To hear state Rep. James McLaughlin explain it as he walks Chase Street, history looms ominously underground here. At any moment, it seems, a 19{+t}{+h}-century coal mine shaft could cave in beneath his feet.

And some people, the 70-year-old, two-term legislator says, probably wouldn’t mind if he disappeared into one.

“I’ve been called irresponsible. I’ve been called crazy,” McLaughlin, the chief critic of a new neighborhood school under construction nearby, was saying Monday. “But this is where they tried to build a sewer line and it collapsed from mines” around 1980. “Over there near the soccer field? Ernest Pina lost his backyard” in a 1979 cave-in. “Then the soccer field collapsed. It took 45 dump trucks to fill in that hole.”

McLaughlin walks into the adjacent parking lot of a Portuguese social club and points down. “This section right here collapsed in 2005. And you’re going to put a school in here?”

For months, McLaughlin has criticized plans for the new Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy, which last year won approval of all necessary town boards and is now being built between Chase and Broad streets.

McLaughlin, who says he is merely raising concerns of his Valley Falls constituents, has questioned whether the town improperly used a public playground for the elementary school, ignored potential traffic problems and, more recently, inadequately inspected the site for abandoned coal mine shafts before approving the school location.

Source: Providence Journal - See full article