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Raimondo’s medical marijuana plan could nearly double the patients, raise $5 million in revenue

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SCITUATE, R.I. (WPRI) — Ellen Lennox Smith rides a chair lift down the stairs to her basement, where she tends to plants that most of her neighbors would not find in their garden.

Smith’s 12 marijuana plants produce various strains of cannabis, with names like Blue Mystic and Pineapple Express, which she converts into oil and takes to help manage her pain from a connective tissue disease called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. She turned to the drug in 2007 to help manage her pain, after she reacted poorly to other pain medications like opiates.

The first time she tried cannabis, she said, “I literally had slept through the entire night, which was incredibly exciting.” She added, “We took our retirement money and put it into setting up a grow downstairs.”

Smith registered as a patient in Rhode Island’s then-fledgling medical marijuana program, when dispensaries were not yet open. A decade later, the program has exploded – with 19,104 patients and 2,119 caregivers, who are appointed by patients to grow marijuana.

But the number of licensed dispensaries – called compassion centers – has remained relatively low, with three centers located in Providence, Warwick and Portsmouth. Gov. Gina Raimondo is now proposing to expand that to 15 compassion centers as part of the 2018-19 budget plan she submitted to the General Assembly last week.

In addition to adding the 12 new centers, her proposal would add “acute pain” to the list of patient conditions that qualify them for medical marijuana, and would allow Massachusetts and Connecticut cardholders to buy marijuana in Rhode Island.

The expansion is projected to raise $5.1 million in revenue for the state, and would help close the budget hole caused by a mismatch between spending and expected revenue. The expansion is expected to raise $1.1 million in additional sales tax revenue from retail sales at the new compassion centers, $180,565 in additional tax revenue from new patients who qualify as having acute pain, and $248,157 in sales tax revenues from Massachusetts and Connecticut cardholders.

The addition of acute pain as an eligible condition is expected to add up to 16,000 patients, nearly doubling the number of cardholders.

Compassion centers also pay a 4% surcharge on purchases, along with licensing fees. Patients pay an annual fee of $50 to be a cardholder, and a $25 tag fee for each plant, which was added last year.

Norm Birenbaum, who oversees the marijuana program at the R.I. Department of Business Regulation, says the tags help law enforcement confirm that a home grower is not going over the plant limit. And he points out that patients on the SSI or SSDI programs are eligible for reduced application fees and tag fees.

But Smith, who is also a member of the state’s medical marijuana oversight commission, is perturbed by the costs.

“I don’t understand how it is you could even talk about making money off the most vulnerable people in the state,” she said. “It doesn’t make sense to me.” She opposes the sales tax levied on marijuana, which Rhode Island does not collect on other medications. (A spokesperson for the Department of Revenue said marijuana does not qualify as a prescription medication, which is exempt from the sales tax.)

Birenbaum says he’s optimistic the expansion could drive down the prices of medication, with increasing competition from more compassion centers. The goal is to have more home growers buy their cannabis from the centers, which he says are safer and more quality-controlled.

“Home grows can often be dangerous,” he said. “They’re not always compliant with building codes.” He also said marijuana at the dispensaries is tested for mold, mildew, pesticides and contaminants.

“Our goal here is to make it more accessible and more affordable,” Birenbaum said.

Smith said she’ll continue to grow her own marijuana, which she also grows as a caregiver for multiple other patients. While the costs of maintaining the operation are high – her electricity bill alone is $500 a month – she believes it’s still less expensive than buying from a compassion center.

Raimondo’s marijuana proposal will be vetted by the General Assembly in the coming months. Smith said she hopes lawmakers keep patients in mind.

“I just want them to remember we are real people, in need, that are using this for medical reasons,” she said. “And we need to not look at this as a money-maker. I find that, no offense, but I find that insulting.”


An earlier version of this story cited a state spokesman who said that over-the-counter medications are exempt from the sales tax in Rhode Island. The spokesman has since clarified that over-the-counter medications have been taxed since 2011.

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Benny’s owner on closure of family-run chain: ‘Things have changed’

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The year was 1968, and Arnold Bromberg was working at the North Main Street location of his family’s retail chain, which at the time had been operating for four decades.

“There were supposedly going to be people rioting,” Bromberg recalled, with political protests happening across the country. North Main Street businesses in Providence were shutting down in light of the protests. But Benny’s – by then a neighborhood favorite – was keeping its doors open.

“We stayed open, customers came in, we took care of them,” he said.

Bromberg recalled the favorite memory from his office at Benny’s Smithfield headquarters on Friday evening, a few hours after announcing that the family-run chain would be shutting down by the end of the year.

“The time has come,” Bromberg told Eyewitness News. “Things have changed.”

Bromberg cited dwindling foot traffic and the changing retail climate as the main reasons for the closure. He declined to say how far sales have fallen, but said the trend has been going downward for the past 10 to 15 years.

“What sustains us is the people doing the shopping,” he said. “And they’re not doing the shopping the way they used to.”

Benjamin Bromberg, the founder of Benny’s, is seen inside one of the original stores. (courtesy: Benny’s)

Plenty has changed since Bromberg’s grandfather Benjamin Bromberg – the original “Benny” – opened the first store on Fountain Street in Providence back in 1924, when he decided to turn his talents as a local tire salesman into his own business selling mostly auto parts and radios.

“The radio was a new invention,” Bromberg said. “It was the iPod of the 1920s.”

While the chain has become a go-to location to buy snow shovels, Christmas decorations, bicycles and patio furniture, it hasn’t weathered the rise of e-commerce and competition from companies like Amazon. Bromberg said it wasn’t going to be sustainable for the next generation of the family to take over the company.

Bromberg and his siblings will be retiring, ceasing operations by the end of the year and selling the Benny’s properties in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut, many of which are standalone stores with good-sized parking lots.

“We’ve never had a store in a mall,” Bromberg said. “We’ve always expected our customer to be able to pull up the door, go and buy the bag of rock salt and shovel and go right back out to the car.”

He said the company is fielding offers. “They’re great retail locations, so I’m sure somebody will slip into them,” Bromberg added. When asked if the properties would be sold to one buyer or individually, he said it could go either way.

An end-of-summer sale is already going on, and Bromberg said more sales will take place before the chain shuts down.

The Providence Journal building site on Fountain Street, looking north from corner of Fountain and Mathewson Streets, when it was Benny’s. June 1, 1933. (courtesy: Benny’s)

The company’s 715 employees, about half of whom are full-time, were notified Friday that the stores were closing and they would be losing their jobs. Gov. Gina Raimondo said Friday the Department of Labor and Training was reaching out to assist those employees.

Outside the Smithfield store Friday evening, Rosanne Morales and her grandchildren were taking a selfie with the Benny’s sign. They had just purchased a kite.

“We were looking for kites and no one else had them, but Benny’s did,” Morales said. “Years to come they’ll be able to say, ‘We were at that place called Benny’s,’ and they’ll be able to show their grandchildren.”

It’s precisely the legacy Arnold Bromberg sees Benny’s leaving behind.

“It’s always going to be, ‘Oh yeah, that’s where that Benny’s used to be,'” he said. “It’ll always be in everyone’s mind, I think. It’s built in.”

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Ted Nesi contibuted to this report.

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Brothers admit to roles in North Providence murder

NORTH PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Two brothers pleaded guilty Wednesday to their roles in a North Providence home invasion that resulted in a man being shot to death.

Viclei and Victor Hernandez admitted that in 2014 they plotted to rob Richard Catalano at his home on Eliot Avenue. They were 18 and 20 years old at the time.

Viclei, now 21, and Victor, 23, pleaded guilty to charges of second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit robbery.

Victor was sentenced to serve 40 years of a 60-year sentence at the ACI with the rest suspended with probation, while Viclei is scheduled to learn his fate in July.

Prosecutors said Viclei drove the car to Catalano’s home to commit the robbery while Victor brought the gun.

Police allege a third suspect, Dari Garcia, was the only one to actually enter the home. He’s accused of fatally shooting Catalano, while also shooting and biting of the finger of his mother, Lorie. She survived the attack.

In court, a prosecutor read aloud a statement from Lorie Catalano.

“I love my son and miss him every minute of every day. All of our holidays will never be the same. I have no reason to celebrate anything anymore,” she said. “Ricky wasn’t a violent person. He did not like guns. He would not have hurt a fly.”

The victim’s family said Lorie has had dozens of surgeries and still has permanent damage to her voice box.

Garcia is slated to go on trial for first-degree murder in the fall.

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State says software issue to blame for E-911 disruption

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — For 45 minutes on Monday night, call-takers at Rhode Island’s E-911 center were unable to speak to people calling with emergencies, according to Lt. Col. Kevin Barry, the commanding officer for the Department of Public Safety.

The system is back up and running, but technicians are still working to determine what caused the software glitch. Barry said dispatchers could see calls coming in and could hear the person on the line, but the callers could not hear them. Dispatchers used landline phones not connected to the E-911 system to call back the phone numbers and were able to assist them with their emergencies.

Ninety-eight people called 125 times between 7:41 p.m. and 8:26 p.m. Monday, while the system was malfunctioning, Lt. Col. Barry said. Some people were calling more than once, presumably because they heard no one on the other line. All but six callers were reached by dispatchers and their emergencies were handled.

“We’re not aware of any serious complications resulting in a delay in receiving emergencies services,” Barry said. “However, we believe any delay in a call for help is unacceptable.” Barry said the six callers who could not be reached either did not receive incoming calls or attempts to call them went to voicemail.

“We think they were all serviced, but we don’t know,” said William Gasbarro, the co-director of Rhode Island E-911. “I haven’t heard any feedback.”

The E-911 system, built by the company Solacom and maintained by AK Associates, has a backup system, but the system was not automatically triggered by this particular glitch. Dispatchers realized that callers could not hear them, and contacted supervisors.

“Because calls were getting through, the computer did not recognize a failure in the system and did not automatically trigger the backup system,” Barry said. “Once the problem was identified, E-911 officials manually turned on the backup server to restore full functionality to the system.”

Technicians at Solacom were contacted and they manually triggered the backup system at 8:26 p.m. The 45-minute delay to trigger the manual system occurred because technicians were diagnosing the problem, testing the backup system to make sure it didn’t have the same problem and then activating it.

“We’ve never had a malfunction of this magnitude,” said Barry. “We will do everything in our power to make sure we have a reliable backup that activates at the first sign of a problem.”

Arthur Kraus, the vice president of AK Associates, said his company had technicians on site in Rhode Island at the time of the glitch. The technicians had not detected any issues in their routine maintenance, and found no signs of malware or a cyber attack. The company has a $36,400 contract with the state for 2017, according to records obtained by Eyewitness News.

“It was one of those strange anomalies,” Kraus said. He said technicians pulled the computer logs and Solacom, which built and owns the software, is now combing through the data to find the root cause of the problem.

A spokesperson at Canada-based Solacom did not immediately answer questions about the issue. But William Gasbarro, the E-911 co-director, said he was told by Solacom that this particular glitch had not happened before in other states.

“There are no problems like this that we’re aware of that have happened with the system,” Gasbarro said.

During the malfunction, Rhode Island State Police put out notifications on social media and urged people to call their local police and fire departments directly with emergencies. A spokesperson for the Providence police and fire departments said those dispatch centers did not receive an increase in calls during that time period.

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Brown, rusty water once again plagues Pascoag

BURRILLVILLE, R.I (WPRI) — Residents of the Pascoag section of town are once again dealing with a water problem: brown, yellow and reddish water poured from dozens of faucets late last week and over the weekend.

Justin Hagerty showed Eyewitness News a photo of the yellow water that flowed from his tap on Friday; the water was clear on Monday morning. Other Eyewitness News viewers sent photos of bathtubs and sinks full of murky and discolored water in shades of brown.

“This has definitely been happening for two years strong,” Hagerty said. “Taste, smell…I’m like ‘wow, this is really bad.'”

Mike Kirkwood, the general manager of the Pascoag Utility District (PUD), does not dispute the problem and says he sympathizes with the customers who are dealing with discolored water. A project is underway to keep the water clean long-term, but residents are still dealing with the problem now.

“It’s probably been a multitude of years,” Kirkwood said in an interview with Eyewitness news on Monday. “But it’s accelerating, the system is getting older.”

“It’s not a health issue,” Kirkwood added.

Kirkwood said the system of pipes that carries the district’s water to 1,100 homes is more than 100-years-old. While the cast-iron pipes are structurally in decent shape, Kirkwood says they aren’t lined on the inside, which means the iron rusts when met with water.

The most recent bout of rusty water happened as the result of a fire on March 13 on Camp Dixie Road, Kirkwood said. The velocity with which the firefighters ran water from a fire hydrant caused rusty iron sediment that had settled at the bottom of a huge water tank to be sucked up into the water system. It took some time for the new pool of rust-water to trickle down into the average person’s home; last week, the PUD started getting calls about the brown water.

“I think the frustration has just come to a boiling point,” Hagerty said.

Kirkwood said the water is technically safe to drink–iron is not harmful to the human body. But residents report it doesn’t taste good, and obviously, the brown water is not conducive to, for example, washing a load of whites. “There are people that are throwing away clothes,” Hagerty said.

Plus, residents who are flushing the brown water out of their system are literally pouring money down the drain; customers are not being reimbursed for the costs of the brown water.

“Flushing the system costs me money,” Hagerty said. He pays the water bills at two apartments he rents out, along with his own unit. “When that thing’s dripping, it’s dripping money.”

“It’s the way it is, unfortunately,” Kirkwood said. “No one wants to pay for a product that they can’t use for periods of time.” He said the nonprofit utility district is 100% funded by its customers’ water bills, and there is no extra cash or a “rainy day fund” to pay people back.

There is a long-term fix in the works. Residents of the water district voted in 2015 to approve a $2.4 million dollar project, partly paid for by a USDA grant and partly with a bond, that will fix 30% of the rusty pipes. Kirkwood said construction began last April and paused for the winter; it will continue next month. Instead of replacing the pipes, the project will line the iron insides with cement, in order to prevent the water from directly touching iron and rusting.

That project should be completed by August or September, Kirkwood said, and should partly alleviate the rust problem. There isn’t yet a schedule to fix the other 70% of the pipes, which would require more funding. Kirkwood said the cost of some recent repair projects were offset by settlement money from a lawsuit after a local gas station leaked a dangerous additive called MBTE into the district’s water supply back in 2001. (Pascoag now buys its water from nearby Harrisville.)

While repairs are underway, Kirkwood said he has placed an order for cases of bottled water that he plans to offer to residents who call to complain. He also said residents can purchase a “full-house filter” that filters out iron and the water district will reimburse half of the cost, up to $250.

The PUD regularly tests the water, and all tests have come up bacteria-free for the past several years. Another test was conducted Monday, the results of which should be available on Tuesday.

A spokesperson for the Rhode Island Department of Health said the state plans to conduct its own test of the water later this week.

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Drivers charged in double fatal crash go before judge

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Two men accused of causing a fiery crash in Johnston last month that killed two passengers faced a judge on Friday.

Johnston police said video evidence shows Zachary Albanese and Peter Lawrence were racing on Route 6 on Dec. 13 before Albanese lost control of his vehicle and crashed.

Albanese survived the crash, but his two passengers – Taylor Reilly and Dylan Laurenzo – died as a result.

According to a court affidavit obtained by Eyewitness News, multiple eyewitnesses described the street race and alleged reckless actions by both drivers that preceded the crash.

Police said the two men started racing at a high speed when Albanese’s car swerved and crashed into another vehicle before hitting an SUV parked at a gas station, which burst into flames.johnston-crash-collage

Lawrence was not involved in the crash, according to police. Investigators used surveillance footage to track him down, spotting him in his pickup truck a week later.

Police said Lawrence denied trying to race Albanese, whom he did not know, saying “maybe he thought I was trying to race him.”

Albanese, 19, of Johnston, and Lawrence, 26, of Scituate, are both charged with street racing and two counts of driving to endanger, death resulting.

Neither suspect entered a plea in court. Both were released on personal recognizance as they await trial.

The street racing law is also known as the Justin Nunes law, named after a teenager killed in a crash in 2003.

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3 arrested in shootings of North Providence father, son

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NORTH PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — North Providence police say with the help of surveillance video and witness statements they have arrested three suspects in connection with a double shooting that left a father dead and his son critically injured.

Hernan Avila Jr., 46, and his son, Hernan Avila III, 23, were shot outside a convenience store on Humbert Street Sunday night. The older Avila died from his injuries.

Ernest Keosouphanh and Brandyn Pavao were both charged with first degree murder and ordered held without bail following their arraignments Tuesday afternoon. Bail was set at $20,000 for Davante Neves, accused of conspiring to assault the younger Avila.

Police say Keosouphanh was the sole gunman.

The homicide victim’s wife Georgette Avila cried out in court as Keosouphanh was arraigned.

“You murderer,” she said. “You killed a husband and father.”

During Tuesday’s arraignments, Detective William Shurick revealed Avila III was shot eight times from his neck to his hamstring. The family says he underwent two surgeries and is expected to survived.

The elder Avila took one fatal shot to the torso.

Georgette Avila, who was at the scene, said her son was buying juice when a group of people including Pavao approached him asking where to buy marijuana. When he said he didn’t know, an argument ensued.

Story continues below after gallery. 

[lin_gallery url=”http://wpri.com/gallery/north-providence-deadly-shooting/”%5D

Police say Pavao is also charged with murder because he started the argument with Avila and then called Keosouphanh to the scene.

Georgette Avila told police she overhead that alleged phone call.

“I got that punk [expletive] Hernan here,” Detective Shurick repeated in court, quoting Pavao.

Keosouphanh allegedly arrived on the scene in a car with other people and opened fire on both Avila men.

Police said the younger Avila was the target of the shooting, and his father stood in front of gunfire, blocking his son.

It was his final act.

“My father died a hero,” said Avila’s daughter Tatianna Silvestre. “He’s just a great man…he’s going to be very missed.”

“He always taught me to never give up,” said another of Avila’s daughters, Amanda Avila. “Never be weak.”

Amanda Avila shook the hands of each police officer at a news conference announcing the arrests, thanking them for quick action.

Police say they recovered the handgun used in the shootings with the help of the State Police Dive Team. It was found in a body of water in North Providence, though police wouldn’t specify which.

Police said Keosouphanh was out on bail on a sawed-off shotgun possession charge when he allegedly shot the Avilas with yet another gun.

“Unfortunately, that speaks volumes about the system itself and the flaws that are within it,” Acting Police Chief Chris Pelagio said. “It’s frustrating.”

The younger Hernan Avila, known by family and friends as Jay, works in the fast food industry and recently enlisted in the National Guard, his family said.

The elder Hernan Avila worked as a Certified Nursing Assistant at Briarcliffe Manor Nursing Home.

Ernest Keosouphanh, 19, is charged with:

  • First-degree murder
  • Felony assault with attempt to commit murder (two Counts)
  • Conspiracy to commit murder
  • Conspiracy to commit felony assault with the intent to commit murder
  • Conspiracy to commit felony assault
  • Possession of an altered firearm (9mm handgun)

Brandyn Pavao, 23, is charged with:

  • First-degree murder
  • Felony assault with intent to commit murder
  • Conspiracy to commit murder (two counts)

Davante Neves, 18, is charged with:

  • Conspiracy to commit felony assault

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Crime, Local News, News, Northwest, Top Video

Wife: Dad took bullets for son in North Providence shooting

[anvplayer video=”962146″ /] NORTH PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Georgette Avila is looking for answers after she says she watched her husband jump in front of gunfire aimed at her son Sunday night.

Police are searching for possible suspects after the father and son duo were shot in a convenience store parking lot on Humbert Street in North Providence Sunday night.

Police say the father, 46-year-old Hernan Avila, died of his injuries. The son, 23-year-old Hernan Avila, is in critical condition.

“My husband jumped in front of my son and took the bullets for him,” Georgette Avila told Eyewitness News. She said she witnessed the shooting.

Avila said her son was out buying juice when a group of people approached him asking where to buy marijuana, but he didn’t know.

“He was upset,” Avila explained. She says it turned into an argument.

“He said ‘I was just asking you man,’ and it escalated,” Avila said.

That’s when another car full of people arrived on the scene, she explained.

Hernan Avila Sr. (family photo)
Hernan Avila Sr. (family photo)

“Four guys jumped out of the car and started shooting my son,” she said tearfully. Avila isn’t sure if just one person had a gun or multiple people.

North Providence Acting Police Chief Chris Pelagio says the number of gunmen is still under investigation.

“We are following up all the leads that we have available to us at this point to make sure justice is served,” Chief Pelagio said at a news conference Monday afternoon.

Pelagio said police are investigating if and how the suspects and victims know each other, and are leaning towards a targeted attack. He said the public is not in danger. He said the motive of the shooting is still under investigation.

Mrs. Avila said her son recognized at least one of the people from high school.

“My son right now is still fighting for his life,” she said.

The younger Hernan Avila, known by family and friends as Jay, works in the fast food industry and recently enlisted in the National Guard, his family said.

Hernan Avila III
Hernan Avila III (Family Photo)

His sister Tatianna Silvestre says she ran to the convenience store as soon as she heard about the shooting Sunday night.

“By the time I got here, my brother was laying over there, his blood going down the street,” she told Eyewitness News in the parking lot where the shooting happened. “My father was sitting up, I thought he was ok…I didn’t even know he was shot.”

The elder Hernan Avila later succumbed to his injuries. His family says he worked as a Certified Nursing Assistant at Briarcliffe Manor Nursing Home.

“My father, he’s taken care of me since I was three months old,” Silvestre said. She explained that Avila is not her biological father, but she called him “Dad,” and he raised her. “It’s very hard for me.”

Police have not named any suspects in the shooting nor have they released any descriptions of the suspects or their cars. Anyone with information is urged to call North Providence Police.

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Documents reveal disturbing abuse allegations against nursing assistant

BURRILLVILLE, R.I (WPRI) — A Certified Nursing Assistant is accused of verbally and physically abusing her patients, according to state police records obtained by Eyewitness News.

Lynda Proietti of Danielson, Conn. was charged with patient abuse earlier this month. The arrest report released by Rhode Island State Police Wednesday revealed disturbing new details of what her co-workers told investigators she did and said to her patients at the Eleanor Slater Hospital’s Zambarano Unit.

One co-worker reported to police that Proietti told a patient, “roll over [expletive], you’re dying anyway.” Another coworker told police that while treating a patient, “Proietti stated she would like him to die on her birthday.”

The Zambarano Unit is part of the state-run hospital and serves patients requiring long-term care. In this case, police say Proietti’s patients were non-verbal and unable to report the alleged abuse.

In their statements to police, Proietti’s coworkers also described her “manhandling” patients and being rough while lifting, rolling, or boosting them.

Some of the most disturbing comments use derogatory language to imply that patients were going to be sexually assaulted.

Police don’t know of a motive.

“There is no reason,” said Maj. Joseph Philbin in an interview one day after the April 5 arrest. “The person who was arrested is a veteran of the system, has been a nurse for quite some time. So that’s the question we’re all asking.”

Police said Proietti did not make a statement to investigators. She was charged with one felony count of patient abuse: simple assault, and two misdemeanor counts of patient abuse: intimidation. She was released on $2,000 personal recognizance and is due in court on June 8.

A spokesperson for the Dept. of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals said the allegations were first made in January. Proietti was placed on leave and state police were notified.

“We will not stand for abuse of any kind in any of our facilities,” spokesperson Maria Montanaro said at the time of the arrest.

“We inherited a hospital system that had been neglected for too long,” added Health and Human Services Secretary Elizabeth Robers. “But there is no excuse for this type of behavior.”

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Citizens Bank building new corporate campus in Johnston

JOHNSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — Citizens Financial Group later this year will begin construction of a new corporate campus on an undeveloped parcel of land west of I-295 in Johnston.

Eyewitness News broke the story in December that Citizens was looking to build a new suburban campus in Rhode Island. The bank revealed the location of that campus during a news conference Wednesday morning at the Johnston Senior Center.

The campus will include about 420,000 square feet of office and meeting space, and 3,200 current employees will move to the new office.

Chairman and CEO Bruce Van Saun says Citizens chose not to renew its lease at its Cranston offices, which is up in 2018.

“That facility…was going to need a lot of work to suit our future needs,” Van Saun told Eyewitness News after the announcement.

johnston citizens campus site map
Rendering courtesy of Citizens Financial Group. Click to enlarge »

The new site is off of Greenville Ave in Johnston, where the state has agreed to build new exit ramps off of I-295. The Rhode Island Department of Transportation and Citizens Bank will split the cost of the new exits.

“As I’ve said many times, first-class companies need first-class infrastructure,” Gov. Gina Raimondo said, referring to the new ramps. Raimondo said the state’s Commerce Corporation did not offer any tax incentives to Citizens Bank.

“I think we can make the economics work without that,” Van Saun said. “And I think there’s potentially a bit of a backlash when people see that take place.”

Van Saun said the company did not consider leaving Rhode Island.

Johnston Mayor Joseph Polisena  says the city is offering Citizens Bank a 20-year property tax stabilization agreement, the details of which Mayor Polisena would not disclose until the deal is finalized.

“It’s advantageous to Citizens, and it’s very advantageous to the town of Johnston,” Polisena said.

Polisena said property values in the area should increase with Citizens Bank in town, and local businesses will benefit from the surge of employees working there. He also praised the construction jobs that will come once ground breaks on the project later this year.

“We have a lot of working class people in the town in the construction industry, and it’s going to put them to work,” Polisena said.

The construction company contracted to build the campus said there would be hundreds of workers on the site.

Robert Coupe, the Director of Administration for the City of Cranston, said city officials tried to convince Citizens Bank to stay in the city in talks several months ago.

“Unfortunately we simply could not offer the space and setting that they were seeking,” Coupe said in an email. He added that the new facility was still close enough to Cranston for employees to visit restaurants and stores there.

“With thousands more employees located so close by, this move may have a significant positive economic impact on Cranston,” Coupe said.

He said the city is working with the owner of the space currently housing Citizens Bank to find a new use.

The bank said its headquarters will remain in downtown Providence. Citizens has about 5,300 total employees in Rhode Island, including workers at branch locations.

The decision to build the new Johnston campus comes as Citizens executives continue to chart its course as an independent bank, following its recent spin-off from U.K.-based Royal Bank of Scotland, its parent company since 1988. European officials forced RBS to sell Citizens after the British lender received a huge government bailout during the financial crisis.

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