….That changed in early 2013, when renovations to the Grand Hall and several other sections of the Washington Street side were completed, and the library opened for business as a special event space. A partnership with Russell Morin Fine Catering positioned the library as a venue for weddings, fundraisers and other special occasions that merit an air of grandeur. Proceeds from those rentals go straight back to the library to support programming and services – a crucial source of funding for an institution that no longer receives money from the City. “We’re a private nonprofit, so it’s vital to us. We couldn’t carry out a lot of these ideas if we didn’t have that funding,” Martin says. “When people have events here, they’re essentially donating to the library.” Renovations continue to transform the space. An ongoing expansion of the fifth floor, which has always been staff workspace that was never open to the public, will turn it into a learning lab and maker space for innovative and educational programming. Martin points out that PPL’s 112,000 square feet of learning library make it a physically larger cultural entity than even AS220, which owns three separate properties downtown. ….
Source: WPRI.com, January 12, 2015
More than 100 city employees turned out in force at Monday’s school board meeting to speak out against a proposal that could leave them out of a job if city officials opt to privatize bus monitoring services.
Providence to consider privatizing school bus monitors
Source: Dan McGowan, WPRI, December 18, 2014
The head of Providence’s municipal employees’ union said Thursday his members would be opposed to any attempt by the city to privatize bus monitor services as part of its new school bus transportation contract. The city’s contract with longtime busing provider First Student, Inc. ends next year and school officials have put the new agreement out to bid. The 46-page request for proposal also seeks to “evaluate the cost associated with contractor employed bus monitors,” but does not guarantee that the city will hire private monitors.
The two nonprofit networks that provide services to close to 2,000 children in state care ended the fiscal year on June 30 with millions of dollars in cost overruns, throwing into limbo a system that was supposed to save money and improve services. The state Department of Children, Youth and Families notified its service providers that as of July 1 the networks would no longer be responsible for the agency’s residential and community-based programs, pending a renegotiation of their contracts…… The intervention follows mounting fiscal problems at the two nonprofit networks — Ocean State Network for Children and Families and the Rhode Island Care Management Network — which signed three-year agreements with the DCYF in 2012 projected to cost a total of $107 million. The networks — which have gone back to state lawmakers each of the last two fiscal years asking for additional money to cover budget shortfalls — are now entering the third and final year of their contracts having spent about $145.5 million, according to figures confirmed by the governor’s office….He chided the networks for what he described as inflated salaries of administrators such as Margaret Holland McDuff, chief executive officer of Family Service of Rhode Island and head of the Ocean State Network. McDuff is paid salary and benefits of about $266,000 a year, of which about $87,600 is paid by the Ocean State Network, according to the network’s contract with DCYF….
General Treasurer Gina Raimondo is standing by the state’s hedge fund consultant, even if her counterpart in Massachusetts has decided it’s time for a change in direction. Raimondo, who chairs the State Investment Commission, said through a spokeswoman Wednesday that there are no plans to part with Cliffwater LLC, the California-based firm that began advising Rhode Island officials — and, coincidentally, Massachusetts officials — in 2011….Now, Massachusetts plans to pursue “separately managed accounts” in which the state, rather than invest in existing hedge funds, would hire an account manager who invests the money in the state’s name, giving the state more control over, and potentially lower, fees….Siedle, noting moves in California and elsewhere to shift from hedge funds, questioned why Raimondo would stand by that strategy when financial figures, such as billionaire Warren Buffett, are recommending against it….
Social impact bonds sound pretty great. What could be wrong with additional funds to help the poor, the homeless, the formerly imprisoned? Governments are cutting back, but need is greater than ever. So let Wall Street provide (while netting a fine payout in the process)? Rhode Island’s largest public employee union, AFSCME Council 94, isn’t buying that solution….That’s partly why Rhode Island’s AFSCME Council 94 opposed a recent bill in the legislature that would have introduced SIBs to the Ocean State. “[SIB supporters] have bought into the argument that with constrained budgets and constrained revenues, this would provide another source of revenue for noble and legitimate causes,” says Jim Cenerini, legislative affairs director and political action coordinator for Council 94. “Our skepticism comes from the fact that the impetus for this was created by a large Wall Street corporation that obviously has something to gain, ideologically and financially, from the implementation of these bonds. It seems wrong that already very wealthy individuals should be able to make money off of reducing recidivism.”…
The final portion of a controversial five-part study of the state’s welfare system that’s costing Maine taxpayers $925,200 is due Thursday but, according to state officials, only the first part of the study — due Dec. 1 — has been turned in. Maine has paid the Rhode Island-based Alexander Group more than half of the contract’s value, or $501,760. Republican Gov. Paul LePage and top officials within the Department of Health and Human Services have come under fire for authorizing the no-bid contract with the consulting firm, headed by Gary Alexander, a former public welfare commissioner in Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. An effort by the Democratic-led Legislature to revoke the contract failed last month…..
MaineCare expansion study misses first deadline
Source: Scott Thistle, Sun Journal, December 2, 2013
The first part of a five-part study on Maine’s welfare system that had a target due date of Dec. 1 has not been submitted to the state’s Department of Health and Human Services, a department spokesman said Monday. The Alexander Group, the consulting company awarded a nearly $1 million no-bid contract for the study, did not meet the first target date on a part of the study meant to examine the feasibility of expanding Medicaid in Maine, according to John Martins, a spokesman for DHHS. He would not say when the department expected the report. …
Editorial: Governor adds pricey consultant to political staff
Source: Sun Journal Editorial Board, November 21, 2013
…Failing to seek bids invariably means paying top dollar for the work to be done. And that’s the first in a series of problems with Gov. Paul LePage’s surprise announcement this week that he has hired a controversial Rhode Island Republican consultant to study our MaineCare system. Garry Alexander of Alexander Associates landed that $925,000 no-bid contract, about half of which must be completed within the next month. And that’s another red flag — how can such a small firm, with only one similar study under its belt, complete such an analysis in four weeks? … Finally, Democrats, including state Sen. Margaret Craven and state Rep. Peggy Rotundo, both of Lewiston, have wondered where LePage is finding nearly $1 million to pay Alexander. … A Sun Journal review of the new contract shows about half the money will come from the state’s General Fund, meaning it will be unavailable for other state priorities. …
Maine hires conservative firm to study Medicaid expansion, bolster welfare efficiency
Source: Mario Moretto, Bangor Daily News, November 19, 2013
The state has contracted a conservative former welfare administrator with a history of slashing benefits to review Maine’s Medicaid system and other welfare programs. The Alexander Group, based in Rhode Island and spearheaded by former Pennsylvania and Rhode Island welfare chief Gary Alexander, will be paid nearly $1 million over eight months for its services, which will include a report on potential costs of expanding Medicaid under terms of the Affordable Care Act. … In addition to studying the long- and short-term costs of Medicaid expansion, the Alexander Group also will work with the Department of Health and Human Services to assess every state welfare program, with an eye toward adding flexibility and efficiency and integrating disparate programs that often benefit the same people. …
…The consulting firm recently completed a similar four-month study in Arkansas, where it recommended across-the-board reductions in spending on welfare and a plan to push state-sponsored health insurance recipients into the private marketplace. Arkansas paid $220,000 for the Alexander Group’s services. When asked why Maine was paying so much more, Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew said she couldn’t comment on another state’s dealings but stressed that the work to be undertaken is substantial….
… Meanwhile, Democrats are criticizing Alexander for his controversial record in Rhode Island and Pennsylvania, where he most recently served as that state’s welfare chief. There, he hit the same rhetorical notes often struck by LePage and House Republicans, focusing his attention on trimming the welfare rolls and fighting fraud and abuse. They are also lambasting LePage for contracting the company without a public process. Mayhew said in an interview that there was no request for proposals, and that DHHS had gone directly to the Alexander Group to seek out what she said was its unique expertise….
…In January 2012, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that about 88,000 children were cut from Medicaid in the last five months of 2011, which some advocates for the poor claimed should never have happened. Alexander himself was also fodder for the state’s political reporters. He faced criticism for a strict dress code that seemingly mandated women wear skirts or dresses, spending $20,000 for a flagpole while the department cut spending on services, and for taking on a second job while he ran Pennsylvania’s largest department….
First Student, the nation’s leader in student transportation, will continue to partner with West Warwick Public Schools in Rhode Island for the 2014-2015 school year and beyond. The district recently awarded First Student a new three-year contract….First Student maintains a long-term relationship with the West Warwick Public Schools. The company has worked with the district for more than 20 years….
A year ago a consultant hired by the Chafee administration recommended sweeping changes in Rhode Island’s famously arcane personnel system — and a move toward “performance-based” pay. Friday marks the deadline for bidders to make a case for why they should be hired for the next step in this effort to “redesign” the state’s job-classification and compensation system for the vast majority of the state’s work force. …
…It is against this backdrop that the Chafee administration is seeking a consultant’s help in creating a new personnel system that is updated periodically to take into account what is happening in the public and private-sector labor markets, locally and regionally.
The state is also looking to the consultant to “lead the State through a learning curve of what is working, and what is not working, in public and private employment settings around the country … write job specifications that will then be used to match jobs to appropriate market salary data … reduce the number of job position titles by consolidating titles for positions with similar responsibilities and qualifications … develop job-specific, objective, performance evaluation criteria.”
The state also wants the consultant to “outline potential performance-based compensation strategies used in private and governmental settings, including [the] potential fiscal impacts.”…
For nearly 50 years, according to the labor union that represents school bus drivers and mechanics, the city school system has been doing its own busing. But these days most Rhode Island school districts let a private contractor take the wheel. … The committee put out a request for proposals from contractors interested in doing the job. The only bidder was First Student, a national company that has contracts to bus public school students in Providence and a number of other communities as well as special education and parochial school students statewide. …
…So far, the union appears to be winning. Joseph Balducci, School Department chief financial officer, confirmed figures Monday underlying his preliminary analysis of the cost of keeping the busing in-house compared with a contract with First Student. Over five years the First Student proposal would cost about $1.8 million more….
Employees of the North Providence Department of Public Works will keep their jobs. Eyewitness News cameras were rolling Tuesday night as Cardi Corporation withdrew its bid for the Department of Public Works contract. … The bidding process will start over and DPW workers could still face potential layoffs….
Lombardi still undecided on private DPW
Source: Valley Breeze, July 23, 2013
Mayor Charles Lombardi says he’s still waiting to hear back from the workers at the North Providence Department of Public Works on how far they’re willing to go to stave off privatization of the department. Lombardi told The Breeze he gave the Local 1491-A of Council 94, AFSCME, AFL-CIO, the union that represents DPW employees, the opportunity to come up with a savings plan to combat the low bid of $1.54 million from Cardi Corp. to take over operations. Cardi submitted its bid to run the department back in late May. The mayor has had several meetings with officials from Cardi Corp. since the bid came in, and said so far he has been satisfied that the Warwick-based company would provide all the services the town needs for the amount bid. R.T. Nunes and Sons Inc., of West Warwick, submitted a much higher bid of $1,990,181 for year one of operating the department.