PAWTUCKET — A special session of the City Council next week will provide the panel with updates on two significant matters that could affect the future of the city – the litigation over the Apex parcel and the installation of red light and speed cameras.
On the matter of the Apex lawsuit, the council will meet next Wednesday evening behind closed doors in executive session to discuss the pending litigation.
District 1 Councilor and Council President David P. Moran summarized the session as “an update to what’s been taking place since the last council meeting and vote ... What’s been going on going forward, what Apex has been doing, prospective tenants, that type of information.”
The owners of Apex last month filed a lawsuit appealing the City Council’s amendments to the Pawtucket Redevelopment Plan, which effectively declared the Apex parcel blighted and substandard.
But the owners and the city also agreed to make a joint motion to stay the litigation while talks continue.
The council late last year approved amendments to the city’s Redevelopment Plan, declaring the property blighted and substandard, while making clear that the city is open to having the current owners lease and or redevelop the property, acting as an “igniter” for the redevelopment of downtown.
While the language declares the Apex parcel blighted and substandard, an attorney representing the city and Pawtucket Redevelopment Agency said it was his hope that the city will never have to take the properties by eminent domain, as the city instead hopes to work with the company.
While he had nothing new to report on the judicial matter, Bill Fischer – a spokesman representing Apex Companies – said: “Our focus remains on development. We remain optimistic that we will bring substantive development to that property.”
“We are in the midst of ongoing and productive conversations with multiple tenant users and we have been and will continue to share regular updates with the city,” Fischer said.
Moran said of Apex: “I believe that area right there is the mecca of the city. I think the city, that whole downtown, really circles itself around what happens at Apex. You can put whatever you want around it – the national park, Slater Mill, condos, small businesses, restaurants. But that’s the biggest piece of the puzzle that has to be solved.”
“It’s almost like a magnet to bring in more, attract more. It’s always been so important to get that developed,” the council president continued. “You have to have patience with this, things just don’t happen overnight. We lost the PawSox, that didn’t happen, but there has to be something else on the horizon.”
A city statement sent to The Times on Wednesday said: “The City of Pawtucket continues to focus on a vision of redeveloping the Downtown and the Gateway Riverway. We are always willing to work with developers so long as it benefits our community. After agreeing with the developers to a joint motion to stay the litigation in January, we hope to move forward in a positive and constructive manner.”
“The City continues to work with the developers from the Apex properties and have upcoming meetings scheduled as we work toward a life center for the Downtown and Gateway Riverway. We look forward to all of the possibilities that could arise from our conversations regarding a combined development vision and plans. As more details come to fruition, we will be able to provide more information. The collaboration continues to push forward and remains status quo.”
“ As the City has stated before, we will always remain committed to working with developers that will benefit our community. The City will reserve its right to terminate the joint motion to stay the litigation if it is not satisfied with the development.”
Council to hear about red light and speed cameras
Following the executive session on the Apex litigation, the council will meet in open session for a presentation and discussion regarding the installation of red light and speed cameras around Pawtucket.
That conversation is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. inside the Council Chambers at City Hall.
Moran said no vote will be taken on that night, but said he thought the topic was important enough to discuss on a night separate from the regular council meetings.
The administration is currently reviewing where speed and red light cameras will be situated around the city. Adding red light and speed cameras to the city is being done in the name of enhancing school safety and making the Police Department more efficient, city officials have said.
“The council wants to be kept abreast,” Moran said. He anticipates that the vendor – Gatso-USA – will answer questions, go over costs, discuss the areas where traffic and red light cameras could be installed, hear from the Police Department, and consider what kind of revenue will be generated by the cameras.
“The council wants as much information as we can have ... This is something new, something we’ve never done before...” Moran said. “We just want to make sure if this happens, that it starts off on the right foot with no glitches.”
The city will generate $50 per speed ticket from the cameras and $95 for red light violations. Gatso-USA will receive a fixed fee of $1,800 per camera per month for the red-light cameras, plus $15.40 for each notice of violation issued; and a fixed fee of $2,500 per camera per month plus $7.30 for each notice of violation issued for speeding in school zones. The city will not be required to pay the fixed fee of $2,500 per camera during the months that school is not in session.
Moran said he’d support the installation of red light and speed cameras around the city, provided the administration can prove “this is all about public safety.”
“As long as that is proven to me, I’m satisfied,” Moran said. “Cameras around the schools make sense ... The Police Department doesn’t have as much personnel as back in the day, that’s part of the reason why they’re looking at it, and they seem to be on board. As long as this isn’t a revenue generator and is all about public safety.”
That said, Moran noted that he is “a little cautious on it,” saying he wants to receive reports that show how the cameras are working for Pawtucket in the name of public safety by reducing injuries and accidents on the roads.
“It’s in its infancy, it hasn’t been applied yet ... I understand the point of it. If it works, I’m all for it. Let us see what happens once it’s actually out there and applied and look at the hard facts,” Moran said.
“As long as it’s not just generating revenue but promoting public safety, it’s a good thing.”
Jonathan Bissonnette on Twitter: @J_Bissonnette