PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — In its final meeting of the year on Thursday, the Providence City Council unanimously approved a 30-year tax treaty for ProvPort, the private entity that runs a section of the city’s deepwater port in South Providence.
The passage represented an about-face from two weeks prior, when the council tabled the tax deal amid opposition. Members of council leadership had announced it would be considered by the next City Council, which will have members sworn in next month.
If approved, the agreement makes ProvPort exempt from paying property taxes, but the organization in turn would agree to pay the city 9% of its annual revenues. Mayor Jorge Elorza’s administration has said the revenue share is actually more money than ProvPort would pay in taxes, though the estimates are based on ProvPort’s own projections of its business over the next three decades.
The tax treaty requires two approvals, allowing the next council to have a final say on the matter.
City Councilor Rachel Miller, who is expected to be elected council president in January, said there were “significant improvements” to the separate bond authorization and lease extension for ProvPort, which the council also passed Thursday.
The amended bond resolution specifies that the money is “intended, in part, to facilitate the ability of the Port of Providence to increase its participation in offshore wind industry and to address environmental justice issues.”
Miller also pointed to the fact that the city is now pledging to use its bond proceeds to remediate areas of the port that have long been the subject of environmental complaints.
“The fact that we are using this to move forward and change that future is huge,” Miller said.
The amendment also ties the lease extension and bond authorization to the tax treaty, stipulating it won’t go into effect unless the tax deal receives final passage.
The lease extension would allow ProvPort to continue controlling its existing land at the until 2052.
ProvPort outsources management to Waterson Terminal Services, which has said they need the long-term deal in order to get offshore wind tenants to commit to leasing at the port.
An amendment previously added to the deal says ProvPort can’t expand fossil fuel activity at the port.
“We are extremely pleased with last night’s outcome and thank all city councilors who took the time to thoughtfully analyze the agreement and understand its benefits to the City of Providence,” ProvPort spokesperson Bill Fischer said. “The last couple of weeks have included productive dialogue with councilors as well as community members. The extension allows ProvPort to continue to be an economic driver for the city with a number of direct financial incentives and allows for a master planning process that will include rigorous public input.”
The council also approved a flurry of other matters in its final meeting, including four other tax treaties and the creation of a new tourism improvement district.
The meeting was also marked by pomp and circumstance. Seven departing council members were honored, including the longest-serving member John Igliozzi, the council president, who has served since 1997.
In a sign of his longevity, Igliozzi was flanked at the dias by his two adult sons, whom he noted were not yet born when he first took office.
The city now limits council members to three four-year terms. Igliozzi and four other councilors – Michael Correia, Nicholas Narducci, Carmen Castillo and David Salvatore – will become the first councilors to leave office due to term limits since the limits were enacted by voters back in 2006.
Two other councilors are leaving because they did not run for re-election: Nirva LaFortune, who unsuccessfully ran for mayor instead, and Kat Kerwin.
In a 30-minute speech thanking his colleagues, the city clerks and council staff, Igliozzi joked that when he was first elected the staff amounted to “one person and a guy with a pen.”
He reflected on cutting the ribbon at the opening Providence Place Mall, the council’s work to help develop the downtown and the city’s first Pride parade, which he called a “bold freaking move back then.”
“Take good care of the city,” Igliozzi implored the councilors taking office in January. “Don’t take it for granted. Don’t assume that what we built here can’t disappear tomorrow.”
The new City Council set to be sworn-in in January will continue to be made up of 15 Democrats, with seven new members replacing the departing councilors. All eight incumbents who ran for re-election retained their seats.
A majority of the incoming councilors informally elected Rachel Miller as the next council president at a Democratic caucus meeting in September. The official vote for council president will take place at the first City Council meeting in January.
The caucus also voted for James Taylor as majority leader, Mary Kay Harris as deputy majority leader, Juan Pichardo as council president pro-tempore, John Goncalves as senior deputy majority leader and Miguel Sanchez as majority whip.
Miller has not yet named committee chairs.