The Hummel Report

Investigative Reports That Get Results

A Rhode Island 501c3 Non-Profit

Mid-Year Update

This week we have four important updates on investigations we’ve produced in the first six months of 2016: A councilwoman pledging her allegiance to Johnston does an about-face; the Rhode Island Department of Transportation makes good on a promise to replace defective mailboxes in Smithfield;  the Apponaug Circulator project is still drawing complaints from one Warwick resident and Rhode Island’s largest wind power project is about to go online. Jim Hummel has all of the details.

 

To watch the original report on Councilwoman Manzi click here.

Click here for the report on the Smithfield mailboxes.

Click here for the original Apponaug Circulator report.

And click here for the report on wind turbines.

 

SCRIPT:

This week we have four important updates on investigations we’ve done so far in 2016. Many of you have asked about the Johnston Town Councilwoman who has been sending her triplets to Narragansett High School for the past two years. This week we find: there are big changes in store for her - and her family.

Hummel: ``Then why don’t you just move to Narragansett?”

Manzi: ``Because I love Johnston.’’

That was the answer Town Council Vice President Stephanie Manzi gave us in March when we wanted to know why she continued to live in Johnston, much of the time with her 16-year-old triplets, and make the 45-minute trip to Narragansett High School many of the weekday mornings we saw her over the course of a two-month investigation.

Our story prompted investigations in both Narragansett and Johnston, where Manzi and her husband were getting a 20 percent yearly homestead tax exemption on this house. Johnston determined Manzi was violating the conditions of the homestead because her husband claimed residency in Narragansett, allowing the children to go to school there. And it ordered her to repay nearly $1,750 in back homestead and penalties.

Her lawyer told us last month she might appeal - but we found out Manzi has done just the opposite, cutting a check to the town, then putting the couple’s Johnston home on the market last week, listed by Century 21 for $319,000. Neither she nor her lawyer responded to multiple emails we sent, but sources tell us she decided not to run for her council seat and instead the family will be moving to Narragansett, where they already own this 784-square foot cottage - that Paul Manzi claims was his full-time residency already.

No word on whether they will expand the cottage or buy another property.

After years of being ignored, dozens of residents people along a stretch of Route 116 in Smithfield are finally will be getting new mailboxes this summer, after our investigation showed that the Rhode Island Department of Transportation had dropped the ball when it came to customer service.

Tony Polseno articulated the frustration of his neighbors when he described his dealings with the D.O.T., which had insisted on installing its own mailboxes when Route 116 was repaved five years ago. When his mailbox was knocked down, ironically by state plows, every winter, he called a woman at D.O.T. for help

Polseno: ``Called her, she never called me back. It’s aggravating, and you can’t get through to  nobody and they laugh at you. Ahhh.’’

After we sent pictures of what we’d found to D.O.T., Director Peter Alviti pledged to replace all of the boxes the state had installed on 116, and Managing Engineer Robert Roccio said the department needed to revaluate the design - which was meant to be safer in case drivers ran into the boxes.

D.O.T. last week said it expects to have the 150 replacement mailboxes installed by the end of August. Alviti told us he plans to personally visit Polseno to apologize when the new mailboxes are ready to be installed.

Another D.O.T. project was brought to our attention last fall: the high-profile reconstruction of the Apponaug Circulator. One Warwick resident told us the state has been ignoring its own construction codes. And, he says, not much has changed over the past six months, even though he’s repeatedly to complain.

The Apponaug Project is still ahead of schedule and when it’s complete will significantly change the traffic pattern in one of the state’s more congested - and confusing - areas.

Last fall we spoke with Rob Cote, a Warwick resident who works as a construction inspector and travels through the Apponaug Circulator up to half a dozen times a day. Cote pointed out what he said was improper compaction and a lack of required dust mitigation, confirmed in construction reports that we reviewed as part of our investigation.

Cote has regularly sent us pictures this spring showing the conditions for motorists making their way through Apponaug and what he says is improper fill going in under newly-laid sidewalks. D.O.T. Director Peter Alviti says he is meeting to his staff to address Cote’s latest round of complaints.

Rhode Island’s largest wind power project is slowly taking shape as nearly a dozen turbines are ready to go online this summer- including three that willl begin generating power for the town of West Warwick. But the project’s developer ran into some controversy at the end of the General Assembly session.

The turbines arrived at Quonset Point in May, coming overseas from Germany. All but one would be heading to western Coventry, where the North Kingstown Company Wind Energy Development had been preparing sites much of the year.

Over the course of two weeks, aided by a team from the German manufacturer Vensys, the turbines went up and include three the town of West Warwick has bought and expects to begin providing all of the town government’s electrical needs this summer.

Wind Energy Development’s owner, Mark DePasquale, was in the news earlier this month when The Providence Journal reported a bill surfaced late in the session that would have forced ratepayers to pick up the $12 million connection costs that the company has spent for  infrastructure to hook up the turbines. House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello pulled the bill because of the controversy.

We will have more on that - and hear from DePasquale directly - in a story next month.

It has been a busy first six months for us and we already have a number of investigations in the pipeline for the second half of 2016. And remember, if you have a story idea you want us to check out email me directly at Jim@HummelReport.org.