Halfway through 2014 we pause to bring you updated information on several of our investigations - from the struggling Wickford Junction Train Station and challenges facing HealthSourceRI - to the latest in a Medicare fraud investigation we first reported on last month and a delayed bike path renovation project in Coventry.
Mid-way through 2014 we have important updates on several of our investigations -beginning with what so far has been the Big White Elephant known as The Wickford Train Station parking garage.
The Department of Transportation tells us that as of April, an average of 183 riders were taking the commuter rail from Wickford Junction every day. That’s slightly less than the 200 from a year ago.
But it’s the parking garage that should have taxpayers concerned. The $25 million, four-story, 1,100 space behemoth costs more than $600,000 a year to operate. The state needs to have 500 people a day park there to break a year ago only 83 a day were paying to park.
The DOT tells us parking is currently free - and effort to boost ridership - and the $53,000/ month management costs are being covered with a federal grant - in other words taxpayer money. DOT Director Michael Lewis, in repeated interviews with The Hummel Report, has said the train service will catch on if given enough time.
Last month we told you about federally-funded supplies for a disabled woman in the East Bay that were repeatedly showing up damaged. Our story prompted a Medicare fraud unit to launch its own investigation, with promises to fix the problem.
For nearly a year, the cans of formula Jodi Kelsey needs to feed her daughter Becky have arrived damaged - and unusable. Sometimes up to a third of the monthly shipment of 150 cans - shipped by a private company but paid for by the federal government - have been wasted.
Our story last month has prompted a Medicare fraud unit to take a look of its own. Investigators are still trying to determine how much the company that has the contract for the formula - Lincare - is charging the government and whether there has been any double billing.
Meanwhile Kelsey tells The Hummel Report Lincare has vowed to deliver the next shipment directly from its office in East Providence but that June’s shipment arrived via UPS from out of state - with more dented cans.
A renovated bike path in Coventry featuring a parallel horse trail raised some eyebrows when we first reported the story early last year. But it’s continued delays in completion that now have riders frustrated.
Local and state officials had hoped to have renovations to a 2.7-mile section the Coventry Greenway completed by last fall. And while the paving is done, there is a punch list of work still to be completed before the path officially re-opens. That may be news to many riders who we observed using the path this past weekend, even though it’s still officially closed.
And what about that horse trail? This is how the entrance looked earlier this week. The town’s recreation director could not pinpoint an exact date when everything will be complete, but is hoping sometime this summer - nearly a year behind the original timetable.
Health Source RI has enrolled more than 27,000 thousand people since going online late last year. But Rhode Island’s answer to Obamacare has come under fire from some who question whether the state should be running its own exchange.
The Rhode Island exchange had early technical problems that affected nearly 10 percent of those trying to sign up. But it faced an unexpected challenge from another front: some legislators questioned why Rhode Island was spending so much on a local exchange when other states had latched on to the federal program.
Because of the adverse media attention, federal officials said they would cover $4.6 million in costs HealthSourceRI director Christine Ferguson was asking the state to help cover a $60 million annual bill - amidst local threats to pull the plug on the program altogether.
Meanwhile, Barrington businessman Mike Kelly, who we profiled this spring, said he continues to have difficulty with the insurance he signed up for in December - his son’s account was cancelled and he once again had to spend time working with HealthSourceRI personnel to fix it.
Four fire districts in Cumberland are moving one step closer to merging. But tough decisions have be made in the coming months to make it actually happen.
Voters in 2010 decided it made more sense to have one unified department, than four independent districts. A transitional committee has been meeting monthly and the last annual meetings for the districts are happening this spring.
But decisions still have to be made about what will happen to potential budget surpluses going forward. By next year, though, the districts have a mandate to align budgets and shift schedules, and officials hope there will be a seamless transition in service.
And that the merger will be a model for other districts in Rhode Island.
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