Voters have placed their trust in this new Town Council to keep what is good about Charlestown, fix what needs to be fixed, and to plan for the future.
I thank the outgoing town councilors for their service to the town and look forward to working with returning councilors Grace Klinger and Susan Cooper and new councilors Rippy Serra and Stephen Stokes. Charlestown is a beautiful town with great people, beaches, open spaces, parks, and low taxes.
We can, and will, do even better.
The long-awaited town-wide survey, completed this year, told us what many residents want and don’t want to see happen in Charlestown.
As we all remember, the idea for a survey came about as the result of a failed budget in 2019. The survey morphed from what to do with the excess surplus into a survey of opinions of quality of life, services, and policies, just to name a few. While people are enjoying a good quality of life, it was clear many were not content with the town’s governance.
Charlestown and our residents can thrive by including all town residents in our planning and growth. We have the resources to succeed. Physical improvements are being addressed and will continue to be addressed. Dredging for improvement of coastal ponds, targeting vacant businesses and property along Route 1 for recovery. We are coming off of two-plus years of pandemic-heightened awareness. Let’s move forward with the determination that we know we are capable of.
This year, Charlestown received approximately $2,300,000 in funding though the American Rescue Plan Act. The Town Council voted to expend funds to the following groups: Charlestown Ambulance Rescue Service, Charlestown Fire District, Wood River Health Services, Maddie Potts Foundation, Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce (Charlestown Small Business Grant Program), Charlestown Police Department, Dunn’s Corners Fire Department, RICAN, and the Cross’ Mills Library.
Throughout the year, Charlestown’s Emergency Management Agency has continued to stay on top of the latest developments regarding COVID. In addition, they continued to distribute test kits throughout the year.
The first members of the Charlestown Climate Resiliency Commission were appointed this year, and due to their efforts the town could be eligible for infrastructure grant funding. In addition to the positives, Charlestown also faces challenges.
We have some work to do to improve our financial management. Earlier in 2022 we learned that our town surplus was $3,000,000 less than previously stated. This is not a small error and was brushed off by some. That is not how we will manage your money. We will address the budget fully and restore the necessary fiscal controls for the present and the future.
We will look to several means of effecting change. The change you voted for and entrusted us to accomplish. These include ordinance revisions and updates, charter revisions, a revised Fund Balance Policy, fair tax review, and improved recreational opportunities to name a few.
We need everyone’s help. We have volunteer fire districts and a mostly volunteer ambulance rescue service, both of which are currently in need of people willing to serve.
During the year, Charlestown Ambulance Rescue Service (CARS) continued to provide COVID testing at Town Hall. They are a nonprofit community-based public health service that relies heavily on volunteers. CARS will be hosting an EMT class starting in February. Anyone interested in volunteering can email Chief Andrew Kettle at email@example.com.
Charlestown also needs volunteers for our fire districts for several positions, including: interior and exterior firefighter, apparatus operator, and junior firefighter. Training is done in-house. No experience necessary. For more information about the Charlestown Fire District visit charlestownfd.org or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about the Dunn's Corners Fire Department visit https://www.dunnscornersfire.com/content/join/.
We need volunteers for both fire and ambulance rescue for obvious reasons. Please consider volunteering.
Planning ahead, we need activities to promote tourism. We need ordinance and charter revisions to provide for the balance between development and conservation.
Charlestown is very fortunate to have a diverse group of engaged residents that have a lot to offer. By working together, we can accomplish many things in 2023.
Deborah Carney is president of the Charlestown Town Council.
A version of this article appeared as a Guest Editorial in The Westerly Sun on December 30.