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Highlights from the June 13 Town Council Meeting

Fiscal Matters:

Because of the reduction in the Chariho School budget (resulting from the May 10 school budget referendum), the Town Council is able to reduce the general fund expenditure, and subsequently, the tax rate. At the direction of Councilor Deb Carney, a new tax rate was recalculated. The 2022-23 fiscal year tax rate has been reduced to $8.17, which is slightly lower than this year’s rate.

The town budget was approved in the June 6 referendum by 83% of those who voted.

The proposed public hearing amending a town ordinance on residential conservation development, previously scheduled for a June 7 special Town Council meeting, had to be rescheduled because of an advertising print error. Debate ensued on a new date, with July 18 proposed by Councilor Carney. That date would separate the discussion, which is expected to be lengthy, from the regular Town Council meeting on July 11. Councilor Van Slyke countered by proposing the discussion take place during the Town Council meeting on July 11. This date was eventually approved in a 3 - 2 vote.

A new design for a residential wastewater-management system is being installed at a home on Cedar Road. The project is part of a $750,00 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It is the first Rhode Island installation of this new type of system, called a Layered Soil Treatment Area (LSTA) system, and will be studied by URI and RI DEM for several years. If the performance matches expectations, it will be a major cost reduction for systems in sensitive groundwater areas.

The Council unanimously approved:

  • Parks and Recreation to spend $2,800 to match grant funds from Rhode Island Foundation for a mural to be painted on a shed near the playground at Ninigret Park. Total expenditure, with grant, would be $5,600.

  • $441,405 expenditure of American Rescue Plan Act of 2021(ARPA) funds for life-saving equipment for the Charlestown Ambulance Service and $184,683 ARPA funds for similarly needed equipment for the Charlestown Fire District.

  • Support of a statewide Bicycle Mobility Bond Referendum, which was recited in its entirety by Councilor Van Slyke.

The Council debated a proposed allocation of $2,500 from Town Council Contingency Fund for maintenance of the Ninigret Disc Golf Course. Town Manager Stankiewicz warned in a “cautionary tale” that the disc golf course could evolve into a “town operation” of unexpected financial burden, similar to what he feels the dog park has become. He recommended the Council make a “policy decision” on its future.

Councilor Van Slyke felt that the council was “jumping into” a path without “examining what’s being done” and asked what the money would be used for. Councilor Carney reiterated that the money would be used for maintenance. After repeated concerns by Councilor Van Slyke on financial burden to the town, which department would control the funds, proper committee behavior, and the intricacies of disc-golf course maintenance, as well as public comment, in which a citizen offered to personally put up the $2,500, plus four more debated amendments, the Council was finally able to vote to approve this one-time, limited expenditure of $2,500.

Appointments and Resignations:

  • Councilor Van Slyke volunteered to be the Town Council liaison to the Senior Citizens’ Commission.

  • Wendy L. Pacheco and Alan J. Robak were appointed to the Ninigret Park Dog Park subcommittee.

  • G. Linda McAllister’s resignation with regrets from the Chariho Regional School Committee was accepted.

  • There are many expiring or open positions on various commissions and committees, including one term expirations on the Budget Commission, openings for members of the Disc Golf Course Ad-hoc Committee, Wastewater Management Commission, Friends of Ninigret Park subcommittee and Tree Committee. (Please see the meeting agenda for a full list).

Covering Unfinished Business, the Council agreed to set a date of July 18 at 7 pm for a special meeting to discuss additional allocations of American Rescue (ARPA) funds.

In New Business, the Council agreed to put to referendum, on the November 8 ballot, a question about cannabis-related ordinances and licenses. With the recent approval of the Rhode Island Cannabis Control Act of 2022, towns and cities may now opt to exercise authority to issue cannabis-related licenses, as well as the authority to “adopt ordinances and by-laws that impose reasonable safeguards on the operation of cannabis establishments.” Such authority could limit the number of cannabis establishments in the town or adopt ordinances that might ban or impose restrictions on public cannabis use. Existing cultivators or labs may stay in business regardless of the vote.

If the voters reject the item, Charlestown will grant no cannabis licenses, and will forfeit any revenue generated by that legislation.

Finally, the Council approved a request to advertise for a Request For Proposal for the dredging of the Sedimentation Basin and relief channel in Ninigret Pond, as recommended by Charlestown’s Coastal Pond Management Commission. CRMC has requested $1.9 million in the State budget for the proposed project.

See the full agenda at the Town meeting portal.

View a recording of Town Council meetings here. (Scroll down to “Past Meetings.”)

Upcoming meetings:

Planning Commission Meeting: July 13, 2022, 7PM

Town Council Meetings: July 6, 2022, 5:30PM (agenda meeting), July 11, 2022, 7PM (monthly meeting), and July 18, 2022, 7PM (allocation of APRA funds)

-- R. DeAngelo

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