WARWICK — Steve McAllister, who recently celebrated his first year as a City Councilman for Ward 7, is a Senior Manager for the Eastern Region of the U.S. for the United States Chamber of Commerce, a member of the Board of Commissioners of Rhode Island Housing and serves on the Warwick Sewer Review Board.
McAllister represents Warwick residents in the Greenwood School and Robertson School neighborhoods, as well as the area that’s home to the former Buttonwoods Community Center. He was a vocal opponent to the move to close the Buttonwoods Center, and is an enthusiastic supporter of the senior community.
Warwick Post asked McAllister to share his thoughts on topics affecting Warwick in general and his ward in particular. Here are the questions, and McAllister’s answers:
1) In May, you predicted The Cooper Building might cost $82,000 in repairs and upgrades by the time it opened. How did that work out?
During the budget hearings in May, the administration said the City would save $82,000 by closing the Buttonwoods Community Center, and that those “savings” could be used to complete upgrades to the Cooper Building. I believed then, and still believe, that the upgrades to the Cooper Building will cost more than $82,000 to complete. The City Council has not yet been informed by the administration of the total cost of the upgrades to the Cooper Building.
I’m thrilled that the Cooper Building is a resource serving so many members of our community. The Boys & Girls Club did an outstanding job raising over $400,000 in capital funds and $75,000 in operating funds. The City has partnered with the Boys & Girls Club to provide upgrades to the Cooper Building, including electrical work, painting, and heating upgrades. I’m grateful to the city workers and Boys & Girls Club staff who successfully launched the opening of the site earlier this month, and I’m excited about all the ways the site will benefit our community going forward.
2) The Mayor noted the upstairs of the building would be renovated soon for seniors. What do you think of this idea?
Our senior population continues to grow, and we need to invest in more facilities and programs for them. Seniors citywide should have a convenient place to gather with their friends and neighbors. Using the Cooper Building to also provide services for our seniors is an outstanding idea.
As a site offering programs for both seniors and city youth, the Cooper Building will provide great opportunities for community members from different generations to learn from one another. I envision seniors helping to coach team sports, or teaching kids how to play instruments in the state of the art music studio. I’m betting many seniors would welcome the opportunity to learn how to operate the 3D printer from younger members of our community.
3) How do you feel about the resolution to charge parking fees for City beaches?
I had some concerns about this idea when it was first presented to the Council, but I believe we have come up with a good compromise. We are lucky to live in a City that boasts several beautiful beaches. One of my priorities as a City Councilor is to ensure that these areas remain clean, healthy, and safe.
Charging a new fee is not something the Council takes likely. Through our research, we learned that Warwick was one of the few remaining cities or towns in the state not charging a parking fee for beach access. Parking fees are used to help keep the beaches beautiful. As an added benefit, communities charging fees have seen a decrease in the amount of undisposed trash.
Since residents are already paying into city services through taxes, they will contribute to the upkeep of our beaches at a reduced rate. Seniors will contribute at an even lower cost. Season passes for residents will be $20, and for Warwick seniors they will be $10. Nonresidents, because they are not already paying taxes to the city, will be required to pay more. Season passes for non-Warwick residents will be $40. For non-Warwick seniors they’ll cost $20.
4) What’s going on in your district this week?
This week is the kickoff of the holiday season with Thanksgiving. A number of fun and exciting things are happening. The Warwick Rotary is having their annual 5K Turkey Trot at Warwick City Park Thursday morning. Proceeds from the event will go to Kent Hospital and the Westbay Marketplace Food Pantry. Bishop Hendricken High School is hosting a community Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday. And, don’t miss the annual Pilgrim vs. Toll Gate Thanksgiving bowl game at10am at Toll Gate.
5) Tell us something personal in your life that you’re passionate about this week.
I’m looking forward to spending time with my family and friends this week. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. It’s great to catch up with family and friends I don’t get to see as often as I’d like, and to reflect on all the things I have to be grateful for.