Life Worship Center was reported just after 6 a.m. Monday and was quickly knocked down.

The cause of the fire has not yet been determined. Because it is a house of worship, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has been called in.

Fire officials say the fire started outside the building. The exterior was damaged, and the interior had some smoke damage.

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Gas prices drop 4 cents a gallon in R.I.

Gas prices in Rhode Island have dropped four cents per gallon, just in time for Christmas.

AAA Northeast says its weekly survey on Monday found that the price of regular unleaded gas fell to an average $2.52 per gallon.

That's nine cents above the national average of $2.43 per gallon.

Gas prices are 12 percent higher this year in Rhode Island than last year, when the average price of gas was $2.24 per gallon, a difference of 28 cents.

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Newman Avenue Bridge Reopens

The Newman Avenue Bridge in East Providence is now open after a complete replacement.  The old bridge crossing the Ten Mile River had been rated structurally deficient for more than 20 years.  About nine-thousand vehicles cross the bridge daily.  RIDOT says the four-point-seven-million-dollar project was completed in nine months.  

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Local Dairy Recalling Egg Nog

Arruda's Dairy Farms of Tiverton is recalling its egg nog because it may be contaminated with salmonella.  The recall affects pint, quart and half-gallon containers with a sell by date of February 3rd and February 10th, 2018.  The products were distributed to customers in eastern Rhode Island and the Fall River areas.

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State House Christmas Tree Has Been Replaced

The dead Christmas tree in the Rhode Island State House rotunda has been replaced.  The old tree went up at the end of November and dropped so many needles that some of its branches were bare.  Big John Leyden’s Tree Farm donated a 12-foot Concolor Fir, which took it’s place yesterday in the rotunda.

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Woman Bitten By Coyote

A woman is recovering from injuries she suffered while breaking up a fight between her two dogs and a coyote.  Authorities say the incident happened Sunday at Beavertail State Park in Jamestown.  As the woman pulled into the park, her two dogs jumped from the car when they saw the coyote and started fighting.  The woman was treated at the hospital and the dogs have been quarantined. 

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Deal Calls For 200 Jobs To Remain At Memorial Hospital

Care New England is saying there's an agreement with the union representing nurses at Memorial Hospital in Pawtucket about what services will continue there.  Part of the deal calls for up to 200 jobs to remain in Pawtucket after the hospital gives up its license.  The union will also withdraw a lawsuit as part of the deal.

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State Christmas Tree Is Deceased

The Christmas tree in the rotunda at the Rhode Island Statehouse is dead. Piles of needles were blanketing the area below the tree Friday, beneath several bare branches.  The tree was sitting in a large container of water, also filled with needles. The donated tree was put up in November and the governor's office says there are no plans to replace it.

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R.I. Food Stamp Program Back On Track

The attorney appointed by a federal judge to deal with failures in Rhode Island’s food stamp system says the state has eliminated a backlog of thousands of applications. The state has been grappling with problems since it introduced a new computer system last year. Deming Sherman also said in a report filed in U.S. District Court in Providence that the state is now almost current on processing new applications.

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R.I. Foundation to award grants to innovators

The Rhode Island Foundation is offering $600,000 in grants to people with bold ideas for moving the state forward.

It's the seventh year of the fellowship program, sometimes called Rhode Island's genius grant.

Tomorrow is the application deadline.

Applicants don't need to live in Rhode Island, but must commit to living in Rhode Island during the term of the fellowship if they win.

The recipients will be announced in April.

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State to award grants to grow trees

The state is awarding grants to support community programs to grow trees.

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management says $30,000 is available in matching grants.

It's working in partnership with the United States Forest Service and the Rhode Island Tree Council.

DEM is hosting an informational workshop at 2 p.m. Wednesday at its headquarters in Providence.

DEM says it has awarded more than $5 million in grants under the America the Beautiful Tree Rhode Island program over the past 25 years.

The grant application deadline is Jan. 31.

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Wind Farm Turns Tourist Attraction

Block Island residents say the nation’s first offshore wind farm has positively impacted tourism.The Block Island Tourism Council says people are coming to the island to see the wind farm. That’s helping local hospitality businesses and charter boats, which are taking people out to see it.Deepwater Wind built five turbines 3 miles off Block Island, opening the first U.S. offshore wind farm a year ago.

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Dems: Congress must fund children's insurance program

Democratic members of Congress from Massachusetts and Rhode Island are calling on Congress to immediately extend funding for a popular federal children's health insurance initiative. U.S. Sen. Edward Markey is planning a press conference today at Boston Children's Hospital to call for an immediate funding extension for the Children's Health Insurance Program, or CHIP. Rhode Island's congressional delegation held an event Friday to demand the same thing. CHIP expired in September.

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Fire marshal gives tips to prevent fires during the holidays

The state fire marshal is sharing safety tips to prevent fires during the holiday season. James Gumbley says he's offering these tips because of the frequency of Christmas tree fires, and because he wants everyone to be safe. Gumbley says real trees should be watered daily and kept at least three feet from heat sources. He says other holiday decorations should also be kept away from fireplaces, radiators, portable heaters and candles.

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Boston to ban plastic shopping bags

Boston is banning single-use plastic bags in the city's stores. The Boston Globe reports that Mayor Marty Walsh said Sunday he has signed the ordinance because of the environmental benefits, such as reducing litter. He says he's still concerned about the impact on low-income residents and seniors. It goes into effect next fall.

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Man jumps into icy waters to rescue elderly man

A Rhode Island man who leapt into bitterly cold water at a marina to rescue an elderly man is being hailed as a lifesaver. Tate Tetreault says he heard a cry for help at the Warwick marina early Sunday morning and quickly jumped in to grab the man and pull him to safety. Fire officials say he likely saved the life of the nearly 80-year-old man who was taken to a hospital to be treated for hypothermia.

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Deadline for Newport City Council Applicants Is Today

The deadline for city residents who would like to join the Newport City Council and fill out a pending vacancy for most of 2018 is today.
The application is to fill out the term of office of Councilorat- Large John Florez, who is resigning effective Jan. 9. The six remaining council members will vote on who to appoint.

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Warwick School shakeup on the way

Big changes are coming to Warwick schools next year including two schools closing.

John Wickes and Randall Holden Elementaries will close by the 2018 academic year. In addition, John Francis Brown Elementary will become a preschool and more than 700 six graders from there will be transferred to middle school.

The school committee approved this plan last October, but just decided it would go into effect next year.

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W&I Hospital Loses Power Thursday Night

Woman & Infants Hospital in Providence lost power for nearly two hours late Thursday night.

A spokeswoman says that the South Pavilion of the hospital was affected due to a possible equipment malfunction at the Franklin Street substation shortly after 10 p.m.

A generator kicked in and power was fully restored around 11:45 p.m.

The outage did not impact any services.

The cause of the outage is under investigation.

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Report:Blue Collar Jobs In R.I. on deline

Blue collar jobs that pay well are on the decline in Rhode Island, but research shows workers without bachelor's degrees are finding options in industries such as health care and financial services.

Georgetown University researchers conducted a study on "good jobs" in each state. According to the study, blue-collar jobs such as manufacturing and construction declined 39 percent between 1991 and 2015. Still, jobs increased 37 percent in the same time period for skilled-services industries.

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Providence road upgrade wrapped up

A four-million-dollar project to resurface about a mile-and-half of Smith Street in Providence is finished.  In addition to resurfacing the road, DOT installed new sidewalks, made minor drainage improvement and modified three traffic signals.  New street trees will be added in the spring between Academy Avenue and Holden Street.  

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Court rules against company that claims it was overtaxed

The Rhode Island Supreme Court has ruled against a cement company that claims it was overtaxed hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Lehigh Cement filed a lawsuit against the Providence tax assessor in 2012 claiming it was improperly taxed on land it didn't own. The Supreme Court ruled the company allowed the statute of limitations to expire while it was trying to get compensation from the city.

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Son of mafia head wants community service cut

The son of a mafia captain is asking a judge to reduce the number of community service hours he has to work as part of his sentence for a shakedown scheme he ran with his parents.  Anthony St. Laurent Jr. asked a federal judge in Rhode Island this week to reduce his community service obligation from 500 to 100 hours per year, citing work and family obligations.

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R.I. State Police beef up patrols for holiday season

Rhode Island State Police are beefing up patrols through the holiday season to crack down on dangerous driving. The agency says it will focus on drivers who are impaired, distracted or overly aggressive. Col. Ann Assumpico says state police made 46 arrests for drunken driving in a recent one-month period. That was up from 37 arrests during the same time last year. Assumpico encouraged anyone who witnesses dangerous driving to call 911.

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Raimondo aims to double number of computer science grads

Gov. Gina Raimondo says she wants to double the number of graduates with degrees in computer science in Rhode Island by 2025.

Raimondo spoke at a computer science summit Wednesday at the University of Rhode Island.

To double the number of graduates, Raimondo wants to grow computer science programs in schools, improve the quality of computer science educators and ensure computer science opportunities are equitable by closing participating gaps.

She says projections show there will be 2,500 computing jobs available in Rhode Island by 2020.

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Pub Chain Closes Two Locations

Two Fat Belly's Pub locations are permanently closed.  The restaurants in downtown Providence and on Old Forge Road in Warwick have shut down.  The owner says three other Fat Belly's in East Greenwich, Coventry and next to the Warwick Mall will remain open.  He says several employees from the closed locations were offered jobs at the remaining pubs.

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Deadline Friday For Newport City Council Applicants

The deadline is tomorrow for Newport residents to apply to fill an upcoming city council vacancy.  The successful applicant will complete the term of Councilor-at-large John Florez, who is stepping down next month because he's expanding his business to Texas.  The remaining six city councilors will choose a replacement for Florez.

 

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Pawtucket Mayor Comments On Potential Hasbro Move

Pawtucket Mayor Don Grebien is reacting to a reported proposal to demolish the Superman Building in Providence for a new Hasbro headquarters.  Grebien says he's been talking to Hasbro about a possible move and It’s his understanding the company doesn't want a skyscraper.   A Hasbro spokeswoman says several options are being considered, from renovating the current Newport Avenue headquarters to finding a new corporate campus.   

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Plans For Providence LNG Terminal Moving Forward

A proposed liquefied natural gas terminal in Providence is moving forward.  The Coastal Resources Management Council has voted  that National Grid's plan is in compliance.  The terminal is strongly opposed by nearby residents due to safety concerns.

 

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Honeywell Moving Customer Service Out Of Smithfield

Honeywell International is moving customer service jobs out of Smithfield. It's unclear how many jobs are impacted.  The New Jersey-based company says the affected employees will be able to apply for other positions within the company, or will be offered severance.

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Governor: No Bidding War For PawSox

Governor Gina Raimondo says she's not going to engage in a bidding war to keep the Pawtucket Red Sox in Rhode Island.  She says she hasn't yet fully reviewed the revised legislation rolled out last week by the Senate Finance Committee, but says she supports any proposal that keeps the team in Pawtucket and protects the state's taxpayers.  Raimondo says while it would be sad to lose the PawSox to Worcester, the state can't afford a bidding war with Massachusetts.

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"Caught In Providence" Picked Up By Fox

The Fox TV network is picking up the social media sensation "Caught in Providence."  Millions of people nationally and internationally have become familiar with its star Municipal Court Chief Judge Frank Caprio's folksy, father-like approach to handing out justice.  The show will begin broadcasts on the network next fall.  

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Smoked Salmon Recalled

Springfield Smoked Fish is recalling some packages of its pre-sliced Nova Salmon.  The one-pound packages may be contaminated with listeria.  The state Department of Health says the affected packages with an expiration date of December 22nd were sold in Rhode Island and Connecticut.  No illnesses have been reported.  People with the packages can return them for a full refund. 

 

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R.I. Seventh Worst State For Student Loan Debt

When it comes to student loan debt Rhode Island is the seventh worst in the nation.  The StudentLoanHero-dot-com study based the rankings on the average student loan for a 2016 graduate, the average annual salary and the cost of living.   Last year Rhode Island was the fifth worst state.

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Councilman Pleads Not Guilty To Obscene Phone Call Charge

A member of Newport City Council is pleading not guilty to making an obscene phone call to a teenager.  John Florez claims he was protecting his 13-year-old daughter from the boy who was sending sexual messages to his daughter.  Family Court granted Florez a restraining order against the teen, but police charged him on the obscene phone call charge.  Police say the boy is facing charges and will appear in Family Court at a later date.

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Ex-police chief pleads not guilty to domestic assault

A former Rhode Island police chief has pleaded not guilty to charges of domestic assault and disorderly conduct.

Former Cranston Chief Marco Palombo Jr. entered his plea in Kent County District Court on Tuesday. The judge ordered him not to have contact with his wife or daughter.

The 53-year-old Palombo was arrested at his home Nov. 30 after someone called 911 to report he was "out of control." Police say witnesses told officers he "bashed" a woman in the face and neck. He was charged with assaulting his wife.

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District to review claims before putting teachers on leave

The superintendent of Providence schools says he will review allegations against staff before placing them on leave after union complaints that too many teachers were being taken out of the classroom based on flimsy claims. The superintendent says the district was advised by the state to immediately forward all reports of abuse to the child welfare department instead of first conducting its own investigation. The teachers union says many employees were placed on leave based on false claims.

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R.I. buys new snow plows to prepare for winter

Rhode Island has purchased 15 new snow plows and beefed up staffing as it prepares for winter. The state transportation department says it now has 142 plow trucks in its fleet with plans for more expansion by 2019. The state has also purchased five new trucks with equipment for washing salt off of roads and bridges to prevent corrosion. The department added 40 workers last year and 20 this year.

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Head Of State Commerce Corporation Is Leaving

The head of the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation, Darin Early, is leaving in January.  State Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor says Early has made valuable contributions to the progress the state’s economy is making.  Early's replacement is Hopkinton resident Jesse Saglio who has been head of the Commerce Corporation's investment unit.

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Peter Pan Bus Service To NYC Resumes

Peter Pan bus service between Providence and New York City got back on schedule yesterday.  Service was suspended Monday after the failed terrorist attack at the Port Authority bus terminal in Manhattan

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PawsSox React To Revised Stadium Plan

Pawtucket Red Sox management is not ready to support a revised stadium financing bill.  A spokesman says the legislation released last week by the Senate Finance Committee is still being reviewed.  Team President Charles Steinberg also says a year has been lost on the completion date for a new stadium beyond the original April, 2020 goal, because of inaction by the General Assembly.  He says team officials hope the House and Senate will show the leadership needed for construction of a new ballpark to keep the PawSox in Rhode Island.  

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Teachers Claim School Committee Not Honoring New Contract

Warwick teachers are upset that a contract recently approved by the school district isn't being honored.  Warwick Teachers Union president Darlene Netcoh says that the school committee agreed to start paying teachers a salary increase and retroactive pay December 21st.  But the school superintendent says that won't happen until at least February.  Philip Thornton says they need approval from City Council since the school committee can't overspend its budget.

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Residents Not Happy With National Grid Response Time To Storm

Rhode Islanders are not happy with National Grid's response to October's Nor'Easter.  At a public hearing in Warwick last night residents complained of crews fixing one problem and skipping over one down the block to go someplace else.  Another person said a hired crew caused a power surge in her home and damaged all of the wiring.  A spokesman says the utility is trying to learn from the storms and improve response times.

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R.I. gas prices down this week, expected to drop

The price of gas in Rhode Island is down this week and is expected to continue falling this holiday season.

AAA Northeast found in its weekly survey released Monday that the price of self-serve, regular is averaging $2.56 per gallon, three cents lower that last week.

The average price is 10 cents above the national average of $2.46. It's also 34 cents higher than the price in Rhode Island was a year ago at this time- $2.22 per gallon.

AAA found self-serve, regular gasoline selling for as low as $2.39 per gallon and as high as $2.70 in Rhode Island.

AAA says gas prices are expected to drop as supply strengthens and the gasoline demand weakens throughout the winter.

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City 'Safe Stations' to offer opioid addiction treatment

The city of Providence will launch a program that aims to immediately connect people battling opioid addiction to treatment. Democratic Mayor Jorge Elorza announced Monday a plan to open 12 "Safe Stations" at fire houses around the city. People suffering from an opioid addiction will be able to go to a station, speak with public safety officials and be directed to treatment and recovery services. The stations are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The stations will launch Jan. 2.

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New Program For Vets Comes To R.I.

Rhode Island has launched a new program to help veterans, service members and their families access health and social services.  Gov. Gina Raimondo announced the beginning of "RIServes" Monday at the Statehouse. The Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University administers the national AmericaServes network to help people navigate what can be a maze of services offered by thousands of veterans' organizations. RIServes is now part of that network.

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Representative Morgan Comments On Stadium Bill

House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan apparently isn't impressed with the newly revised Senate bill regarding taxpayer financing for a Pawtucket Red Sox stadium.  The Republican candidate for governor says the team is a private business and the owners should pay for a new ballpark.

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PawSox Has Concerns About Revised Financing Bill

The owners of the Pawtucket Red Sox say they're not ready to accept the terms in a revised bill that would provide financing for a new stadium.  In a statement released yesterday the PawSox say they're concerned about some of the revisions in the bill.  They also said that a new stadium won't be ready in time for the 2020 season.  The lease at McCoy Stadium expires in 2020. 

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School Superintendent To Review Claims Of Abuse

The superintendent of Providence schools will personally review claims of abuse by employees against students.  The move announced yesterday comes after a meeting with Mayor Elorza, school board president Nicholas Hemond and teachers union president Maribeth Calabro.  Each case needs to be looked at individually to determine if an employee needs to be placed on administrative leave.  Calabro says a number of teachers have been placed on leave because of false allegations by students. 

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The Last Benny's Is Closed

The last Benny's store is closed.  The store on Route 44 in Smithfield was the last in a chain of family-owned stores that survived for 93 years.  The last customers came for one of a kind items and pieces of nostalgia from a store they were fond of.  Most of the stores are being sold to a developer who plans to renovate and lease them to a retailer.  

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Newport Councilman Florez Arrested

The Newport Daily News reports that City Councilman John Florez was arrested Wednesday and charged with making a crank or obscene phone call after he repeatedly told a 13-year-old local boy to stop sending harassing, sexual and provocative messages to his daughter, who recently turned 13.
Florez was given a summons to appear in District Court on Wednesday to answer to the charge.
Florez said he obtained a temporary restraining order prohibiting the boy from contacting his daughter and filed a complaint against the boy in Family Court, where a hearing has been scheduled for Friday.

 

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Vietnam War vet awarded overdue medals for service

A Vietnam War veteran has received medals more than 40 years after his service. Paul Harvey was awarded a Silver Star, a Purple Heart and other awards during a ceremony Friday in the office of Democratic U.S. Sen. Jack Reed. Harvey is a 71-year-old Jamestown resident who was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1967 and served in Vietnam as a member of the Wolfhounds.

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Reports of snowy owl sightings up in R.I.

A Rhode Island wildlife preservation group says the state has had more snowy owls sightings than usual this time of year, a sign that more of the birds may be making their way down from the Arctic. Lauren Parmelee with the Audubon Society of Rhode Island says that the owls have been spotted in Narragansett, East Greenwich and on Block Island. She says dozens more could make their way to the state this winter.

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Last Benny's Store Is Closing Today

The Benny's store in the Greenville section of Smithfield is closing for the last time at 5 p.m. today.  It's the last location of the 93-year-old Rhode Island retail chain to shut its doors.  The owners of the family business announced in September they were retiring and that all the stores would close by the end of the year.

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R.I. State Police Issue Reminder To Motorists

The Rhode Island State Police is advising people who buy Christmas trees to make sure they're properly secured for the ride home to avoid damage, injuries and traffic fines. State Police Col. Ann Assumpico says motorists should use "extreme caution" and drive slowly when transporting Christmas trees. She says motorists can be fined up to $100 if their tree isn't secured properly.

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Brown University Replacing Loans With Scholarships

Brown University is replacing student loans with scholarships in financial aid packages starting in the 2018-2019 academic year.  The Ivy League school says it has reached its initial fundraising goal of 30-million-dollars to eliminate loans for returning and incoming undergraduate students.  The University is moving forward to raise another 90-million-dollars to keep the financial aid initiative going. 

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Four Casino Employees Face Drug Charges

Four Twin River Casino employees, two men and two women, are facing drug charges.  The two men are charged with possession and delivery of a controlled substance.  The women are charged with possession of a controlled substance. They've all been arraigned and are free pending further District Court hearings.

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RIDOT Hails Completion Of Little Compton Project

The state Department of Transportation is hailing completion of a project in Little Compton.  The resurfacing of Snell Road has been finished a full year ahead of schedule.  A ribbon cutting ceremony was held Thursday morning  at the intersection of Snell Road and Long Highway.

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Electric Boat Is Planning To Hire Hundreds

Electric Boat is planning to hire 700 people by next March.  The job openings at Quonset Point in North Kingstown include welders, sheet metal workers, pipefitters, electricians and mechanics.  Hourly wages are based on the position and experience.  There will also be hiring events monthly with one planned on January 12th at Warwick Mall.

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Gingerbread Express Headed To The State House

The 17th annual Gingerbread Express is stopping at the State House today.  Wrapped gifts bought by legislators and staff will be given to the Rhode Island Children's Fund for distribution to needy kids for Christmas.  Gift bundles typically include clothing, a toy and a book. 

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State Unemployment Insurance Tax Is Being Reduced

Rhode Island is reducing the unemployment-insurance tax imposed on employers.  A change in the formula for the tax which funds jobless benefits, will cut the amount employers pay by about ten-million-dollars in 2018.  The reduction takes effect on January 1st.  Governor Gina Raimondo says the tax relief will help businesses invest in new equipment, training and new staff.

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Nurses Union Files Suit To Halt Hospital Closing

The union representing nurses at Pawtucket's Memorial Hospital is filing a lawsuit against the parent company and the state.  In the suit filed yesterday the union claims the hospital's owner Care New England is not following the rules regarding a plan to close the facility.  The union wants a judge to block any more attempts to reduce services at Memorial without approval from state regulators.  The hospital has been suffering millions of dollars in loses. 

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Senate PawSox Funding Bill Unveiled

A revised bill to partially fund a new Pawtucket Red Sox stadium appears headed for approval in the Senate next month.  The bill released yesterday by the Senate Finance Committee includes eleven changes including a commitment from the team to a 30-year lease.  While the measure has strong support in the Senate its fate in the House is not clear.  

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First Snowfall Expected

The first snowfall of the season will move into the state tomorrow.  Flurries will start in the morning with a steadier snow in the afternoon and evening when most accumulation will happen.  The snow will end Sunday morning leaving two-to five inches and higher amounts north and west of Providence.

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Brown probing alleged hazing in men's swim and dive team

Brown University is investigating alleged hazing on the men's varsity swimming and diving team. An investigation by The Brown Daily Herald student newspaper found team members engaged in a night of drinking on Oct. 7. The Herald reviewed text messages, photos and recordings of conversations among team members, who described it as a night of "initiation" or "hazing." A Brown spokesman says Wednesday the school is "deeply troubled."

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US Sens. Reed, Whitehouse call on Sen. Franken to resign

U.S. Sens. Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse have added their voices to the chorus of lawmakers calling on fellow Democratic Sen. Al Franken to resign amid sexual misconduct allegations. Rhode Island's senators issued statements Wednesday. Franken's support in the Senate crumbled after another woman said he forcibly tried to kiss her in 2006, bringing to seven the number of women accusing him of sexual impropriety.

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Hazing Investigation At Brown University

Brown University says it's investigating alleged hazing of new members of the men's varsity swimming and diving team.  The probe follows a report by the student newspaper the "Brown Daily Herald" about hazing activities in early October.  University policy prohibits hazing and it's against Rhode Island state law.

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Power Outages At T.F. Green Airport

The cause of a circuit breaker malfunction at T.F. Green Airport yesterday morning is being investigated.  The malfunction triggered sporadic power outages around six a.m. that disrupted security equipment in the passenger screening area.  Power was fully restored within about 30 minutes.  The outages had no apparent impact on flights.

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Possibility Of Snow Saturday

There's a chance of some snow or a winter mix on Saturday.  Weather forecasters say what happens depends on when the precipitation starts to fall.  If it happens in the morning when temperatures are colder there's the possibility of one to two inches of snow.  If it happens in the afternoon as temperatures go into the 40s it's likely to be more rain. 

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East Providence Bridge To Close Today

The Newman Avenue Bridge in East Providence is scheduled to be closed from 6:00 a.m. this morning until 4:00 p.m. Friday.  Traffic will be affected between Pawtucket Avenue and Arcade Avenue, which is just over the Massachusetts border in Seekonk.  The closure is part of the ongoing bridge replacement project.  Detour signs will be posted.

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Coventry Zoning Board Meeting Postponed Due To Overcrowding

The Coventry Zoning Board meeting dealing with a proposed gun range is being postponed because the town hall was overcrowded last night.  The Coventry School Committee and state School Committee are opposed to the range because of the location being close to Washington Oak Elementary School.  The meeting has been rescheduled for January 10th, but a location has not yet been determined.

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Committee To Unveil Revised Stadium Legislation

A report and revised legislation for a public-private partnership to build a Pawtucket Red Sox stadium will be released by the Senate Finance Committee today.  Committee Chairman William Conley of East Providence says the revised bill addresses concerns raised during seven hearings held around the state.  However, the committee won't vote on the legislation today.  Senate President Dominick Ruggerio says he'll call for a vote by the full Senate when the General Assembly reconvenes next month.

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Chafee Not Ruling Out Run For Gov.

Former Gov. Lincoln Chafee says he's still considering running for governor as a Democrat, and Joe Trillo's announcement that he's running for governor as an independent doesn't change anything. Chafee says that if he runs, it will be in a Democratic primary. He called that decision firm. He says he doesn't have a timetable for when he will decide on his run.

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Benny's Store In Providence Is Closing Thursday

The Benny's store on Branch Avenue in Providence is permanently closing tomorrow at 5:00 p.m.  That will leave only the Greenville store in Smithfield still open.  The retail chain has been closing stores over the past few months since the owners of the family-owned business announced they are retiring. 

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MA Governor Supports PawSox Move To Worcester

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker is indicating state aid is a possibility to help lure the Pawtucket Red Sox to Worcester.  Baker says the state could offer assistance through infrastructure and public investment. Rhode Island officials are still considering state and city financing for a proposed 83-million-dollar stadium in downtown Pawtucket.

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Raimondo Elected To DGA Leadership Position

Governor Gina Raimondo is the newly-elected vice chair of the Democratic Governors Association.  She says 2018 is an opportunity to grow the number of female governors with strong candidates running across the country.  Raimondo calls next year's election cycle crucial.  Washington State Governor Jay Inslee is the new chair of the group. 

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Trillo Running For Governor As An Independent

Former Warwick Republican state Representative Joe Trillo says he's running for governor as an independent.  Trillo says he wants to make his case to the entire electorate, rather than the smaller group of voters in a GOP primary.  Two Republicans are already in the race, West Warwick state Representative Patricia Morgan and Cranston Mayor Allan Fung.

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Bridge Closure In East Providence This Week

The Newman Avenue Bridge in East Providence is going to be closed from six a.m. tomorrow until four p.m. on Friday.  Traffic will be affected between Pawtucket Avenue and Arcade Avenue, which is just over the Massachusetts border in Seekonk.  The closure is necessary for removal of asphalt and installation of a new gravel road base as part of the ongoing bridge replacement project.  Detour signs will be posted.

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Auditor General Releases Stadium Findings

State Auditor General Dennis Hoyle says higher attendance at a proposed 83-million-dollar Pawucket Red Sox stadium is crucial for the team to pay its debt.  The Senate Finance Committee has been considering public financing legislation for the project, and it may roll out a revised version of the bill tomorrow.  However, no committee vote is expected until the General Assembly reconvenes next month.

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Opponents Of Power Plant Voice Concern

A proposed one-billion dollar power plant is meeting stiff opposition.  At a hearing last night in Charlestown speakers voiced concern over Invenergy's plans to use well on land owned by the Narragansett Indian Tribe as a backup source.  Town Council President Virginia Lee told the Energy Facility Siting Board that plan affects residents' drinking water as well as their health.  About 250 people attended the hearing.

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Four Cases Of Mumps Diagnosed At Brown University

Brown University in Providence is working with health officials after four cases of mumps were diagnosed.  Students and faculty were notified about the cases Friday and it was announced last evening.  The students affected have been isolated, treated and are no longer contagious.    

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Transgender Woman Considering State House Run

A 22-year-old transgender woman is planning to run against Democratic State Representative John Lombardi for the District 8 seat.  Nika Lomazzo says she would focus on increasing protections for transgender residents and immigrants and create more affordable housing options.  Lombardi has been in politics in Providence for years and has been in the state House since 2012.  Lomazzo hasn't filed papers yet because she's waiting for a name change to be completed. 

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Alarming Picture Of $200-Million Budget Gap

The House fiscal advisor is sounding the alarm about the state's financial picture.  Sharon Reynolds Ferland told the House Finance Committee yesterday about a 200-million dollar gap over the next 18 months.  Ferland's estimates are different from the state budget office, but paint a similar picture.  The governor is to release her plan on closing the budget gap by January 18th.

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Newport Spring Project Workshop On Tap Tonight

Leaders of the Historic Newport Spring Project are expected to update members of the City Council tonight on the status of their plan to create an attractive public place at the site of the spring around which the city was founded in 1639.
The spring, which is now buried, is at the location of the now-vacant Coffey's Citgo gas station. The council workshop begins at 5:30 p.m. in City Hall council chamber.

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Providence zoo closes unexpectedly after construction mishap

The Roger Williams Park Zoo had to make an unscheduled closure after a construction mishap knocked out power to about half the zoo.

Zoo Director Jeremy Goodman says that construction in an upcoming exhibit on rainforests inadvertently hit a power line Monday morning.

He says that with power knocked out in several restrooms and no group events planned for the day, they decided the best course of action was to close.

Goodman calls it a minor issue, and says if it hadn't been December, they likely would have stayed open despite the outage.

Power has since been restored and says the zoo is expected to re-open today.

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R.I. Gas Prices Up This Week

The price of gas in Rhode Island is down this week, but hasn't decreased much since the post-Hurricane Harvey surge.

AAA Northeast found in its weekly survey released Monday that the price of self-serve, regular is averaging $2.59 per gallon, one cent lower than last week.

The average price is 11 cents above the national average of $2.48. It's also 39 cents higher than the price in Rhode Island was a year ago at this time- $2.20 per gallon.

AAA found self-serve, regular gasoline selling for as low as $2.44 per gallon and as high as $2.70 in Rhode Island.

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Middletown Council Favors Road Work After Dark

The Middletown Town Council approved work to improve the intersection of Aquidneck and Green End avenues be held at night.
According to the Newport Daily News, the Council voted 6-0 last night to follow the recommended work schedule suggested by the state Department of Transportation and Town Engineer Warren Hall. Councilman Antone Viveiros was absent.

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Top Tiverton Official Ousted

The Newport Daily News reports that Tiverton Town Administrator Paul McGreevy was terminated by the Town Council last night after just six months on the job.The vote was unanimous and came after a 2½-hour closed door meeting at the Senior Center where the seven-member council met with McGreevy for a contracted six-month performance evaluation and review to determine if he would be asked to stay on beyond his probationary period and fulfill his two year contract, or end his relationship with the town.

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Subcommittee Hearing On FY2018 State Budget

A Senate Finance Committee subcommittee is going to hear state department updates on the fiscal year 2018 budget later today.  The Subcommittee will hear updates and question officials from the departments of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals; Children, Youth and Families, and Health.  The hearing is scheduled at four this afternoon. at the State House.

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Providence Settles Racial Discrimination Lawsuit With Firefighter

The city of Providence is agreeing to settle a federal lawsuit by a veteran firefighter claiming racial discrimination.  Renato Alarcon had claimed that he was reassigned based on race.  He also claimed that a firefighter made inappropriate comments about his race and Hispanic firefighters were banned from parking their cars in a certain area after a white firefighter complained.  Alarcon will be paid 75-hundred-dollars.

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Jeweler To Plead Guilty In Plea Deal

The owner of a jewelry company charged in a multi-million-dollar fraud scheme is expected to plead guilty in a plea deal.  Gerald Kent, owner of Kent Jewelers in Johnston, is expected to plead guilty to wire fraud and aggravated identity in federal court in Providence next week.  Court documents show Kent bilked a finance company out of more than three-million-dollars by creating fake invoices for orders.  He then allegedly sold the invoices in exchange for cash advances. 

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Combined CVS-Aetna Would Be Third-Largest Company

The proposed acquisition of Aetna Insurance by Woonsocket-based CVS would mean Rhode Island would be home to the country's third-largest company.  CVS announced Sunday that it has a deal to buy Aetna for 69-billion-dollars in cash and stock.  The combined company would have more than 221-billion-dollars in annual revenue, trailing only Walmart and Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway.  The proposed acquisition will have to undergo federal approval.

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Raimondo Chosen For Leadership Role

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo has been chosen for a leadership position with the Democratic Governors Association. The association said Monday that Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has been elected chair of the association and Raimondo was elected vice chair at their winter meeting in New Orleans. Their one-year terms begin immediately.

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Leno Buys Newport Mansion

Former "Tonight Show" host Jay Leno and his wife have purchased an oceanfront estate in Newport. The Boston Globe reports Leno, who grew up in Andover, Massachusetts, paid $13.5 million for the mansion called Seafair. It has eight bedrooms and 11 bathrooms and comes with a pool, a tennis court and a private beach.

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Region seen as having sufficient winter power supplies

New England's power grid operator doesn't foresee any major problems supplying the region with sufficient electricity this coming winter.

ISO-New England says there should be enough resources to meet consumer demand, but there are scenarios that could pose challenges. Those could include higher-than-expected demand, the loss of a large generator in the region or constraints on natural gas pipelines that restrict delivery of fuel to power plants.

ISO says situations such as those might require special operating procedures.

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CVS Agrees To Buy Insurer Aetna For $69-Billion

Woonsocket-based CVS is purchasing Aetna insurance for 69-billion dollars, the "Washington Post" reports.  People familiar with the deal say it could possibly rein in the high cost of healthcare.  It might also transform standalone pharmacy storefronts into community medical hubs for primary care and basic medical procedures.  If regulators sign off on the mega-merger, CVS would provide a broad range of health services to the 22-million Aetna medical members inside the nationwide chain of pharmacies and walk-in clinics. 

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R.I. Rep. Wants Closer Eye On Utility

A Rhode Island lawmaker says he plans to introduce legislation to develop a study commission on the National Grid's business practices. Rep. Robert Lancia said Friday the commission would request the utility to open up its books. He plans to introduce the bill this upcoming legislative session. The Cranston Democrat noted electric rate increases in recent months for Rhode Island residents and the utility's response time to storm-related power outages in October, which has been under scrutiny.

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Family Receives Early Christmas Surprise

A couple says a mysterious donor paid off their layaway balance on Christmas gifts for their children. Joshua and Kyla Turbitt, of Warwick says they were planning on making a payment this past weekend  when the manager of a Toys R Us called to say their layaway was completely paid off. Joshua Turbitt estimates the person paid for more than $100 worth of toys.

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Bridge closed for $7.7M replacement project reopens

Rhode Island transportation officials say the Central Street Bridge closed last spring for repairs has reopened ahead of schedule.

The state Department of Transportation said Friday the North Smithfield bridge opened six months early and on budget. The bridge carries local traffic on Route 5 over Route 146.

The bridge closed in March and underwent a $7.7 million replacement project that included a complete removal of the existing superstructure. It was expected to open next year.

RIDOT says the bridge was last repaired in 1987.

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Suit: Hidden camera filmed Forever 21 employee in bathroom

A former Forever 21 employee at a Providence store is suing the retailer after she says someone installed a hidden camera in the employee restroom and secretly filmed her.

The federal lawsuit filed  in New York says video that shows the plaintiff partially undressed was disseminated to "thousands of online viewers" on pornographic websites.

The woman worked at the store in 2011. Her lawyer says she didn't become aware of the video until December 2016, after someone informed her of its existence.

Forever 21 has not responded to a request seeking comment.

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Cost Of State Benefits System Balloons

State officials say the projected cost of a state benefits system that has been plagued with problems since its rollout last year has grown to almost $500 million. Documents show the state's new estimate of the Unified Health Infrastructure Project, or UHIP, is now at just over $491 million through the 2018-2019 federal fiscal year. That's an increase from earlier estimates, which pegged the cost at around $445 million.  

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Special Ed Teacher Facing Charges

A special education teacher's assistant has been charged with kicking a 16-year-old nonverbal student who was in a wheelchair at  Middletown High School.  Stephanie LaRocque was arrested Friday on a charge of simple assault. Police say two teaching assistants told them Thursday that LaRocque had kicked the boy Tuesday because he had been moving too slowly. Police say LaRocque denied kicking the student.

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Former City Councilor Rejects A Plea Deal

Former Providence City Councilor Kevin Jackson is rejecting a plea deal offered by the state.  Jackson pleaded not guilty in August to embezzlement and campaign finance violation charges.  The offer he turned down Friday in Superior Court was a ten year prison sentence with three years to serve and 138-thousand-dollars to be paid in restitution in return for pleading guilty. Jackson is the first elected official in city history to be recalled from office.  He is scheduled to go on trial next April.

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Legislator Urges Caution On Stadium Proposal

A state legislator is urging caution with regard to the proposed baseball stadium in Pawtucket.  Narragansett Senator James Sheehan says he's concerned about the consequences if the Pawtucket Red Sox tax revenue falls short due to a drop in attendance, and the team cannot make its lease payments.  Sheehan warns there's the risk of stadium ownership being outsourced to the public.  The Senate Finance Committee is expected to release a revised proposal sometime this week.  

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A Second Memorial Hospital Community Meeting

There’s  a second community meeting scheduled on Care New England's application to close the emergency department at Memorial Hospital.  The public will also be able to comment on CNE's application to transfer primary care services provided under Memorial's license to Kent Hospital's license. The first meeting regarding Memorial Hospital was hosted by the state Department of Health last Wednesday.  The next meeting is today at 5 at the Baldwin School on Whitman Street in Pawtucket.

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UberEATS launches in Rhode Island

UberEATS has launched  its food-delivery service in Rhode Island.

The service is now available in the Providence area. The cellphone application allows users to order food from registered restaurants to be delivered to their home addresses.

UberEATS general manager Cathy Zhou says the average delivery time is 35 minutes or fewer, and there is a flat delivery charge of $5.99.

The service will be available to residents in Providence, Cranston and parts of Pawtucket and East Providence.

The company plans to eventually expand the service throughout the entire state.

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Rail Service Fron T.F. Green Mulled Over

Rhode Island transportation officials and Amtrak say they have been discussing ways to add service to T.F. Green Airport. RIDOT Director Peter Alviti said Thursday that his agency did a study with Amtrak about adding airport service and he believes it's doable in the next few years, though it could cost more than $100 million. Amtrak says it's too early to make any commitments regarding future service.

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Cicilline Calls On Conyers To Resign

Congressman David Cicilline is calling on Michigan Democratic Congressman John Conyers to resign.The   Eighty-eight-year-old Conyers is facing increasing pressure amid multiple allegations that he sexually harassed female aides over a period of decades.  Cicilline says he believes the women who have accused Conyers and says that he's in awe of the courage they've shown by coming forward. Cicilline says this is a moment when political loyalties and concern about relationships with colleagues must yield to standing up for what is right.  

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Plans For Former Benny's Stores Announced

The former Benny's stores are going to be redeveloped for retail use.  The new owner of the properties, the Carpionato Group, announced the plan yesterday at the State House.  It will spend 100-million-dollars to renovate the 29 locations in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut for new stores and restaurants.  The three Benny's stores still operating will close by the end of the year, marking the end for the 93-year-old family-owned retail business.

 

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Providence Firefighters Agree To Settlement

Providence firefighters are supporting a deal settling state and federal legal action about overtime payments.  Members of Local 799 of the International Association of Firefighters overwhelmingly approved the deal yesterday, settling the overtime dispute and a separate lawsuit that accused the city of violating the Fair Labor Standards Act when it comes to overtime.  Firefighters will be paid nearly six-million-dollars by July 1st.

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Hospital Ordered To Stop Accepting Patients

State officials are ordering Memorial Hospital in Pawtucket to stop admitting patients and performing surgeries.  The move is being made due to low staffing at the financially troubled facility.  The hospital is licensed for 290 beds but in recent months has only had as many as 20 patients.  A public meeting about the proposed closing of the hospital's emergency department will be held Monday at Lyman B. Goff Middle School at 5 p.m.

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Committee To Release Revised Stadium Proposal

The state Senate Finance Committee will soon release a revised proposal for constructing a new ballpark for the Pawtucket Red Sox.  The committee is looking to convene next Thursday and present the report.  However, the committee does not plan to vote on the proposal that day, allowing the public time to review it online.  The committee is still waiting for a report on the team's finances from the auditor general.

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Former Cranston Police Chief Arrested

Former Cranston Police Chief Marco Palombo is facing charges.  Police were called to Palombo's home last night for a domestic incident and he was taken into custody.  Palombo was released after appearing before a magistrate and ordered to stay away from the victim.  His next court appearance is December 12th.

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