New Year Brings New Round of Cuts for Cities and Towns

The signs on Main Street read “Historic Pawtucket,” but walk about to the place where you can learn about that history, and there is another sign that reads, “The Blackstone Valley Visitor Center is temporarily closed.”

The decision from the city came fast. The center was shut down less than a month after officials realized they don't have the $100,000 needed to run it. News of the closure hit manager Bob Billington hard.

“They're designed to tell a community's story and when you close that off – it's almost like closing a book,” Billington said. “It's almost like there's no story to tell.”

Pawtucket Mayor Don Grebien says with the rising deficit, the Visitor Center is just the start of the services he will have to consider cutting.

“We're dealing with the budget on a daily basis,” Grebien said. “There are choices. There are certain things that I cannot do. It's all about money and we don't have the money.”

Money is the same reason why court clerks in 24 cities and towns across Massachusetts cannot answer phone calls at certain times during the day. The reduced hours are part of state cutbacks.

“Due to staffing shortages and budget cuts, we will no longer be taking phone calls between the hours of 1:30 and 3:30 p.m.,” the voicemail at Fall River District Court plays.

The reduced hours have been going on for four months. Closing the Visitor Center is supposed to be temporary, but Mayor Grebien fears the center will never be the same.

“Is it reduced hours? Is it closed? Is it weekends?” Grebien asked. “These are the options we have to consider.”