Mayor: PawSox proposal isn’t dead, revised bill may come this week

(Image provided by PawSox)

PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WPRI) – Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien said Tuesday his fight to get lawmakers to support a new PawSox stadium isn’t over, expressing hope that revised legislation could be before the General Assembly within days.

“I’ll never be resigned that they don’t have the time or can’t make it work this time,” Grebien told Eyewitness News in an exclusive sit-down interview, two weeks after Senate President Dominick Ruggerio said the Senate would not take up the proposal this session.

Grebien unveiled a draft bill outlining the $83-million proposal in late May, but it has yet to be formally introduced in the General Assembly. Now, Grebien said lawmakers are working on tweaking the bill.

“I’d love to have it addressed, vetted out and have them stay another week if they have to,” the mayor said, adding, “I’m hopeful that it will get introduced this week.”

A spokesman for the Senate said Tuesday afternoon that the PawSox legislation was still under review. Grebien said he hopes the changes lawmakers are making to the bill behind the scenes will address concerns that Gov. Gina Raimondo has raised.

In an interview last month, Raimondo suggested a key sticking point for her is language in Grebien’s bill that indicates state taxpayers would guarantee payment of Pawtucket’s $15 million share of borrowing for the stadium, on top of the state’s $23 million share.

“What I wouldn’t be able to support is if the city wanted the state to guarantee its portion of the investment, and that’s something that would be problematic,” she said. “Because my goal in this all along is to protect the taxpayers of Rhode Island, and that’s what I’m doing, protecting the taxpayers of Rhode Island.”

Grebien called that a “misunderstanding” and said he believes the governor will now be back on board.

“My understanding talking to the governor is that she will be very supportive of this project, coming back out to where she was originally,” he said.

A spokesman for the governor said Tuesday she hasn’t seen anything new from Pawtucket and her stance hasn’t changed. House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello has said he wouldn’t have the House consider a PawSox bill unless the governor gave it her stamp of approval, noting that her commerce secretary, Stefan Pryor, has been closely involved in the effort.

Grebien said he believes the PawSox will leave Rhode Island if action isn’t taken in the remaining weeks before this legislative session ends, though he said that action could include getting the ball rolling for a special session in the fall.

“If there’s not a bill on there to say, ‘Hey, maybe we will do something in September.’ If there’s nothing there, I truly do believe that we are losing the PawSox,” he said.

Grebien said the team’s leaders are staying true to their word not to look for other locations until July 1.

“I’m asking the governor, the speaker and the Senate president, along with myself, to be leaders in the community and not lose this opportunity,” he said.

Ted Nesi and Steve Nielsen contributed to this report.