Save the Bay Blasts Proposed $20 Million ProvPort Expansion
Tuesday, July 12, 2016
The State’s largest and most influential environmental organization criticized the last minute legislative deal.
“Rhode Islanders should be aware of what happened in the waning hours of the General Assembly session,” said Jonathan Stone, executive director of Save The Bay. “With little debate and minimal disclosure, taxpayers are being asked to make a significant investment in the Port of Providence that may lead to filling 31 acres of Narragansett Bay and provide financial reward to a flagrant polluter of the Bay.”
ProvPort Officials Tied to Bankrupt Wyatt Detention Center
Save the Bay’s criticism comes after a GoLocal investigation into the relationship between key ProvPort players and their roles in the now bankrupt Wyatt Detention Center in Central Falls.
According to a review of key financial financial documents, the two players at ProvPort are Bill Brody and Ray Meador - both were instrumental at Wyatt and were closely tied to Anthony Ventetuolo and his AVCORR company. Brody is currently ProvPort's sole employee; Meador is a co-owner and manager of non-profit ProvPort's sister for-profit company, Waterson Terminal.
An independent investigation by former State Auditor General Ernie Almonte conducted 2011 and subsequent Forensic Investigative Report in 2013 found Ventetuolo, AVCORR and others guilty of conflict of interest, potential breaches of state law and financial abuse.
The proposed expansion, although not set forth in the language of the bond referendum, appears to be based on a March 2016 report titled Economic Development Impact Assessment Study, Phases I, II, & III of the Allens Avenue Marine Terminal Development. The report was produced by Vickerman & Associates, a port planning firm, and commissioned by ProvPort, the Providence Redevelopment Agency and Waterson Terminal Services.
The report describes a three-phase expansion of ProvPort, which currently operates port facilities at Fields Point. The first phase includes only the acquisition of land along Allens Avenue and some infrastructure improvements. The second and third phases envision filling 31 acres of Narragansett Bay along the Providence waterfront.
“Save The Bay has no objection to land-side expansion of ProvPort operations, but we are dead-set against filling the Bay. The report clearly calls for filling of the bay to develop ‘a new deep-water general cargo-multipurpose port marine terminal with ‘on-dock’ intermodal rail logistics capability…’,” Stone said.
The report also discloses that land being recommended for purchase includes a 5.27-acre parcel owned by AARE, LLC, which houses the operations of Rhode Island Recycled Metals (RIRM), a scrap metal processing business that has been repeatedly cited by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and the U.S. Coast Guard for environmental violations. The Attorney General and DEM are currently in Superior Court seeking the appointment of a receiver to ensure that the site is cleaned up and vessels littering the Providence River are removed.
“It appears that Rhode Islanders are being asked to buy a contaminated property from a blatant polluter, who may benefit financially at taxpayer expense,” Stone said. It is unclear whether or not potential funding for the RIRM site purchase includes funding for cleaning up contamination and sunken vessels and restoring the shoreline at the site.
“Further troubling is the fact that the General Assembly had no difficulty passing a floor amendment asking the voters to spend $20 million on a port expansion plan that was not fully vetted or understood by the legislators, but refused to support two additional enforcement staff to help address the critical need for environmental enforcement capacity at the DEM, as proposed by the Governor,” Stone said.
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