A Hummel Report InvestigationThis week we have new information on several of our investigations. From a new harbormaster on Block Island and plans for a renovated but vacant building on the state prison grounds, to parking at the State House, cracks in a brand new bridge and public funding for the arts - Jim Hummel has developments on each. And, of course, the very latest on the investigation into corruption at Central Falls City Hall.
Hummel: ``This week we bring you our quarterly update - a chance to look back on the stories we've broken and bring you new information on what has happened as a result of our investigations.''
It claims to a 'City with a Bright Future'' - but Mayor Charles Moreau's future may not be so bright. Shortly after we reported in January that a city vendor gave the mayor a price break for a new furnace at his house, the state police moved into City Hall for a wide-ranging investigation. Now they've been joined by the feds. Meanwhile the city is bankrupt and Moreau has been a virtual no-show for months at City Hall. The Hummel Report has also learned the state Ethics Commission - acting on a complaint that resulted from our story - has brought witnesses in to testify about Moreau getting a price break on the furnace at his house.
Hummel: ``Last fall we went to Block Island for a closer look at the town's harbormaster, who resigned several months after our story ran. With summer now in full swing, there's a new sheriff on the water.''
In April the Town Council appointed assistant harbormaster Stephen Land to succeed his former boss, Christopher Willi, as harbormaster, one of the island's most influential positions. We reported in October that Willi faced allegations of letting someone else use his hard-to-come-by charter slip, a violation of town ordinances. Last month Land denied Willi's application to renew his slip. The Hummel Report has also learned that Willi settled his case with the state Ethics Commission, paying a $1,000 fine.
Hummel: ``In November we told you about a building on the grounds of the state prison that was sitting vacant, despite a $17.5 million face lift. Now it looks like some inmates will soon be moving in.''
The Reintegration Center was supposed to be a transitional building for problem inmates nearing parole. But budget problems and a declining inmate population kept it from happening. During our interview, Corrections Director A.T. Wall said he hoped to convert the vacant building - which we found heated and lights burning - into a women's facility, to replace deteriorating buildings and in the end save the department money. Now it's happening, as later this month female prisoners will begin moving into a fully-refurbished building that has sat vacant for nearly six years.
Hummel: ``Public funding for the arts has been an ongoing issue with tight budgets the past few years. Now, we find, the program will remain intact for at least another year.''
We told you about two projects at the Kent County Courthouse - a sound sculpture featuring bird noises, and glass panels near each of the four elevators - that cost a total of nearly $400,000. That had one state senator calling for a change in the law allowing up to 1 percent of a public building's cost to go to art. But arts supporters convinced the General Assembly not only to leave the 1 percent law intact, but to preserve next year's Arts Council budget in full.
Hummel: ``Late last year we told you about cracks in the concrete of the brand new Warren Bridge. D.O.T. pledged to hold the contractor responsible. So we returned this week to take a look for ourselves.''
This is what greeted pedestrians last fall on the $15.5 million - Warren Bridge, cracked concrete on the sidewalk - and hairline cracks on the approaches to the main bridge. The D.O.T's chief engineer insisted the cracks were not structural, saying the state and contractor would have a solution by the spring. Last month Aetna Bridge sandblasted the excess sealing material off, but in doing so has again exposed the cracks. And this is what it looks like now - cracked and discolored. The DOT tells us while the cracks are visible again, the sidewalks *are* sealed and not susceptible to erosion. Aetna also has filled in the cracks on the side of the bridge we told you about last fall.
Hummel: ``Visitors to the State House found parking a little more difficult to come by in early April, when the Capitol Police converted two dozen metered spaces into 'reserved' spots for State House insiders.''
Capitol Police said it was a matter of security, and knowing who was parking near the State House, something critics of the new plan took issue with. Now, two months later, the head of the Capitol Police tells us most people have adjusted to the new plan. And, the police have issued numerous warnings, but have not yet given out any of the $85 tickets that could result for those who park illegally. The real test, though, will come when the legislature returns early next year.
Hummel: ``So that brings you up to speed on some of our major stories. Remember, most of our story ideas comes from you. In fact each story we highlighted this week came from a tip by viewers or readers of The Hummel Report.
I'm Jim Hummel, thanks for watching.''