Supporters and opponents of using public borrowing to help build a new PawSox stadium squared off Tuesday night at Tolman High School in Pawtucket.
Familiar arguments took up most of the latest hearing by the Rhode Island Senate’s Finance Committee. Supporters said the PawSox are an important asset for Pawtucket and that a new stadium will boost the local economy. But opponents say needs like improving education should get a higher priority if close to $40 million in public borrowing is being used.
Former Pawtucket City Council President Henry Kinch also questioned the financial terms of the stadium plan.
"For the first years of this deal, Pawtucket has no way, no idea, of how they’re going to pay the bonds down," Kinch said. "They’re taking about, ‘we have to find ways to skin the cat.’ Bottom line is, they don’t know. That is an unacceptable and dangerous risk."
Kinch also questioned whether $10 million will be enough to acquire the Apex site intended for the ballpark and to remediate environmental concerns there.
Speaking earlier, Pawtucket Mayor Don Grebien vowed to bring more specifics on the city’s financing for the stadium to the next PawSox hearing, October 3 at URI.
About 200 people attended the second in a series of hearings being held by the Senate Finance Committee, and 99 people signed up as witnesses.
A presentation by the City of Pawtucket took up the first hour, but after that opposing and supporting views were mixed in -- unlike how supporters dominated the first hearing.
Some opponents chose to focus their attention instead by trying to rally opposition in House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello's district to the stadium plan.
One of the supporters of the new PawSox stadium was Robin McDonald, CEO of the Attleboro YMCA.
“With friends, colleagues and bus loads of campers, we have come to the city of Pawtucket to see the PawSox play," she said. "We eat here, we shop here and we enjoy all that Pawtucket has to offer. We think that’s good for the Rhode Island economy. We’re spending our money here in Rhode Island, not in Massachusetts.”
It remains unclear when the General Assembly may vote on legislation that would pave the way for the PawSox stadium.