ProJo: Citizens Bank unveils $285M Johnston campus, complete with robot security guard

ProJo: Citizens Bank unveils $285M Johnston campus, complete with robot security guard

By Brian Amaral

JOHNSTON, R.I. — Citizens Bank’s new, 425,000-square foot, $285-million campus here means a lot of things to a lot of people: jobs coming to town, a 20-year property-tax deal, walking trails open for public use where a landfill used to sit, two years of construction work, a chance for politicians to wield scissors at a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday.

But to Anna Costa, a longtime Citizens employee who came to the event in a bedazzled green hat and green beads, it’s much more than even all that.

“It means a commitment to the community, and a commitment to us,” said Costa, a Lincoln resident who’s worked at Citizens for 23 years and started as a teller. “It’s going to feel like home.”

Costa was one of the hundreds of Citizens Bank employees who came out, clad in green, to watch the ceremonial opening of the new corporate campus. Company officials and local dignitaries said the new campus would be a boost for the town and the Rhode Island-based bank.

“This was going to be the largest construction project in Rhode Island in over a decade, so there was a lot at stake here, making sure we got this right,” CEO Bruce Van Saun told a group of employees and visitors.

The project, built on an old landfill off Route 295, took two years almost to the day from the groundbreaking to the ribbon-cutting, and very nearly was finished on budget, Van Saun said.

Within months, some 3,000 people will be working in Johnston, moving from other parts of the company, according to bank officials. Citizens’ headquarters will remain in Providence.

Of the new people who will be working in Johnston, about 800 will be call center employees moving in from space the company is currently renting. The design goes against the stereotypical image of a corporate call center: the windowless warren of cubicles, dimly lighted in fluorescence. No matter where anyone sits, said Keith Kelly, president of Citizens Bank Rhode Island, they won’t be more than 40 feet from a window.

“Creating a state-of-the-art facility like this will help perform and collaborate better,” Kelly said in an interview Monday.

The campus also features ball fields that local youth leagues will be able to play on, space to play bocce — Costa said she was going to challenge the mayor to a game — and a rain-collection system on the roof.

Any rain-collection system would have been put to use Tuesday: it rained on and off all morning, including a quick burst the exact moment that a group of politicians and bank officials snipped up portions of a Citizens Bank ribbon outside to applause.

Patrolling it all was the Knightscope K5, a robotic security guard resembling a portlier R2D2. It is equipped with cameras and can read license plates to make sure people don’t come onto the campus that aren’t supposed to, said Derek Lemire, senior physical security officer.

“It shows we’re forward-thinking,” Lemire said.

For the ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday, Citizens pulled out all the stops: Groups of employees, whom the bank refers to as “colleagues,” waved and smiled to cars as they drove in. Local students marched and sang, and a local police honor guard took part.

The entire congressional delegation — U.S. Sens. Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and U.S. Reps. Jim Langevin and David Cicilline — were there, as was Gov. Gina Raimondo.

“It’s a wonderful partnership,” said Raimondo, noting the bank’s two-century track record, “and we hope it continues for the next 200 years.”

The dignitaries lauded, in particular, Johnston Mayor Joseph Polisena. Whitehouse referred to the site of the bank as the “wind-swept Mount Polisena.” Langevin noted that Polisena was always ready to talk turkey.

Polisena, for his part, said the development will change the town for the better.

“We all know they could have gone up the road to Taxachusetts — err, I mean, Massachusetts,” Polisena said to laughter.

The town approved a tax deal under which Citizens will pay $250,000 per year in property taxes per year. Especially compared to a big development with lots of housing units and lots of students, it was a good deal for the town, Polisena said.

“This place,” Polisena said, “will put Johnston on the map.”

Warwick Post: Langevin talks growth, small business needs with local chambers of commerce

Warwick Post: Langevin talks growth, small business needs with local chambers of commerce

By Rob Borkowski

EAST GREENWICH — Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) hosted three roundtable discussions with leaders in the Rhode Island small business community Thursday, focusing on business needs and economic growth strategies, the first of many themed days for the Langevin Listening Tour, a district-wide initiative Langevin is leading to collect feedback and gain insight from constituents.

“Small businesses are the engine that drives Rhode Island’s economy,” said Congressman Langevin. “They support economic activity, help build communities, and employ the majority of private sector workers in our state. I look forward to engaging with local business leaders and listening to their ideas to improve our business climate and foster further economic growth.”

“We need to all work together to provide resources and assistance to small businesses and to the community groups that support economic development.” said John Kevorkian, a Partner at Sprout CoWorking who is hosting Congressman Langevin for a tour before the first roundtable event with members of the co-working and incubator community.

Congressman Langevin is a tireless advocate for small business in Rhode Island,” said Lauren Slocum, the Executive Director of Central Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce and the lead organizer of the roundtable at the New England Institute of Technology. “I am pleased to see he is continuing his outreach, and I look forward to a spirited discussion of the issues.”

“This convening session provides an opportunity for a sampling of our chamber members and of other chambers to voice their pressing concerns about operating a small business in Rhode Island”, said Kristin Urbach, the Executive Director of the North Kingstown Chamber of Commerce. “Based on our past experience with Congressman Langevin, we know that he is not only a great listener, but also a leader who takes action and follows up to achieve the desired outcome. We’re honored that the Congressman selected Dan’s Carriage Inn located in North Kingstown for his South County small business event.”

ProJo: R.I.’s federal funding to fight opioid epidemic jumps to $12.6M

ProJo: R.I.’s federal funding to fight opioid epidemic jumps to $12.6M

By G. Wayne Miller

CRANSTON, R.I. — Members of the state’s congressional delegation gathered Tuesday with advocates to mark a significant increase of federal funding to Rhode Island for efforts to combat the opioid crisis. The state will be getting $12.55 million in funding this year, up from $2.1 million in 2017, officials said.

“Tackling the opioid epidemic requires coordination and commitment at the federal, state, and local level,” said Sen. Jack Reed, speaking at the main offices of CODAC Behavioral Healthcare. “I am working hard in the Senate to provide reinforcements in the battle against opioid addiction and we need to get these funds to the frontlines where they can have the most impact and help save lives.”

Substance Use and Mental Health Leadership Council President and CEO Susan Storti said, “These funds will provide an opportunity to continue the development of comprehensive, community-driven, multidisciplinary and recovery-oriented responses to the severity of the situations associated with the opioid epidemic.”

“Combating the opioid overdose epidemic requires a whole of society effort, from health services to interdiction of illicit fentanyl,” said Rep. James Langevin. “The healthcare professionals at CODAC provide vital opioid addiction treatment and programming services to Rhode Islanders. Unfortunately, the need for these services still outstrips CODAC’s capacity.”

“Rhode Island has felt the impact of the opioid crisis more than most places in our country,” said Rep. David Cicilline, who serves on the House Bipartisan Heroin Task Force. “Although we have made progress, we all know that there is much more work left to be done.

“The only way we’re going to stop this epidemic is if every level of government — federal, state, and local — works together to implement a strategy that helps those suffering from addiction get the help they need, addresses the over-prescription of opiate painkillers, and focuses first and foremost on the preservation of human life.”

Rhode Island is among the top 10 states with the highest rates of opioid-related overdose deaths, according to the latest statistics from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Coventry Courier: Coventry resident receives medals for WWII service

Coventry Courier: Coventry resident receives medals for WWII service

Written by Kendra Port

COVENTRY – On Friday Congressman James Langevin presented military decorations to retired Chief Petty Officer Edmund Del Barone, a Coventry resident who earned his medals throughout the course of his 22 years in the U.S. Navy.

Del Barone began his service in 1940 when he attended boot camp at the Newport Naval Station. He spent the majority of his naval career at sea performing maintenance on the several ships he was stationed on, including a destroyer, the USS Wadleigh.

Del Barone accepted his numerous medals during a ceremony at Alpine Nursing Home in Coventry surrounded by his friends and children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

“When we were contacted about his medals we were very proud to go to work and do what we needed to do to track these medals down and verify his eligibility for each,” said Langevin. “It’s one of the longest lists I’ve ever read.”

Del Barone received the Combat Action Ribbon, the Presidential Unit Citation with one bronze star; the Navy Good Conduct Medal (5th award); the American Defense Service Medal with Fleet Clasp; the American Campaign Medal; the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with one silver star and two bronze stars; the Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal; the World War II Victory Medal; the National Defense Service Medal with one bronze star; and the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal – Lebanon.

“Throughout this generation there is a pride that has continued to show through,” said Langevin. “He put on the uniform and did what needed to be done, and that’s so typical of the World War II generation. There are many men and woman who continue putting on the uniform and we’re grateful for your service.”

“When we talk about heroes, look no further than the World War II generation, the greatest generation that helped shape the world,” said Kasim Yarn, Rhode Island Director of Veterans Affairs. “What can they tell us? Everything, through the lens of our greatest generation. They set the standard for all of us to be here today. He didn’t do this by himself and it wasn’t about him – it was about serving his nation.”

“I salute you,” Yarn concluded.

Langevin said the many medals Del Barone received show a “dedication to our nation and the principles for which it stands.”

Del Barone is also a talented artist, having painted several emblems for naval ships as well as murals for different Veterans of Foreign Wars posts. He even painted one of the first emblems at the Naval War College in Newport.

“We’re very proud to see him recognized,” said his grandson, Dennis Tallo. “It should have happened 50 years ago, so it’s a long time coming.”

Prior to the ceremony Del Barone’s granddaughter, Kim, performed a rendition of Lee Greenwood’s ‘God Bless the USA.’

Patch: Langevin Presents Medals To World War II Sailor

Patch: Langevin Presents Medals To World War II Sailor

COVENTRY, RI — Cong. Jim Langevin (D-RI) on Friday presented military decorations to retired Chief Petty Officer Edmund Del Barone. The Coventry resident earned the medals over the 22 years he served in the U.S. Navy. According to Langevin’s office, “Del Barone began his service in 1940 when he attended boot camp at Naval Station Newport. The majority of his naval career was spent at sea conducting maintenance, and he was stationed on several ships, including the destroyer USS Wadleigh. Also a talented artist, Mr. Del Barone has painted emblems for naval ships and murals for several Veterans of Foreign Wars posts.”

Langevin said the medals show Del Barone’s “dedication to our nation and the principles for which it stands.”

The presentation at the Alpine Nursing Home in Coventry was also attended by Rhode Island Veterans Affairs Director Kasim Yarn, and Del Barone’s granddaughter, Kim.

The decorations presented include the Combat Action Ribbon, Presidential Unit Citation with one bronze star; Navy Good Conduct Medal (5th Award); American Defense Service Medal with Fleet Clasp; American Campaign Medal; European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with one silver star and two bronze stars; Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal; World War II Victory Medal; National Defense Service Medal with one bronze star; and Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal – Lebanon.

Westerly Sun: After yearslong study, region’s rivers are closer to ‘Wild and Scenic’ designation

Westerly Sun: After yearslong study, region’s rivers are closer to ‘Wild and Scenic’ designation

Photo By Harold Hanka, The Westerly Sun
Sun staff writer

EXETER — After three years of work spanning two states and involving scores of officials and volunteers, the Wood-Pawcatuck Wild and Scenic Rivers Study has been completed and is now headed first to the towns for their approval and, ultimately, to the United States Congress.

The announcement Monday, at the Wood River canoe and kayak access in the Arcadia Management Area in Exeter, was made by study coordinator Denise Poyer of the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Association.

“We did it!” Poyer told the assembled guests, who clapped and cheered. “We documented that the seven rivers in the Wood-Pawcatuck watershed have outstandingly remarkable values that absolutely qualify for them for the national Wild and Scenic River system, and we developed a stewardship plan that will help protect these rivers for future generations.”

The 300-square-mile watershed is the sole-source drinking-water aquifer for thousands of people in southern Rhode Island and Connecticut.  The rivers under consideration for the Wild and Scenic designation are the Beaver, Chipuxet, Green Fall-Ashaway, Queen-Usquepaugh, Pawcatuck, Shunock, and Wood rivers.

Members of the Rhode Island and Connecticut Congressional delegations sponsored the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Protection Act in 2014, which paved the way for the formation of a study committee to document the special qualities of the rivers and determine how best to protect them.

U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., who has been credited with ensuring the passage of the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Protection Act by attaching it to a Defense Authorization Bill, said the designation of the watershed would be a fitting tribute to the national Wild and Scenic Rivers system, which will mark its 50th anniversary in October.

“We’re celebrating 50 years,” Reed said. “We have 12,000 miles of scenic river. We can use a few more and they can be located right here in Rhode Island.”

Recalling happy times spent on the Wood River with his children, U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., said he was ready to do what he could to make sure the designation is passed.

“These steps that you have all taken will power us up and enable us to take the final step that will see to it that these rivers are protected for generations and generations,” he said.

U.S. Rep. James Langevin said it was time to add the Wood-Pawcatuck watershed to the federal system.

“There are some 208 rivers that have been given this (number) designation in 40 states, and I certainly look forward to seeing the Wood-Pawcatuck being designated 209,” he said.

Also present for the announcement was U.S. Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I.

“We are really privileged to live in a state that has a citizenry that really understands our environmental responsibilities and what our waterways mean to our ecosystem and our quality of life,” he said.

U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy and Congressman Joe Courtney, all Democrats from Connecticut, were the other co-sponsors of the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Protection Act.

Reading a written statement from Courtney was Emma King, deputy director of Conecticut’s Second Congressional District.

“I am proud to lend my continued support to this multi-state partnership to conserve and celebrate this ecological treasure in our own back yards,” Courtney wrote.

Eight Rhode Island towns and four in Connecticut took part in the Wild and Scenic study. Assisted by the National Park Service, the study committee included town-appointed representatives from Westerly, Charlestown, Hopkinton, Richmond, Exeter, North Kingstown, South Kingstown, and West Greenwich. Connecticut representatives were from the towns of North Stonington, Sterling, Stonington, and Voluntown.

Several state agencies and environmental-advocacy organizations also participated in the study: the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Association, Save the Bay, The Nature Conservancy, and the Audubon Society of Rhode Island.

Eric Thomas of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection said the two states had collaborated effectively on the study.

“It was natural for us to not only work at the agency levels, but work at the community level for the four communities in Connecticut, matching up with the Rhode Island communities to look at our shared resource within the watershed,” he said. “The study has really brought us all together for a number of years now, and today’s outcome is just another step in the whole process.

Representing the Town of Westerly was town council member Jean Gagnier, who did not serve on the study committee.

“We’ve got a a great representative, Jon Ericson, and we have Joe MacAndrew, who’s been appointed by the Town Council to serve on the committee,” he said.

(Harrison Gatch also represented Westerly on the committee as a council appointee.)

Jamie Fosburgh of the National Park Service’s Boston office said once the watershed receives a Wild and Scenic designation, its status at the federal level will undergo a significant change.

“The first thing is establishing the national priority for all federal agencies, so that becomes the policy of the United States, to recognize these values as of national significance,” he explained. “Directly, the Park Service, through Congressional appropriations, supports the stewardship committee that will be formed after designation to implement the stewardship plan.”

Study Committee Chairman and Hopkinton Planning Clerk Sean Henry said the study will now go back to the towns for approval.

“It’s collaborative with all the local towns,” he said. “Everyone on the committee was appointed by their town councils. We’re going to be going back to the towns when we have the stewardship plan ready, and hopefully, they’re going to approve it.”