Wednesday, March 31, 2010

South Coast United

A professional basketball team in Fall River? Is this really a good idea? Is Mike Herren really a viable coach? Who will pay for the needed renovations to the Bank Street Armory? Can Fall River really support a basketball team?

The Premier Basketball League has confirmed that the South Coast United will be on the schedule for the 2010-2011 season and already I’m hearing some voices of doubt. Now, Ol’ Lefty has absolutely no interest in basketball (that’s the one where they toss the ball into a peach basket right?) but I think this is a fantastic development for our city and I may even have to take in a game or two!

Now, I’ve advocated before for a professional sports team in Fall River. Professional sports teams have the ability to raise the profile of a community and serve as a catalyst for economic development. When I wrote in favor of professional sports team in Fall River before I was thinking baseball and possibly soccer, but I think basketball maybe the best fit of all. Here’s why:

1. A professional basketball team can play in an existing venue. The South Coast United plans on playing its home games at the Bank Street Armory (Municipal Veterans Memorial). This means no new facility needs to be built. This means that the financing to build a new venue doesn’t have to be found.

2. The South Coast United can be part of downtown revitalization. The SCU will be playing 13 homes games in DOWNTOWN Fall River. The goal is for the team to draw 1,000 fans for each home game. If they’re successful that would mean 1,000 people in downtown Fall River. 1,000 people that may decide to grab a bite to eat before a game or grab a beer afterwards. And it doesn’t have to be 1,000 Fall River residents. You could easily have someone drive in to Fall River to see a game and family reasonable prices and decide to hit Battleship Cove before hand or tour the Lizzie Borden B&B. Is the South Coast United going to turn Fall River around? No. But, it could certainly be a catalyst for economic development.

3. The South Coast United could help preserve some Fall River history. By playing their home games at the Bank Street Armory the SCU may provide the means to restore and preserve one of Fall River’s most notable and recognized buildings. If the team or league doesn’t provide these funds I think it could perhaps present some opportunities for grant funding. We have such a tough time preserving our history in Fall River that this is almost a worthwhile proposition just on the basis of preserving the Armory alone.

On top of that minor league basketball seems kind of novel , minor league baseball is all around us, and hockey is nearby too, but basketball would be unique. If the team holds true to its planned ticket prices the SCU would be affordable family entertainment, something Fall River needs and something that would draw others into the city. An article about the Vermont PBL team seems a pretty good indicator that a Fall River team could work and even lays out the basic blueprint that a Fall River team should follow.

For those who feel that Mike Herren would prove too much to handle, well I can't imagine anybody who would invest in a team would let one person derail it. I think if Mike DID prove to be a problem he'd be let go.And certainly this is one area where Mike’s ability to generate attention will work in his favor. Having Herren as the head coach will certainly generate some buzz and create some local interest in the team. And let's be honest basketball is the one area of his life that really can't be questioned. He was a dominate player, a champion on championship teams and people will be curious to see if he take his talent as a player and focus that into talent as a coach. There are very few other local notables who would generate that level of interest, maybe Skippy Karam.

The bottom line is the South Coast United is a low or no risk investment. It's the opportunity to bring a professional sports team to the city without the logistical nightmare that would exist with other sports. It's the chance to bring some excitement to downtown and a little attention to our city. If it turns out not to be successful what have we lost, but if it is, it could be a real boon for our city.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

SouthCoast Photo of the Month

Flooded basements, caved in streets, and unyielding rain, perhaps the above photo is a sign from a power above? Maybe it's a banner that hangs in the statehouse? Could it be the motto of one of our former mayors?

Actually, it's a cropped photo of the sign pictured below. You would think that the folks at the Fall River Manufacturing Co. would have thought this one over.


Are you an avid picture taker? Do you have a shot you're particularly proud of? Perhaps just a shot that you'd like to share? Submit it here for the SouthCoast Photo of the Month! Send submissions to

Monday, March 29, 2010

More Dam problems

I just talked about the Terry Brook Reservoir Dam and how it is considered a 'high-hazard' dam, meaning one that would cause potential loss of life and significant property loss if it would fail. Now the TBR dam has been classified as in "poor" condition, one step above unsafe but as I talked about in the last post it looks like a plan of action to rehab it is underway.

I also talked about the fact that Fall River is responsible for several other dams and from what I can tell there are plans to do some maintenance on several of them.

However, there is another 'high-hazard' dam that like the Terry Brook is in poor condition and this one IS IN Fall River.  The Cook Pond Dam is classified as a 'high-hazard' dam that is in poor condition. The dam was last inspected in January of 2007, over 3 years ago! I know what you're thinking; I mentioned other dams before and mentioned plans to do maintenance on several of them. So now you're probably thinking well what plans does the city have to repair the Cook Pond Dam? Well the problem is the city doesn't own it, it's privately owned by Ricci Associates.

Oh boy.

You only have to look as far as Freetown and the troubles they've had with the Forge Pond Dam to see the problems we could be in for. For over a decade the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation tried to have the private owner of the Forge Pond Dam to make needed repairs. He refused to comply. Finally in 2007 the state stepped in when there was a fear of failure. Finally just last month the dam was once again feared to be near collapse. However the private owner has passed away and the dam apparently is in the hands of the town or the state. Now the state is moving ahead and plans to demolish the dam are underway.  While it's true that the Cook Pond Dam is classified as being in better condition than the Forge Pond Dam, it doesn't take long for bad to go to worse. In 2005 Taunton's Whittenton Pond Dam was national news. Taunton evacuated over 2000 people and feared a dam collapse would flood downtown. Again the state was forced to step in to take action. In the end a new rock dam was built to replace the failing wooden one. In 2005 Whittenton Pond Dam was national news, but just 2 years before it was rated as fair. Cook Pond was rated as poor THREE years ago. What condition is it now and what plans are in place to provide needed repairs?

Lefty's View: Three years ago the Cook Pond Dam was found to be in poor condition. This is a 'high-hazard' dam and failure can mean the loss of life and severe property damage. The city of Fall River has an obligation to make sure that a responsible course of action is being followed and needed repairs are taking place.

Damn Dams

It's raining again. I know you don't need the weather report from me to figure that out, but it is. Raindrops are bouncing off of the pavement and the beating against the roofs of cars. All the usual spots are puddling up and I had a tough time getting into my car without getting my feet wet.

Of course for many around the state the issue is bigger than wet feet. Homeowners who just finished bailing out flooded basements are fearing they'll have to do it all over again. The Commonwealth is issuing flood warnings and rolling out the sandbag defense.

Meanwhile a rather timely article in yesterday's Boston Globe reports that many of Massachusetts' 'high-hazard' dams have gone uninspected. Dams identified as high-hazard would cause serious property damage and possibly loss of life if they failed. One of them is owned by the city of Fall River, the Terry Brook Reservoir dam in Freetown.

The Terry Brook Reservoir is part of Fall River's "abundant water supply" and is not currently used as a source of drinking water.  The dam is listed as being in "poor" condition, one step up from "unsafe".  It is an earthen dam, with considerable erosion and "woody vegetation" growing on it. Now obviously none of this happened overnight. This dam has been neglected for decades and I can only imagine that if the dam ever fails Fall River will face more lawsuits than it will know what to do with.

Now the good news is, this is an issue that we've been aware of for a while, at least the last 4-6 years and a plan of action is underway and work is set to begin later this spring. The estimated cost is just under 1 million dollars, although earlier stated estimates are for 1.6 million. The problem is this seems to have take place all very quietly and low key with very little interest or attention paid to it. In 2008 the City Council voted to raise the water rates to pay for the needed repairs. Mayor Correia said the work would begin in the spring of 08 and continue through 09. What happened? A review of the Environmental Notification Form is also troubling, because while I am no dam engineer, it appears that the course of rehab being chosen is the least expensive. Personally I think THAT is something that should have merited some open discussion and maybe some public input. Terry Brook is only one of several dams the city is responsible for maintaining.  What repairs are needed at the other dams? What are the plans are in place? What is the timeline for these repairs?
I think it's time we had a little more dam discussion!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Flanagan's Forum

An editorial in today's Herald News says that Mayor Flanagan's recent forum fell flat. The Herald specifically criticizes local bloggers and those who comment on the Herald News website for "suddenly having nothing to say" "when given the opportunity to directly address, in person, the city leaders they mercilessly second guess."

While it's true that few attended this initial forum, I personally resent this statement. I have attended such forums in the past. I have had conversations with our last 3 elected mayors, I have spoken with several of our city councilors. I have attended council meetings. I have attended school committee meetings. I have met candidates in person. In short I have taken an active interest in my community and I have discussed my concerns with our city leaders.

What a tremendous luxury it must be to be able to attend every meeting and discuss every issue all the while getting paid for it.

I enjoy no such luxury and chances are you don't either.

Instead I have to balance my desire to blog and my interest in the community with a full time job, a long-ass commute, and the other things that make up my life.

Let's not forget that any notice of this was last minute and the scheduled time when many of us are just getting home or having dinner with our families.

I still think the forum was a success. Just by having the forum Mayor Flanagan has proven that he wants to seek input from the community. The Herald even brings up the excellent idea of having a forum that includes an online chat, that would allow those of us unable to attend but with access to a computer to participate. Hopefully in the future these meetings will be promoted better and further in advance.

Like the Herald I would urge Mayor Flanagan not to get too discouraged, sometimes it takes a few attempts for a good idea to take hold.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Thanks for the info Ken.....

If you've been wondering why Fall River's economic engine has been stalled and why dreams of a long awaited economic resurgence have gone unfulfilled, Ken Fiola has the answer for you – the lack of educational attainment.

At least that's what I got from a sound-bite from Fiola, the executive vice president of the Fall River Office of Economic Development, which was recently on WSAR.

Gee, thanks for the info Ken, and while I agree that the educational attainment of Fall River residents and for that matter the quality of our school department have far reaching, long term impacts on our ability to revitalize our city it should not be the scapegoat for the lack of progress we have experienced.

The whole argument that Fall River does not have an enough of an educated workforce to lure the types of companies that would provide good paying jobs and serve as part of our economic engine is just illogical. This somehow assumes that a company moving to Fall River would rely solely on Fall River residents as employees. That is nonsense. Not only would such a company draw from Fall River residents, but it would also draw from residents of the surrounding communities. It would be interesting to count the number of cars driving through Fall River on their way to Boston or Providence and areas in between as people commute for the good paying jobs that THIS area lacks. I am certain that given the option these people would rather commute to Fall River, if only the opportunities existed.

And you don't need to live in the immediate area to appreciate the difference between commuting to Fall River vs. commuting to Boston. After two decades of driving toward Boston, Fall River's new treasurer, David Grab, cited the "cruise control" drive from his home in Middleboro as one things that interested him in the position. Doesn't it make sense that other people who have to commute on Route 24 would rather head south toward Fall River versus north toward gridlock?

Why haven't we been pushing this? Fall River is an easier commute yet is still conveniently located to greater Boston and the Providence area. Fall River is much more economical in terms of taxes and real estate. I've heard the commercials about how exciting the SouthCoast is. Never mind that. How about pushing Fall River as the city you can AFFORD to establish or grow you business in?

We as a city have not effectively marketed to our strengths, when we do that I'm convinced companies will come. With those companies will come better paying jobs and residual job opportunities that could serve our existing job base. This will also bring more investment in the way of shops and restaurants and will see more people moving into our community (which will help improve education).

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Linda and Joe - Your Ethical Councilors

Councilors Pereira and Camara have been cleared after a state ethics inquiry. The investigation stemmed from an incident on January 5th when WSAR host Mike Herren contacted the FRPD over concerns for the well being of his child. When the police responded, they found the councilors with Herren and felt that they were trying to influence them.

The FRPD referred the matter to the State's Ethic Commission, which apparently has cleared the two councilors of any wrongdoing.

Here's the thing, the opinion of the commission doesn't matter. If YOU are a city councilor and you involve yourself in someone's personal situation, especially in a matter that involves the police you are guilty, if not of being unethical, than of giving the PERCEPTION of being unethical.

Honestly how stupid are these two? They say they were simply responding to a friend in need but did they for MINUTE think about how this would appear to ANYONE? Really did it occur to them that the police MIGHT feel that there was some political pressure being exerted? Honestly I have a tough time believing that there wasn't.

And that's the point, despite what an ethics commission has said these two have put themselves in a position that has betrayed the public trust.

I'm disappointed that the state's ethic commission didn't see at least a need to remind these two councilors to avoid potential conflicts of interest. I'm also disappointed that in the aftermath of all this both councilors would pretty much accuse an officer of lying and that Councilor Pereira would charge that this was something personal. To make such statements publicly undermines the integrity of our police force. As elected officials they should be using better judgment, but then again if they had done that in the first place this never would have happened.