Steve Conti
Steve Conti
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1540 Updates Archives for 2016-12

1 hospitalized, several displaced after RI fires

Fire crews in Rhode Island have battled several blazes in the state that left many people displaced and one person hospitalized.

Firefighters responded to a West Warwick apartment building early Tuesday for a report of smoke coming from the residence.

Authorities say the fire was contained within about 30 minutes. One person was hospitalized for smoke inhalation. Two people were displaced.

Authorities say eight people were displaced after a blaze broke out at a home in Bristol around 1 p.m. No injuries were reported.

Fire officials say a more than 100-year-old home in Richmond was heavily damaged by a fire that broke out around 3 p.m. One dog died and another was saved. Authorities are investigating what sparked the flames at the home.

Weeklong occupation of tribal headquarters ends peacefully

The weeklong occupation of a tribal government building by a faction of the Rhode Island Narragansett tribe has ended.

The occupiers left the building and handed over its keys to U.S. Attorney Peter Neronha at about 11:30 p.m. Monday.

The breakthrough came after days of mediation that included telephone calls and face-to-face meetings on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

The occupying group was led by tribal council members who impeached Chief Sachem Matthew Thomas and wanted him to step down. Councilwoman Chastity Machado, who spent six nights inside the building, says it's now time to settle issues as a family.

Thomas and his supporters don't recognize the results of an election or the impeachment.

Charlestown's police chief, the U.S. Interior Department and a nonviolence institute joined in the mediation talks.

Former Catholic priest dies before facing sex assault trial

A former Roman Catholic priest awaiting trial on sexual assault charges has died.

The Rhode Island Medical Examiner's Office says Barry Meehan died of a heart attack on Dec. 8. He was 67.

Meehan pleaded not guilty in 2014 to five counts of first-degree sexual assault on two young men in the late 1980s and early 1990s while Meehan was a priest at parishes in Providence and Cranston.

He resigned as pastor of St. Timothy's Church in Warwick in 2013 after state police conducted a joint investigation with the Providence Catholic Diocese beginning in 2012. The Vatican laicized Meehan last year.

Attorney General Peter Kilmartin's office says the charges will be formally dismissed on Jan. 4, which was Meehan's next scheduled court date.

Meehan lived in West Warwick.

Price of gas up 4 cents per gallon in RI

A decision by oil-producing countries to cut back production is affecting Rhode Islanders at the gas pump.

AAA Northeast reports Tuesday that the price of a gallon of regular is up 4 cents in the past week to an average of $2.28.

Rhode Island's price is a penny lower than the national average of $2.29, but 27 cents per gallon higher than the in-state price a year ago.

AAA found a range of 24 cents, from a low of $2.15 per gallon of regular to a high of $2.39.

The immediate future of gas prices depends in large part on whether OPEC countries and other oil-producing countries stick to production agreements.

Ronald McDonald House raises $5M for expansion in Providence

The Ronald McDonald House of Providence says it has reached its $5 million fundraising goal to help expand the facility.

The nonprofit organization launched its "Always Room at the House" fundraising campaign in 2014 to help offset the cost of adding 10 new bedrooms and program space to its downtown facility, the largest expansion project since the house opened in 1989.

It said  that the goal has been reached, thanks to the generosity of 855 households, 95 local businesses and several charitable foundations.

The house welcomes sick children and families who need to be close to local hospitals.

The new bedrooms officially opened earlier this year. The nonprofit says it can now help an additional 130 families annually, an increase of nearly 40 percent.

Programs helping the homeless to get $5.9M in federal grants

Programs that help the homeless in Rhode Island have been awarded $5.9 million in federal grants.

U.S. Sen. Jack Reed says the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded the Continuum of Care grants to support more than 40 homeless assistance projects.

The Rhode Island Democrat says the federal funds are vital to keeping a commitment to prevent and end homelessness throughout the state.

The federal funds are jointly administered by nonprofits for a variety of housing programs and services, including transitional and permanent supportive housing, rapid rehousing, outreach efforts and client assessments.

Homelessness remains a challenge in Rhode Island.

According to HUD's 2016 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, nearly 1,200 people across Rhode Island were experiencing homelessness on a single night in late January 2016.

Sales of single-family homes in RI continue rising

Sales of single-family homes in Rhode Island continue to rise.

The Rhode Island Association of Realtors says sales were up 19 percent in November compared to November 2015.

November's median sales price also rose to $245,000 despite more foreclosures and short sales which typically lower the median price.

The association said last month that sales were up nearly 5 percent in October compared to October 2015, and the median sales price was $235,000.

Condominium and multifamily property sales are also up.

The supply of single-family homes for sale decreased in November, which may begin to slow sales later.

The association says Rhode Island's housing market is still seeing remarkable gains, though the market may settle a bit in 2017.

Standoff over leadership RI tribe continues

The occupation of a tribal government building by a faction of the Rhode Island Narragansett tribe that's demanding a leadership change is now in its seventh day.

One occupier, Bella Noka, says elected tribal council members met with authorities Sunday to discuss vacating while the dispute is resolved through mediation.

She says they didn't reach an agreement and about 20 people remain inside Monday.

The occupiers include council members who impeached Chief Sachem Matthew Thomas and want him to step down.

Thomas and his supporters don't recognize the results of a July election or the impeachment.

A federal judge and Rhode Island's governor have both said they have no jurisdiction over the sovereign tribe.

Noka says a generator is supplying power to the building after someone cut power Friday.

New director chosen for RI's Port of Davisville

A new director has been chosen to lead the Port of Davisville, a busy port for automobile imports in Rhode Island.

The Quonset Development Corp. says Robert Blackburn will lead the day-to-day operations and management of the port in the Quonset Business Park in North Kingstown.

The corporation says more than 200,000 vehicles were imported there this year, making it one of the top auto importing sites in North America.

Blackburn worked for the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority for more than 23 years, most recently as the senior deputy executive director.

Rhode Island voters approved a bond measure in November to invest $50 million in infrastructure at the Port of Davisville.

The port's previous director, Evan Matthews, left to become the Connecticut Port Authority's executive director in September.

Female police officer sues, cites hostile work environment

The highest ranking female police officer in North Providence has filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against superiors.

Lt. Diana Perez says in the suit filed on Wednesday that her civil rights were violated. The city's acting police chief, Christopher Pelagio, and Mayor Charles Lombardi are named in the complaint.

Perez initially wrote the mayor to say she was being subjected to a hostile and humiliating work environment. She later filed a petition with the Rhode Island Human Rights Commission stating she was routinely discriminated against because of her gender.

Perez has been on leave due to stress since April.

Lombardi has said he'll fire Pelagio if Perez's claims are proven true.

Pelagio says he's confident that an ongoing investigation will vindicate him.

State council passes plan to let charter triple enrollment

The Rhode Island Council on Elementary and Secondary Education is giving a charter school the green light to triple its enrollment.

The council voted on Tuesday to allow Achievement First, which operates two elementary schools in Providence, to grow to more than 3,100 students by 2025.

Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza chairs the charter school's board of directors and must sign off on the plan.

Elorza has said he would defer supporting the expansion until Achievement First can show it will help cover any financial losses felt by the city's public schools.

The state Department of Education estimates the district would lose about $35 million each year after Achievement First reaches full enrollment.

Health department: 1st baby born with Zika in RI

Rhode Island health officials are reporting that a baby was born with Zika virus in the state for the first time.

Spokeswoman Andrea Bagnall-Degos on Wednesday said transmission of the virus happened while the mother was traveling.

She said the child was born in November, and no birth defects have been identified at this time. The child's family lives in Rhode Island, and Bagnall-Degos says the department is following the case.

The baby has been added to the state's Zika registry, which then transmits information to the federal Centers for Disease Control.

Woman charged with stealing from church collection boxes

A Westerly woman has been charged with stealing money from two church collection boxes.

Darlene Kripps is charged with larceny of less than $1,500. The actual theft likely amounted to $15 or less.

Police say surveillance footage at Immaculate Conception Church shows the 52-year-old walk into the candle room last week donning a long, hooded dark jacket and a red scarf.

Police say she used a tool to remove money from the offering boxes..

The church's secretary recognized Kripps, who has been banned from the church and has a pending court date. It wasn't immediately known if she had an attorney.

2 companies accused of violating false claims act to pay $1M

Two Rhode Island construction companies and several of their executives have agreed to pay $1 million to settle allegations that they wrongly took federal money meant for small businesses owned by women and minorities.

Wallace Construction, of Warwick; Rosciti Construction, of Johnston; and four former and current company officials agreed to the settlement. They don't admit fault or liability under the terms.

Authorities say they falsely submitted reimbursement requests for money earmarked for businesses owned by minorities and women, violating the federal false claims act.

Rosciti and Wallace have agreed to appoint internal compliance officers and external monitors to ensure they remain in compliance with disadvantaged business enterprise requirements.

House Speaker stands by "illegal aliens" campaign mailer

Rhode Island Democratic state House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello is standing by his campaign mailer that used the phrase "illegal aliens" and touted his power to halt legislation to grant driver's licenses to immigrants in the country illegally.

Mattiello said in a recent interview he was unaware of any criticism of the mailer, which included a protest letter circulated on social media. He says the message reflects the opinion of his constituents.

Mattiello narrowly won re-election last month after sending out the mailer to residents in his Cranston legislative district. It said he "stopped driver's licenses for illegal aliens" and single-handedly blocked the legislation, which never moved to a House floor vote.

Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo said Friday she still supports the licenses but Mattiello's opposition makes legislation unlikely to happen.

New tribal leaders assume power in RI

New leaders have assumed power among the Narragansett Indian tribe in Rhode Island.

Tribal members elected in July have taken control of the federally-recognized tribe's administration building in Charlestown Tuesday.

Bella Noka, the tribal election committee chairperson, told the station that members hired retired police officers for security as the locks were changed on the building.

Longtime tribe chief Matthew Thomas, who was impeached by the council in October, has refused to cooperate in the transfer of power. He and other supporters claim the new council members are impostors and that Thomas' impeachment was invalid. Thomas has also sued in federal court.

Opponents say Thomas' residency disqualifies him to be chief. WPRI-TV says documents they obtained show he's been a legal resident of Florida since 2015.

Several costumes stolen from 'The Nutcracker' are returned

The Grinch who stole the Nutcracker's mask and the Sugar Plum Fairy's tutu from a Rhode Island warehouse has had a change of heart.

Several costumes from "The Nutcracker" were returned Tuesday to police in Pawtucket.

An attorney gave the costumes to police from a client. Neither was identified publicly.

The Festival Ballet Providence discovered in November that 57 costumes and costume parts were missing from a Pawtucket warehouse.

Artistic director Misha Djuric  is assessing the condition of the returned costumes. One of the Nutcracker's masks was damaged.

The show was performed this past weekend. Ballet companies from across the country lent costumes and props.

The artistic director says he's glad some costumes won't have to be replaced next year and hopes the rest will be returned.

Cross pen maker seeks revival with flagship store

The 170-year-old company that makes Cross pens is opening a flagship retail store at its new Providence headquarters.

A ribbon-cutting for the new A.T. Cross Co. store is planned today.

CEO Robert Baird says the company's recent move from suburban Lincoln, Rhode Island, to the Foundry complex near downtown Providence is part of a broader strategy to boost talent and reinvigorate the luxury pen brand.

Rhode Island has offered the company $1.9 million in incentives based in part on plans to add 35 new jobs in coming years. Baird says he previously considered relocating to Connecticut but preferred staying in Rhode Island, where the company was founded in 1846.

Most of its pens are now manufactured in China. It's owned by New York private equity firm Clarion Capital Partners.

Raimondo: Benefits system better but 'not good enough'

Gov. Gina Raimondo says progress is being made in efforts to fix technical problems with the state's new public benefits system.

She told the House Oversight and House Finance committees at a Tuesday hearing that the system is improving weekly but added that "it's not good enough."

Rhode Island is transitioning to a new, $364 million computer system to administer benefits such as food stamps and health care. The system launched in September.

Rhode Island Partnership for Home Care's executive director said at the hearing that some home care providers are no longer taking new Medicaid patients because they aren't sure if they will get paid.

State officials noted some areas of improvement, saying a long-term care backlog has shrunk from 700 to less than 400.

Lincoln rescue fined over $63K, ordered to forfeit license

An animal rescue organization in Lincoln has been fined more than $63,000 and ordered to surrender its operating license.

A notice of violation dated Dec. 5 has been sent to Amna Memon and her husband, James Baribeau, who run Broken Tail Foster and Rescue and the retail store Oh My Dog.

The notice charges them with violating regulations involving license application, animal sickness disclosure, and taking sick animals to a veterinarian, among other offenses.

Memon disputes some of the allegations and says they're trying to reach a resolution with the state Department of Environmental Management.

Memon and Baribeau can either appeal or try to negotiate a settlement.

The rescue is trying to raise money to pay down its debt.

Gas prices rise 2 cents to $2.24 per gallon in RI

Gas prices are continuing to rise in Rhode Island.

AAA Northeast says its weekly survey Monday found the price of a gallon of regular unleaded gas rose 2 cents per gallon from last week, to an average of $2.24.

That's the same as the national average.

Gas prices in Rhode Island have increased 9 percent from last year at this time, when a gallon of regular unleaded was averaging $2.05, 19 cents lower than today.

DEM, Nature Conservancy purchase Coventry farm for $660K

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management says a historic farm will be preserved for agricultural and environmental conservation after it was purchased by the agency in partnership with the Nature Conservancy.

The agency said Monday the 224-acre Broadwall Farm in Coventry was bought for $660,000 with state bond funds administered by the Agricultural Lands Preservation Commission.

The Nature Conservancy put $284,788 toward the purchase in grants through the Champlin Foundations.

The farm includes an 18th-century farmhouse and the property includes pasture, forestland, wetlands and small streams.

The agency says DEM and partners have permanently protected 105 farms, or 7,174 acres, since 1985.

Johnson & Johnson to open health- tech center in RI

Health care company Johnson & Johnson is opening a new health technology center in Rhode Island, bringing about 75 jobs to the state.

Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo announced the plans Monday.

The New Brunswick, New Jersey-based company develops drugs and makes medical devices and other consumer products, including Band-Aids.

The center will specialize in optimizing information technology and data analytics to create health-related software applications.

Johnson & Johnson says Rhode Island gives it access to economic development tools and university assets necessary to stay competitive in a rapidly growing industry.

It expects to move to Providence by the spring and apply for tax credits and business incentives developed by the Raimondo administration.

Raimondo is trying to make Rhode Island a hub for advanced industries and train residents for high-skilled jobs.

RI electors cast 4 votes for Clinton

Rhode Island's four members of the U.S. Electoral College have cast their votes for Democrat Hillary Clinton.

The four Democratic electors voted Monday at the Rhode Island State House for Clinton, who won the state's popular vote by more than 15 percentage points over Republican Donald Trump.

The electors also passed a motion asking Congress and the president-elect for an independent, bipartisan investigation into Russian interference into the election.

All 538 members of the Electoral College met in their respective states Monday to formally elect Trump president.

Protesters carrying anti-Trump signs watched from the gallery as the vote occurred, and they and others cheered loudly when votes were cast for Clinton.

Priest replaces statues stolen from RI crèche

A Roman Catholic priest has donated two statutes to replace those stolen from a nativity scene outside an assisted living center in the Rhode Island city of Pawtucket.

The Mary and Joseph statues were stolen from the crèche at the Jeanne Jugan Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor on Dec. 10.

The home's operators say the nativity scene will be placed behind Plexiglas to prevent further thefts.

The facility also is seeking donations to pay for an upgrade to its security system, which is expected to cost about $15,000.

Police are looking for three men who are seen on a video taking the three-foot-high porcelain statues.

The new statues, which cost a total of about $900, were donated by a priest at St. Thomas More Church.

New equipment added in RI's state house for deaf visitors

New equipment has been added to some of the rooms at the Rhode Island State House that are most often frequented by the public, so visitors who are deaf or hard of hearing can fully participate in state government.

A new hearing loop system was installed ahead of the legislative session's January start. The wireless network transmits sound to digital hearing aids.

It's now in the room where House Finance Committee hearings are held, the State Room, the largest Senate hearing room and the Senate and House galleries.

An assistive listening device system is available elsewhere.

The Rhode Island Commission on the Deaf and Hard of Hearing paid $50,000 for the improvements, with another $10,000 coming from the General Assembly's operational budget.

The previous system required users to wear headsets.

RI awards grants to clean up contaminated property

The state has awarded $1.3 million in grants to clean up contaminated property and promote redevelopment.

Nine projects will receive funding through the Brownfields Remediation and Economic Development Fund.

The recipients are located in Providence, Warwick, Barrington, Central Falls, Pawtucket and Smithfield, with awards ranging from about $71,000 to $250,000.

Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo says many of the state's brownfields are located on valuable real estate and cleaning them up will accelerate economic growth, create jobs, and promote healthier, vibrant communities.

According to grantee estimates, the grants support nearly 1,000 new jobs.

The state funded 14 brownfields projects with $3.7 million in grants for site preparation and redevelopment last year. Work has begun on 98 acres of brownfields.

Voters approved creating a Brownfields Remediation and Economic Development Fund in 2014.

Apprenticeship programs revived for submarine construction

Apprenticeship programs at U.S. Navy contractor Electric Boat are being revived so the company can be ready to build the nation's new ballistic-missile submarines.

Connecticut-based Electric Boat, which has a site in Rhode Island, projects it needs to hire about 14,000 people over the next 14 years to build new Columbia-class ballistic-missile submarines and to continue building Virginia-class attack submarines. That would grow its workforce by about 3,500, to 18,000 employees.

The company says the last apprentice class for shipyard workers graduated in 2007. The last apprentice class for designers and engineers graduated in 2014.

The programs combine on-the-job training with classroom instruction. They were in hiatus until the company stepped up hiring. They formally re-launched earlier this month.

RI electors to cast votes for president today

Rhode Island's members of the U.S. Electoral College are scheduled to meet at the State House to cast their votes for president.

The four Democratic electors will be escorted at noon today into the House chamber. All 538 members of the Electoral College are meeting in their respective states Monday to choose the next president.

Rhode Island's electors are former gubernatorial candidate and Providence attorney Clay Pell; Providence state Rep. Grace Diaz; retired labor union leader and former Cranston firefighter Frank Montanaro; and East Greenwich resident Susan Weiner.

They are expected to cast their votes for Democrat Hillary Clinton, who won the state's popular vote by more than 15 percentage points over Republican President-elect Donald Trump. Trump won enough states to collect 306 votes. It takes 270 to be president.

RI attorney general to refile vetoed 'revenge porn' bill

Rhode Island Democratic Attorney General Peter Kilmartin says he will refile legislation to ban so-called "revenge porn" after the bill was vetoed by Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo.

Kilmartin said Wednesday that the bill was wrongfully vetoed, so he will reintroduce it in the General Assembly session that convenes next month.

The legislation would criminalize posting nude pictures online without the consent of the person in the photo. Such images are often posted by ex-spouses or partners seeking to embarrass, or by extortionists demanding ransoms.

The legislation easily passed through the General Assembly but Raimondo vetoed it in June, saying it could have a chilling effect on free speech.

Raimondo said she'd support a better-written measure. Kilmartin says he hasn't changed it because it's already vetted and protects free speech rights.

Police to ask forensic anthropologist to examine remains

Island State Police say they are asking a forensic anthropologist to determine the age of possible human remains found at a construction site in South Kingstown over the weekend.

Maj. Dennis Fleming says on Wednesday that the state anthropologist with the medical examiner's office did an initial examination of the remains and advised a follow-up with the forensic anthropologist. He says that will be conducted within the next few weeks.

The remains were found on land adjacent to the St. James Chapel, which recently sold the land to a developer to build homes.

The property at one time belonged to a Prohibition-era bootlegger named Danny Walsh, who disappeared in 1933. He was never found.

Official: 33 Warwick teachers call in sick because of virus

The superintendent of schools in Warwick says a virus was the reason 33 teachers called out sick, not a labor protest.

Superintendent Philip Thornton says 33 of the 87 teachers at Veterans Junior High School were out sick Wednesday. He says substitute teachers and other personnel covered all the sick teachers' classes.

Thornton says the virus has not affected students.

The superintendent says the Warwick Teachers Union assured him that it would never use a "sick out" to protest during teacher contract negotiations.

He says several teachers at other schools in the city also were out sick Wednesday.

Gov: Branson's Virgin Pulse to add hundreds of jobs in RI

Rhode Island officials and a Massachusetts-based employee well-being company owned by British billionaire Richard Branson are set to announce an expansion of the company's operations that they say will add hundreds of new jobs in the Ocean State.

Gov. Gina Raimondo's office said Wednesday that Raimondo and Virgin Pulse president and chief operating officer David Osborne will announce details of the expansion Thursday at the State House.

Virgin Pulse is based in Framingham, Massachusetts, and is part of Branson's Virgin Group.

Virgin Pulse announced in February that it acquired Providence-based tech startup ShapeUp Inc. in a push to expand its software for corporate wellness programs.

Elected officials and business and academic leaders also are expected to take part in Thursday's announcement.

No charges against ex-director after child left on bus

Rhode Island State Police say no charges will be filed against the former transportation director for Westerly Public Schools after a 5-year-old girl was left unattended inside a school bus.

Capt. Matthew Moynihan tells The Westerly Sun finished their investigation last week and concluded there wasn't enough evidence to bring charges against Peter Denomme.

Denomme lost track of the girl after he was supposed to drop her off at her home on Sept. 21. Police had launched the probe after receiving a complaint from an attorney for the girl's family.

The family and their attorney have said the child was left alone for more than 40 minutes.

Denomme resigned in October. He had worked for Westerly Public Schools since 2009.

He couldn't be reached for comment on Wednesday.

4 seriously injured after crash, fire at gas station

Authorities say four people were seriously injured when a crash involving multiple vehicles ended in a massive car blaze at a Johnston gas station.

State police Capt. John Allen said Tuesday he couldn't provide details on what led up the crash as investigators are still working to sort out what had taken place.

Troopers found four people injured at the family-owned station around 4:10 p.m. Police say two of the four suffered injuries considered life-threatening. Authorities say the injuries appear to be related to the crash, not the fire.

Providence Police awaiting approval on body cameras contract

Providence Police have agreed to a contract to provide more than 200 officers with body cameras and are awaiting approval from the city council.

Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare says that the year-long contract with Taser International can be renewed annually for 5 years.

Pare says if the council approves it this month, the department could have the equipment in January. He says officers will then need to be trained, so they could be wearing the cameras within 60 to 90 days of when it arrives.

Pare says Taser would get $300,000 to $350,000 per year under the agreement. The department plans to pay for the first two years with city funding and a $375,000 grant it previously from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Elector seeks intelligence report on Russian interference

An elector from Rhode Island who once worked for the Obama administration's National Security Council is taking a leadership role in calling on federal intelligence agencies to release more information about possible Russian interference to help elect Donald Trump as president.

Democrat Clay Pell says the 538 members of the Electoral College should be provided with an intelligence briefing before they choose the next U.S. president on Monday.

Pell was one of 10 electors who sent a letter this week seeking information from U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. The list of electors who have signed the letter has now grown to 40, though only one is a Republican.

Pell says it's an unprecedented situation and he and other electors need the information to fulfill their constitutional duties.

Ex-boarding school priest charged with abusing boy in 1973

A former Episcopal priest who worked at several elite boarding schools has been charged with sexually assaulting a 16-year-old boy in 1973 in Boston.

Howard "Howdy" White pleaded not guilty Tuesday in Suffolk Superior Court after being indicted on five counts of assault and battery. White, of Bedford, Pennsylvania, was freed on personal recognizance.

Prosecutors say White assaulted the boy during two overnight trips to Boston, when he worked at St. George's School in Middletown.

An investigator's report about abuse at St. George's found multiple allegations against White including in New Hampshire, where he worked at St. Paul's School, in West Virginia and in Waynesville, North Carolina, where White was a rector.

He also worked at boarding schools in Virginia and North Carolina.

Hospital nurses, staff vote to issue strike threat

The union that represents nurses and other staff at the Women and Infants Hospital of Rhode Island may announce plans to strike if an agreement isn't reached with hospital representatives.

District 1199 SEIU New England members voted on Sunday and Monday to authorize their bargaining committee to deliver a strike notice. Executive vice president Patrick Quinn says a 10-day strike notice will be issued if an agreement isn't reached on Wednesday.

The current contract expired on Dec. 1. Quinn says members want more staff to share the workload and reduce forced overtime.

Hospital chief nursing officer Matthew Quin says the Providence hospital is hiring new nurses but rules governing the addition of new staff take a long period of time.

Quin says management is "extremely committed" to the contract negotiations.

Gas prices up 2 cents, to $2.22 per gallon, in RI

Gas prices have risen 2 cents per gallon in Rhode Island.

AAA Northeast says its weekly survey on Monday found the price of a gallon of regular unleaded climbed to $2.22.

That's 1 cent above the national average of $2.21 per gallon.

It's 16 cents higher than last year at this time, when gas in Rhode Island was averaging $2.06 per gallon.

AAA Northeast says the price increase is partly due to the possibility of production cuts next month by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC.

1st US offshore wind farm opens off RI's coast

The nation's first offshore wind farm has opened off the coast of Rhode Island, ushering in a new era in the U.S. for the industry.

Deepwater Wind built five turbines 3 miles off Block Island to power about 17,000 homes, a project costing about $300 million. It announced Monday that the wind farm has begun producing energy for the grid.

Deepwater Wind CEO Jeffrey Grybowski calls the opening a momentous occasion that unlocks the code of how to do offshore wind in the U.S.

The director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management says the wind farm proves that offshore wind can happen safely and efficiently.

Deepwater Wind installed the turbines in August and has been testing the system. National Grid is buying the output.

Inaction on complaint leaves prep school victims frustrated

Rhode Island licensing officials have not resolved a nearly year-old complaint that a former boarding school psychologist did not do enough to address sexual abuse reports.

Two women who were among at least 31 girls abused by an athletic trainer at St. George's School in Middletown asked that Peter Kosseff's license be revoked. The first complaint was filed Dec. 26, 2015 and the other soon after.

They tell The Associated Press they are bothered the complaint is still pending and Kosseff is still practicing.

An independent report found Kosseff took action in some instances, such as helping fire a choirmaster for abusing a student. But it found at other times Kosseff didn't move quickly to stop misconduct.

Kosseff and the state health department would not comment, citing the pending case.

Tech complex developers get $20M in state incentives

Developers of a proposed technology innovation building in Providence have been awarded more than $20 million in state incentives.

The I-195 Redevelopment District Commission on Monday night approved the funds to developers of the Wexford Science & Technology complex.

The Baltimore-based Wexford and developer CV Properties LLC, are proposing a 191,000-square-foot facility that would break ground in 2017. It's expected to cost $150 million to build.

The developers have two secured major tenants for proposed innovation facility: the Cambridge Innovation Center and Brown University's School of Professional Studies.

The facility is part of a $150 million project that would also include an Aloft hotel. The development is proposed on acres of land freed up by the relocation of I-195 south of downtown.

ACLU sues RI over computer benefits system delays

The Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has sued the state over the troubled rollout of a new $364-million benefits system, which has caused thousands of delays in giving residents food stamp benefits.

The class-action lawsuit filed on Friday says the state is failing to process food stamp applications and issue benefits within the time frames mandated under federal laws and regulations. It blames the state's inadequate and faulty implementation of the Unified Health Infrastructure Project, also known as UHIP

The ACLU says clients have endured what it calls a "Kafkaesque" food stamp application process created by the new system that causes multiple delays.

A spokeswoman for the state says it is doing everything it can to meet the needs of the people the system serves.

Sen. Reed: US needs to probe whether Russia hacked election

U.S. Sen. Jack Reed says he's pleased that President Barack Obama has ordered a review into potential hacking by Russia meant to influence the 2016 election.

The Rhode Island Democrat is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He says the committee plans to hold an inquiry next year into Russia's cyber threats to the military and other institutions.

Reed said Friday the hearing could help shed light on suspected Russia interference in the U.S. election. He said the country shouldn't allow any attacks on its democratic systems to go unchecked.

Donald Trump's presidential transition team pushed back Saturday against reports that Russia was caught trying to tip the November election to the Republican.

The Trump team has also challenged the veracity of U.S. intelligence agencies investigating the cyberattacks.

Remains found at South Kingstown construction site

Rhode Island State Police say they are investigating the possibility that human remains have been found at a construction site in South Kingstown.

The remains were found Saturday evening near where a foundation is being built on land adjacent to the St. James Chapel. The church recently sold the land to a developer who is planning to build several homes there.

Church officials told reporters the property at one time belonged to a Prohibition-era bootlegger named Danny Walsh.

Walsh disappeared in 1933 and his body was never found.

Police say they have not yet determined if the remains are human.

RI Foundation works to restore Roger Williams Park

The Rhode Island Foundation is working to restore Roger Williams Park.

The foundation says it received more than $3.3 million in new donations since launching its campaign to restore the park a year ago, bringing the total amount raised to more than $7.8 million.

It set a $10 million goal to mark a yearlong celebration of the foundation's centennial anniversary.

A historic bandstand at the park's Roosevelt Lake recently reopened after extensive renovations.

A tree-lighting ceremony is scheduled for 5 p.m. Monday under the bandstand's new roof.

Foundation president Neil Steinberg says it made sense to commemorate the centennial by paying tribute to a beloved landmark.

The restoration plans include improvements to the park's entrances, new signs, expanded bicycle paths and repairs to several of the park's buildings.

Tribe locked in power struggle over absentee chief

The chief of a New England tribe who spends part of the year living in Florida won't step down after being impeached, sowing division among the Narragansett Indians, Rhode Island's only federally recognized tribe.

Chief Sachem (SAY'-chem) Matthew Thomas is calling his detractors "imposters" after they sued him in federal court, seeking his ouster from the position he's held for nearly two decades.

Thomas rejects his impeachment proceedings as legally invalid, noting that tribal members held the vote in a parking lot. He says the time he spends in Port Charlotte, Florida, isn't a problem because he monitors tribal business remotely.

Paulla Dove Jennings, a former tribal councilwoman who once ran for sachem, says she wants new leadership. An attorney for the tribal council didn't return requests for comment.

RI affordable housing board approves rehabilitation projects

Rhode Island Housing has announced several new affordable housing developments designed to create or help preserve more than 230 housing units.

The privately funded public corporation says its board unanimously approved two new developments last week.

One is for $8.5 million in refinancing for Hagan Manor in Providence that will help rehabilitate 80 apartments.

Another is a $4.68 million loan for work at the Greenwood Terrace in Warwick, a 53-unit elderly housing development.

The board also has approved federal financing to rehabilitate the 100-unit Cathedral Square Apartments in Providence.

Boarding school in sexual abuse scandal names new leader

A Rhode Island boarding school rocked by widespread sexual abuse says it has hired a new head of school to succeed its departing leader.

St. George's School in Middletown said on Friday that Alexandra Callen will become the first woman to lead the 120-year-old school when she takes over in July. Callen has held leadership positions in public and private schools in Seattle and Massachusetts.

Dozens of alumni have said they were abused at St. George's from the 1970s to the 2000s.

Eric Peterson has led the school since 2004 and has been criticized by many victims for not responding appropriately to reports of abuse.

In a written statement, the chair of the board of trustees says Peterson and his wife, a school employee, will be missed.

Westerly man gets 7-year prison term on child porn charges

A Westerly man convicted of child pornography charges has been sentenced to more than seven years in prison.

In addition to the seven years and three months behind bars, 41-year-old Normand Asselin was also sentenced Thursday to 10 years of probation upon completion of his prison term.

He pleaded guilty in September to one count of distribution of child pornography and one count of possession of child pornography.

Prosecutors say in May 2015 Google security personnel reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children images of child pornography were uploaded via email from an IP address) belonging to Asselin.

Rhode Island State Police executing a search warrant found about 1,250 images and 70 videos of child pornography on his laptop.

Skyscraper project downsized from 3 towers to 1

A developer proposing to build Rhode Island's tallest building is downsizing his plans from three skyscrapers to just one.

New York City developer Jason Fane has scaled back his proposal to one 43-story luxury apartment building in Providence.

The Fane Organization had unveiled a larger 3-tower complex last month to a commission that is overseeing the redevelopment of land made available when the state moved Interstate 195. The tallest building would have been 55 stories. Some critics called it out of scale for the former jewelry district it would rise from.

A Fane spokesman says he wants to move immediately on the 43-story tower but could still build the other two later if there's market demand. He's urging support from city and state leaders.

Plan unveiled to replace deteriorating highway interchange

A new plan to replace a deteriorating highway interchange in Providence aims to improve safety and enhance surrounding neighborhoods.

City and state officials unveiled a compromise plan Thursday for the interchange at Routes 6 and 10, a $400 million project.

Earlier plans drew criticism from city residents and environmentalists who called the roadway design flawed.

A ramp replaces plans for an elevated rotary that drivers were worried about.

Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo says the plan keeps motorists safe, preserves the budget and timeline, improves traffic flow, helps reconnect surrounding neighborhoods, creates new bike paths and makes land available for development.

Part of a viaduct will be demolished to connect two Providence neighborhoods. An onramp will be eliminated to make land available for development.

Construction is expected to begin next fall.

Tribe and feds challenge court decision over casino lands

An Indian tribe is appealing a decision that's halted its plans for a nearly $1 billion casino.

The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe and the U.S. Department of Interior on Thursday filed notice in Boston federal appeals court that they're challenging a July ruling that the department lacked the authority to place more than 300 acres in Taunton and Mashpee into trust for the tribe last year.

The tribe broke ground on its Taunton casino in April even though residents sued to stop it, arguing the federal government could take land into trust only for tribes officially recognized as of June 1, 1934.

The Mashpee Wampanoags were officially recognized in 2007.

Tribal Council Chairman Cedric Cromwell said Thursday's appeal is a continuation of the tribe's fight to remain on its ancestral lands.

Missing Coventry hiker died of heart disease

Officials in Rhode Island say a heart disease caused the death of a Coventry woman whose body was found several days after she didn't return home from a walk in the wilderness with her dogs.

State Department of Health spokesman Joseph Wendelken says an autopsy shows 59-year-old Patti Pendleton died of atherosclerotic coronary artery disease.

Pendleton's body was found on Sunday in a heavily wooded section of the Arcadia Management Area in Exeter. Authorities say Pendleton's dogs were barking and alerted two hikers who called environmental police.

Her family had reported her missing Nov. 29 when she didn't show up for work. Crews searched the 16,000-acre management area up until Friday evening.

Families displaced, animals unaccounted for after Fall River fire

A building fire in Fall River displaced at least 25 people Tuesday night.

Fire crews responded to a three floor residence on Morgan Street around 5:30 p.m.

According to Fall River Fire captain, Jason Poissant, the fire started on the first floor near the back of the building and spread up toward the second and third floors.  Multiple animals were unaccounted for after the fire was put out.

All displaced families were ultimately provided shelter by The Red Cross. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Fishermen to be allowed same catch of deep sea crabs in '17

Federal regulators say East Coast fishermen will be allowed to catch the same amount of deep sea red crabs in the next few years.

Deep sea red crabs can inhabit depths of nearly 6,000 feet in the Atlantic Ocean and are fished off of New England and the mid-Atlantic. They are harvested for use as fresh picked crab meat and frozen crab legs.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says fishermen will be allowed to catch nearly 4 million pounds of the crabs in 2017, 2018 and 2019. The crabs are brought to shore mostly in New Bedford, Massachusetts, and Norfolk, Virginia.

NOAA says catch was below quota in recent years, but has been increasing. The agency says scientists believe continuing the current volume of catch won't cause overfishing.

Firefighter hurt in suspicious fire at home

Authorities say a firefighter was injured in a suspicious blaze at a vacant home in Woonsocket.

Deputy Fire Chief Roger Perreault says firefighters arrived at the building around 7:35 p.m. Tuesday and believed they had contained the fire to one room when it began to spread.

Crews from surrounding towns were called in and took about an hour to control and contain the fire. Perreault says the house wasn't habitable Tuesday night.

Authorities deemed the blaze suspicious because it occurred at a vacant home.

The firefighter was hospitalized and treated for minor injuries. Perreault says an investigation into how the fire started continues.

Mom loses benefits after status of 4 kids changed to dead

A Rhode Island mother says she lost her child care voucher when the state's new benefits computer system mistakenly changed the status of her four children from living to dead.

Jasmine Tinker is a substitute teacher at Head Start, in Newport. The 25-year-old single mother's three youngest children also attend the center.

Tinker says  she was told last week her voucher expired and she would have to pay $750 out of pocket.

Tinker says the Department of Human Services told her she made too much money, which she denied, then told her she was "only a family of one."

A printout from the Unified Healthcare Infrastructure Project system said her children were dead.

A state spokeswoman said Monday they've reinstated Tinker's childcare and food assistance coverage.

Power line to link Canada, New England gets key US permit

A power line planned to run under Lake Champlain and link suppliers in Canada with consumers in southern New England has won a key federal permit.

New York-based Transmission Developers Inc. announced Monday its TDI-New England subsidiary had received a presidential permit from the U.S. Department of Energy. CEO Donald Jessom says construction could start about a year from now.

The company says it hopes a key market for the power will be utilities in Massachusetts, where Republican Gov. Charlie Baker in August signed legislation calling for a request for power supply proposals that will close April 1.

The power line would run about 100 miles north to south under Lake Champlain, then run underground southeasterly across Vermont from Benson to Cavendish, where it would tie into the New England power grid.

'Crimetown' looks at RI city's corrupt underbelly

The podcast "Crimetown" opens with the mayor of Providence attacking a man with a lit cigarette and a fireplace log.

It's one of the many stranger-than-fiction tales about the late Mayor Buddy Cianci the mafia and the city they both once ruled in this serial podcast from two of the people behind HBO's documentary miniseries "The Jinx."

Four episodes in, "Crimetown" is sitting at the top of the iTunes charts.

Co-creators Marc Smerling and Zac Stuart-Pontier said they were fascinated by the "tree roots" that connect people in the capital of the smallest state in the union, where politicians, cops and wise guys often grow up together.

Smerling says they're looking at a culture of crime during Cianci's career that spanned four decades.

Ex-boxing promoter, hoops coach convicted of embezzlement

A former boxing promoter, ex-college basketball coach and founder a Rhode Island-based sport institute has been convicted of embezzlement.

Dan Doyle was convicted by a jury Monday of 18 counts, including embezzlement, forgery and obtaining money under false pretenses.

Prosecutors said the 67-year-old Doyle, of West Hartford, Connecticut, used the Institute for International Sport as a piggybank, taking more than $1 million to pay for things including his children's college tuition, a daughter's wedding expenses and plastic surgery.

He was also accused of forging the signatures of two board presidents, including Alan Hassenfeld, the former CEO of Hasbro Inc.

Doyle's lawyer says his client didn't do anything criminal.

Doyle was once a boxing promoter for Sugar Ray Leonard. He also was the head men's basketball coach at Trinity College in Connecticut.

RISD works with NASA on Mars suit

When scientists are trying to figure out how to live in near-isolation in a dome to simulate a Mars mission, the last thing they'll need is an ill-fitting space suit. So one of the nation's top design schools has come to the rescue.

Staff and students at the Rhode Island School of Design have come up with a new, adjustable suit that closely resembles an actual space suit.

Real space suits are designed to work in zero gravity. They're too expensive and too heavy to use at the NASA-funded Mars simulation mission in Hawaii.

The simulated space suits that are used instead wear out quickly and aren't all that comfortable. They're size small and ventilation is poor.

The new suit was unveiled Monday in Providence.

RI moves forward on truck tolls

Rhode Island transportation officials are moving forward on plans to install electronic tolls that will charge big-rig trucks for traveling along Interstate 95 and other highways.

The Rhode Island Department of Transportation said Monday it has begun seeking proposals by companies looking to design, build and operate the tolls.

A law signed in February by Gov. Gina Raimondo allows the state to install truck-only tolls to help raise money to repair bridges and roads.

The first tolls will be erected along I-95 in southwest Rhode Island near the Connecticut border. The state law allows 18-wheelers to be charged up to $20 on a one-way route through the state between Massachusetts and Connecticut.

The state plans to award a contract in the spring and complete toll construction by late 2018.

Navy christens submarine Colorado at Connecticut shipyard

The Navy has christened its newest attack submarine, a $2.7 billion vessel named for the state of Colorado.

The 377-foot-long Colorado is the 15th in the Virginia class of attack submarines, which are equipped to carry out warfare against submarines and surface ships as well as conducting surveillance and delivering Special Operations troops.

The submarines are built in a partnership between Electric Boat and Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia at a cost of $2.7 billion apiece. Construction of the Colorado began in March 2012 and its contract calls for delivery to the Navy by September.

The Colorado's sponsor is Annie Mabus, the daughter of Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus. The christening ceremony took place Saturday at the Electric Boat shipyard in Groton, Connecticut.

RI lawmakers propose anti-panhandling crackdown

Rhode Island lawmakers are bracing for a fight with free-speech defenders as they prepare to introduce legislation that would bar panhandlers from soliciting money from drivers.

At least two lawmakers are drafting anti-panhandling bills for next year's General Assembly session. Lawmakers convene in January.

One proposal by Cranston Democratic Rep. Charlene Lima (LEE'-mah) would ban drivers from passing something - such as cash - to a pedestrian.

Another proposal by Coventry Republican Rep. Robert Nardolillo would outlaw standing in a median on state roadways.

A spokesman for the Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union says the proposals are couched in public safety terms but they raise First Amendment issues because their aim is to eliminate peaceful solicitations for money.

Authorities recover body of missing Coventry hiker in woods

Authorities have found the body of a missing Coventry woman who didn't return home from a walk in the wilderness area with her dogs last week.

Authorities say first responders used chainsaws and brush-clearing equipment to access the body of 59-year-old Patti Pendleton in a "heavily wooded" section of the Arcadia Management Area in Exeter on Sunday afternoon.

Officials say Pendleton's dogs were barking and led authorities to the area. Police say her body was located near a swampy area close to the Connecticut border.

The discovery comes after authorities officially suspended their search of the 16,000-acre management area Friday evening.

Pendleton's family continued the search over the weekend. They reported her missing Tuesday when she didn't show up for work. Police say Pendleton went on a hike on Monday.

Lt. Gov. McKee to host forum on helping small businesses

Lt. Gov. Daniel McKee is hosting a forum about helping small businesses in Rhode Island.

Open to residents, the event will be held at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Carriage Inn & Saloon in North Kingstown.

McKee planned the first "Advance RI Small Business Forum" with Kristin Urbach, of the North Kingstown Chamber of Commerce.

The forum includes networking and a panel discussion about resources available to the small business community and efforts underway to make the state more business-friendly. Business owners will discuss their experiences about running a small business in the state.

Audience members will be asked to share ideas on how to make it easier to do business in Rhode Island.

The event will be televised on the next episode of McKee's new television show.

Warwick woman gets prison time in Medicaid fraud scheme

A Warwick woman charged with cheating Rhode Island's Medicaid program out of more than $250,000 will spend six months behind bars.

The attorney general's office reports Wednesday that 57-year-old Deborah Brown was sentenced this week to 10 years in prison, with four to serve. She will spend the first six months in prison and 3½ years in home confinement. She was also ordered to pay $263,000 in restitution.

Brown pleaded no contest last month to obtaining money under false pretenses, submitting false bills and failing to file tax returns.

Prosecutors say while she worked for a medical equipment and incontinence supply company, she submitted false bills to the state Medicaid program for medically unnecessary incontinence supplies, then withdrew the money from company accounts.

RI lawyer disbarred for $46M plot that targeted dying people

A lawyer who ran a $46 million investment scheme that exploited terminally ill people has been disbarred.

The Rhode Island Supreme Court on Wednesday disbarred Joseph Caramadre.

Caramadre's law license was suspended in 2014 after he was convicted. The disbarment is retroactive to 2014.

Caramadre took out bonds and annuities using the personal information of terminally ill people, then collected when they died.

He pleaded guilty in 2013, but tried to withdraw his plea, saying he was innocent and had received an inadequate defense. A judge let the guilty plea stand. Caramadre's appeal was unsuccessful.

He is currently serving a 6-year term at a federal prison in Massachusetts. He is scheduled to be released in 2018.

Federal preschool grants awarded to New England states

Four New England states are among 18 states getting more than $247 million in federal grants to continue expanding access to high-quality preschool for children from low- to moderate-income families.

The share of the funds announced Wednesday includes $15 million for Massachusetts, $11.7 million for Connecticut, $7.3 million for Vermont and $6 million for Rhode Island.

This is the third year of the awards jointly administered by the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Jack Reed says Rhode Island's congressional delegation stood firm and staved off the elimination of funding for the preschool development grants.

Rhode Island is 1 of 6 states and the only one in New England that federal education officials say met or exceeded enrollment targets.

RI aims for leadership in 5G wireless networks

Gov. Gina Raimondo says she's positioning the state to be the first to deploy fifth-generation wireless technology, known as 5G.

The governor said Wednesday that the state has issued a request inviting recommendations from national telecommunications firms for making the state a hub for 5G networks. Responses are due by Jan. 13.

Internet connections in 5G are expected to be up to 100 times faster than today's 4G networks.

Rhode Island Chief Innovation Officer Richard Culatta says the state's small size, population density and regulatory flexibility make it a good place to test new models.

U.S. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler has called developing 5G a national priority. The European Union is also aiming to have 5G technology deployed by 2025.

RI sees slight bump in home sales, facing housing shortage

Single-family home sales have ticked up slightly in Rhode Island along with the median sales price.

Sales were up nearly 5 percent in October compared to October 2015.

The Rhode Island Association of Realtors says the median sales price was $235,000, also nearly 5 percent higher than last year. The group says that's the highest the single-family home market has seen at the beginning of the fourth quarter since 2007.

Multifamily house sales increased nearly 27 percent compared to October 2015.

The number of homes for sale fell 16 percent though, and the group says more properties will need to be listed or else next year's numbers could be affected.

Officials with Rhode Island Housing say the state is facing a serious housing shortage.

Store owner under fire for display of Hillary Clinton doll

An 81-year-old Rhode Island store owner has come under fire on social media for his display of a Hillary Clinton plush toy that dangles from a metal hook inside the store.

Online comments mounted after a woman wrote a Facebook post on Tuesday about the pant-suited "Lyin' Hillary Doll" displayed near a Trump sign at the Pleasant View Orchards store in Smithfield.

Owner Tony Polseno Jr. said Wednesday a customer had purchased the doll online and gave it to him. The doll makes statements that include, "Not a single one of my emails was classified," when it's squeezed.

Yelp and Facebook commenters are offended by the doll's placement. Polseno says those comments reflect a misunderstanding and that the doll wasn't meant to be offensive.


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