Reports That Got Results
From one man’s plea for the Department of Transportation to fix a problem it created in Smithfield, and the continued fallout for a politician that was bending the rules - to a stunning transformation of a junkyard that a year ago was nearly impassable: This week Jim Hummel has an update on several of his investigations that are getting results in communities across Rhode Island.
Click here to watch the original report on the Smithfield mailboxes.
Click here for our report on Johnston Council VP Manzi.
Click here for the Exeter junkyard report.
As we round the corner heading into the homestretch of 2016 we have new information on a handful of our investigations - beginning with the Great Mailbox Saga in Smithfield and one man’s attempt to get the attention of the Rhode Island Department of Transportation.
Polseno: ``It’s aggravating. And you can’t get through to nobody. And they laugh at you. Aaaaahhh!”
Smithfield business owner Tony Polseno leaves no doubt about his frustration over the mailboxes we found lining Pleasant View Avenue, in various states of destruction.
Polseno told us in March he had tried in vain to get the Department of Transportation not only to fix them but come up with a new design to spare the mailboxes from snow plows that had taken his and others down repeatedly since they went up as part of a road reconstruction nearly six years ago.
DOT Director Peter Alviti saw our story and ordered his department to come up with a solution.
Alviti: ``Peter Alviti…’’
Polseno: ``Peter Alviti, oh yeah, we’ve heard a lot about you.’’
And there he was earlier this month, The Director making good on his promise by personally visiting Polseno at his nursery on Route 116 after the new mailboxes were installed. Polseno gave Alviti a tour of his property and walked down to the new mailbox.
The DOT is in the final stages of replacing a total of 112 mailboxes. Engineers decided to move the posts back another six inches from the road.
Polseno told Alviti he thinks it’s not enough and that they have to go back further.
Alviti: ``The space between here and here has to be enough for a wheelchair to go by.’’
Polseno: ``Let ‘em go on the other side.’’
Alviti: ``No we can’t say that, we can’t say that.’’
Polseno also asked the D.O.T. director to have the snow plows go easy when they pass his property this coming winter, saying flying snow and ice has been a major culprit in the destroyed boxes.
Polseno didn’t know who Peter Alviti was before this entire episode started - but insisted Alviti and his staff come inside for some apple cider.
Polseno: ``To the mailbox!
All: ``To the mailbox.’’
Polseno: ``Hey, Peter Amorigi! Aw, that’s cider.’’
We’ll see this winter how the new design holds up against the state’s snow plows.
The fallout continues for the vice president of the Johnston Town Council, who has been sending her teenage triplets to Narragansett High School since 2014 - telling us in March she saw nothing wrong with the arrangement.
Hummel: ``The why don’t you just move to Narragansett?’’
Manzi: ``Because I love Johnston.’’
Our 2-month investigation that showed Stephanie Manzi taking her teenage triplets to Narragansett High School the past two years resulted in the council vice president opting not to run for re-election. We also reported in June she and her husband - who is claiming residency in Narragansett so the children can go to the public school there - have put this 3,200 square foot home up for sale.
We have now learned that Manzi has been removed as Dean of The Criminal Justice Studies Department at Roger Williams University, a position she held for a decade.
The president of Roger Williams would only say that she ``ceased to be Dean in July’’ but sources at the university tell us she was forced out because of the publicity following our story. She was given a ``sabbatical’’ this fall and is expected to return to the classroom as a professor next year.
It is unclear where she will live once the Johnston house sells. One adult and three teenagers currently live in this 754-square feet cottage and town records show that as of last week no building permit had been taken out to expand the cottage.
A hastily-put together plan for ferry service this summer between Providence and Newport turned out to be a Big Hit for Rhode Islanders and tourists, as we first reported in July. How big? The season-ending figures are tell the story.
The state Department of Transportation, which oversaw the ferry service, reports that more than 33,000 tickets were sold during the inaugural two-month season that served as a trial run. All of it was made possible by a half million federal grant that heavily subsidized the ticket prices.
The DOT reports that 64 percent of passengers travelled on full fare, $10 each way tickets; 36 percent took advantage of the $5 discounted tickets offered to children, seniors and those with disabilities.
Approximately 20 percent of all trips were sellouts, meaning that all 149 seats were filled. And about 30 percent of the riders were from out of state.
DOT Director Peter Alviti told us he was going to look at the numbers over the winter but hopes to run the service again next season. The DOT says options in 2017 would include a longer operating season, scheduling adjustments to meet high-peak periods, and possible other stops along Narragansett Bay.
But the state will need the federal subsidy to make it all happen if it wants to keep ticket prices the same as this season.
It’s taken more than a year - and a lot of prodding from state officials - but the owner of a sprawling West Greenwich junkyard is making progress on a pledge to clean up his property, which some say poses a threat to public safety.
Who could forget these images, taken nearly a year ago on the property of Norman Junior Carpenter, just off Route 95? Carpenter for years ignored orders from state and local officials to clean up the junk - which has been a treasurer for some looking for hard-to-find automotive parts. Adjacent property owner John Assalone filed a lawsuit several years ago and the state Department of Business Regulation began to put some bite behind its bark after our story ran last fall.
Last week we took a ride and the property has undergone a transformation. Much of the cluttered road - previously narrowed by junk spilling into it - has been cleared.
We travelled nearly a mile into the woods and saw Carpenter with a cleanup crew hard at work. Reports are that they have been chipping away daily at the problem, satisfying both the state and Assalone with the progress.
And remember the vast majority we do come from you: so if you have something you’d like us to check out contact me directly at Jim@HummelReport.org.