CENTRAL FALLS — Amidst the gloomy financial market and recent cutbacks in library and social services in Central Falls, the city's mayor has put his house on the market.
The house at 141 Jenks Ave., owned by Mayor Charles Moreau and his wife, Kristen, is up for sale. According to the on-line statewide Multiple Listing Service, the three-bedroom ranch-style house is currently being offered at a “short sale” for $119,900—a scenario where a lending institution agrees to consider offers less than the balance owned on the property's loan for a limited period.
According to Central Falls property tax records, the Moreaus purchased the house for $170,000 in 2004 and it was last assessed by the city during a revaluation at $136,600.
The 1,460 square-foot house, built in 1963, is listed as a “very well maintained ranch with updated roof, heating system, kitchen, finished basement. Great location.”
It was the upgrade to the heating system in this house that initiated the Rhode Island State Police investigation into alleged corruption on the part of Moreau involving his longtime friend and political ally Michael Bouthillette.
The probe was sparked by a report that Bouthillette had installed a new furnace, valued at $6,875, at no cost in Moreau's home. Moreau defended the transaction, saying he had paid Bouthillette $6,000 in cash for the furnace installation.
This investigation, in turn, led to a further state police/federal probe into no-bid contracts awarded in 2008 and 2009 to Bouthillette and his company, Certified Disaster Restoration, to board-up abandoned and foreclosed properties in the city. According to previous news reports, Bouthillette collected about $1.5 million from the contract work, and the investigation, more than a year old now, remains pending.
When asked about the sale, Moreau confirmed that the house is on the market. However, he also said that he is trying to negotiate with the bank for this property and said this could be “a long process” that might or might not result in the sale of the house.
Moreau told The Times that he intends to purchase another house, or perhaps a condominium, in the city. The four-term mayor, who won re-election by a 4 to 1 ratio in November of 2009, also said that he plans on running for another term. “My bumper stickers are already printed up,” he stated.
“Central Falls is where I was born and raised and I intend to keep living here,” said Moreau. He added that he owns other properties in the city. He also said that through his family's real estate company, MGM Realty, “ I buy and sell houses all the time.”
Moreau insisted that the main news story should center around the way he and the majority of the City Council were stripped of most of their duties and rights as elected officials. Moreau's salary of about $72,000 was cut to about $50,000 a year and he lost other benefits such as use of a city vehicle and cell phone. Last September, Moreau and the council filed an action contesting the state law used to restrict them in Superior Court, but a judge upheld the receivership action.
Moreau expressed anger and frustration at the receivership situation and the costs that keep mounting under the latest state-appointed receiver. Former State Supreme Court Justice Robert O. Flanders, Jr., was assigned in February by Gov. Lincoln Chafee with the task of reorganizing the city's finances. He replaced the previous receiver, former retired Superior Court Judge Mark A. Pfeiffer, who issued a report giving a gloomy assessment of the city's finances and ability to turn itself around, and suggested that Central Falls should be annexed to Pawtucket or Cumberland.
Moreau questions the amount that has been spent so far for Flanders and the other staffers that he has brought in, how long the receivership will continue, and what the end result will be.
An attempt to get an update on these questions and the latest tally of receivership costs from the Governor's press office was unsuccessful. However, in the wake of the latest actions to close the Central Falls Library and Ralph J. Holden Community Center, Flanders issued a statement saying that the financial condition of Central Falls “continues to deteriorate, creating a situation that has now become urgent as the city is facing ever more acute financial and cash flow pressures.”
Flanders said he has also begun to meet with municipal union leaders, creditors, and other interested parties “in the hope of reaching agreements that can return the the city to financial stability.” He added, “However, time is running out and while my obligation as receiver includes maintaining essential municipal services, absent the securing of significant cost reductions in the near future, all options, including bankruptcy, remain on the table.” He concluded by saying that “to protect the integrity of the process of obtaining cost reductions,” he would have no further comment until such a time as an announcement is warranted.
The former mayor continues to maintain that the voters of Central Falls are not being represented in the way that they expected when they voted for their elected officials in the last election.