The Herald News, Tuesday, January 23, 2018 – A10

By Jo C. Goode
Email: jgoode@heraldnews.com

Fall River — A minor tweak of a contract between the Redevelopment Authority and the Bristol County EDC could make it more difficult for either agency to break the agreement.

During the Jan. 10 RA meeting, both agencies agreed to an amendment to the three-year contract for management services provided by Bristol County EDC that would only allow termination of the agreement “for cause” and defined it as gross misconduct and negligence.

Previously the contract could be broken in 30 days for “convenience.”

The contract expires August 2019 and the change comes a week before Mayor Jasiel Correia II is poised to appoint two new members of his choice to the authority board.

Bristol County EDC Executive Vice President Kenneth Fiola Jr. said the change in the contract was necessary to ensure that the multiple projects RA and Bristol County EDC have been working on would maintain continuity, including two urban renewal plans, work on the city pier and dealing with the Third Street parking garage renovation.

“Clearly we don’t have any problem with termination for cause, but termination for convenience by a new redevelopment board appointed by the mayor, that board could come in and say, ‘OK, that’s your 30 day notice, thank you very much now we’re moving in a different direction,’” Fiola said. Correia said Monday that he welcomes the change in the contract between RA and Bristol County EDC.

‘I think it solidifies the economic services between Bristol County EDC and RA and that it solidifies its accountability,’ Correia said.

Last year, Correia twice tried to convince the RA board to break the contract with Bristol County EDC and transition the authority as the city’s economic developer. Correia proposed the city would provide management services, which until last March, had been Bristol County EDC’s responsibility. Twice the RA board rejected the mayor’s pitch.

Since then, the administration has not had a concrete economic development plan and Correia unfunded Bristol County EDC by $333,000 in Community Development Block Grant money. There is on-going litigation between the city and Bristol County EDC for back rent. The administration also began eviction action against Bristol County EDC but dropped it when the agency moved to the Cherry and Webb building.

As for creating a new economic development plan, Correia said the group he’s assembled to study the issue is moving ahead and continuing their monthly meetings.

‘Maintaining economic development is too big to get wrong,’ Correia said.

Board members Ann Keane and Joseph Oliveira said they agreed that continuity of the projects and with a staff with institutional knowledge was important.

“I just wish we didn’t have to take these measures to ensure continuity here,” Oliveira said. “I understand the situation and I value the continuity for the success of these projects.”

Correia denied he had any intention of trying to interfere with the agreement between the two agencies.

The City Council meets Tuesday and on the agenda is a number of requests from the mayor for board appointment confirmation including the two seats on RA.

Correia is appointing Robert Smith who is currently the city’s harbormaster and Loriann Taylor Branco, whose resume lists her as an optical manager for Center-for-Sight and a member of the Bristol County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.

If the appointments are approved by the City Council, Smith and Branco will replace Keane and a seat left open after former member and architect Jo Ann Bentley resigned.