By JOHN HOWELL It was one year ago Tuesday that Frank Picozzi turned to his followers on Facebook to announce he would be running as an independent for mayor of Warwick. It wasn't long before his phone started ringing with questions from the news media.
It was one year ago Tuesday that Frank Picozzi turned to his followers on Facebook to announce he would be running as an independent for mayor of Warwick.
It wasn’t long before his phone started ringing with questions from the news media. Would he be conducting a press conference?
Picozzi recalled the day. He had thought of holding a press conference in his front yard, but there a more pressing issue he had to deal with. His dog was sick. She wasn’t eating, was lethargic and, as he later learned, running a temperature.
He started calling veterinarians, but because of COVID and the pause, most animal hospitals were closed and those operating were booked. Finally, the best he could do was at least a couple of hours wait and he would have to leave the dog off.
Twelve months later, Picozzi said he has no regrets with his decision to run.
Has the job thrown him any curve balls?
“It’s exactly what I expected,” he answered. Then, after a pause, he confided he anticipated that since they are all Democrats, the City Council would be politically motivated, making it tough to accomplish his initiatives.
“I didn’t anticipate that the council would be completely supportive of me,” he said.
Even after winning election and before taking office, Picozzi included the council in his planning. Almost daily, he is in touch with City Council President Stephen McAllister. Picozzi was supportive of appropriations to reopen the McDermott Swimming Pool that the late Mayor Joseph Solomon closed with the pandemic and refused to reopen. As it turned out, the pool needed a lot more attention than initially thought. A boiler used to heat the building and the water needed to be replaced. Then it was a pump that had to be ordered. The pool is still not open.
It’s a frustration Picozzi has with government. “Everything takes forever.”
There are other frustrations, as evidenced when asked a series of questions regarding the two EMTs who had their licenses suspended for not transporting a 44-year old woman to Kent Hospital on Feb. 10. Soon after leaving the house, a friend took the women to the hospital. Despite efforts of the hospital emergency department, the woman died about two hours later.
To each of the questions about when he learned of the incident, whether the EMTs are still being paid by the city and if he had talked to family members of the deceased, Picozzi responded “no comment.” He gave the same answer when asked if he had been instructed to say “no comment” and who had provided such advice.
Yet his administration has been remarkably open in comparison to prior administrations. Department directors are free to talk about what they’re working on. Picozzi has no compunction about sharing this thoughts on what needs to be done, or for that matter changing course when presented with additional information.
When the city was reduced to two operating rescues, requiring it to borrow two from other cities and towns, Picozzi used his executive authority and moved quickly to purchase the one available unit he could find for sale. McAllister was briefed and it looked like it was going to happen, when it was suggested the purchase come before the council as part of a lease-purchase program to systematically replace aging equipment annually through the budget. The City Council approved three new rescues as part of the FY22 budget.
Picozzi resolved the uncertain future of the former City Hall Annex, which was forced to close in 2018 because of a burst pipe. The building is to be demolished. No plans have been advanced for the site. Simultaneously, the administration worked out an agreement to lease the former Sawtooth building that was part of the Apponaug Mill from AAA Northeast. City offices, with the exception of the City Clerk and Board of Canvassers, will move to the building when the build-out has been completed next year.
There’s more Picozzi is working on. He’s doing the groundwork to advertise vacant schools and get those properties back on the tax rolls and is working on a plan that would reduce assessment costs to bring sewers to more than 900 Bayside property owners. The plan calls for upgrading an aging water system at the same time.
He’s had some help that wasn’t available to previous administrations as a result of the pandemic. The city is projected to receive $39 million over the next three years, exclusive of additional school funding, that will be used to address needed maintenance to water and sewer infrastructure.
Passage of a no tax increase budget is high on his list of accomplishments.
Remarkably, since of many of the actions Picozzi has taken would appear to be more challenging, the mayor listed the removal of 42 blue planters on Post Road in front of City Hall as the most rewarding achievement. The planters, which cost $5,000 each, were part of the Apponaug circulator project, and because federal funds were used, the state Department of Transportation said they could not be removed without proper approvals. Picozzi wouldn’t let the matter drop, with his persistence finally paying off.
Usually by this point in a first term, a mayor would have held a fundraiser.
That’s going to happen on Monday, June 21, at the Tri-City Elks Lodge on West Shore Road. The 21st also is Picozzi’s 62nd birthday, so it’s being billed as a birthday party.
“This is going to be a small one,” Picozzi said of the $50 event that is being promoted on social media. Tickets may be purchased through the Mayor Frank Picozzi Facebook page. They will also be available at the door. “If you are ‘old- fashion,’ you can mail a check to Picozzi for Mayor, 2332 Post Road, Warwick 02886,” reads the post.
His Facebook page reads, “I hate fundraising but two year terms go by quick. Election season starts this time next year.”
Purposely, as he is an independent and “nonpolitical,” Picozzi hasn’t sent out invites to elected officials.
Picozzi wasn’t asked the question if he plans to seek a second term, as the answer seemed obvious.
As for the need to raise funds, he said, “I have $400 in my campaign account.”