Charlestown is a wonderful town with great people, beaches, open spaces, parks, businesses, and low taxes.
The Town Council and the Town’s dedicated staff have had a busy and productive year!
We improved transparency and open government by holding two regular monthly meetings of reasonable length instead of one lengthy meeting, permitting more in-depth review of agenda items. We now require detailed minutes instead of a cursory reporting, to provide informed transparency and historical recording.
We returned a voice to the people of Charlestown by reinstating the Charter Revision Advisory Committee, to a “standing committee”, providing a vehicle for residents to seek charter changes. The Committee’s recommendations/suggestions for changes are due this spring. The Council will then decide upon which recommendations should be placed on the ballot for the voters.
The Council established an Ordinance Review Ad Hoc Committee, to review and update Charlestown’s ordinances, some of which are outdated, unconstitutional, or in violation of state law. This comprehensive review, with the assistance of General Code, is the first in approximately 20 years and was sorely overdue.
Through the Town Council Rules and Procedures, the Council also guaranteed all councilors equal rights to place items on an agenda, without veto, reversing prior policy.
The Town Council contracted with Charlestown Ambulance Rescue Service (CARS) which, beginning in July of 2024, will provide critical funding for continued high-quality emergency services. This arrangement alleviates residents from paying directly for emergency services and ensures that CARS remains adequately staffed twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
The Town Council and Town Staff are collaboratively examining possible improvements to provide safer travel for pedestrians and bikers along Charlestown Beach Road. No decisions have yet been made and all suggestions will be considered.
Recent discussions in Charlestown have centered on the required Ninigret Park Master Plan Update, which is five years past due. Contrary to online postings, the Town Council has not yet received the updated plan from the design consultant. Further, the Town Council has not endorsed any construction plan for Ninigret Park, let alone one for $20-$30 million, as has been rumored online. It is important to note that the Master Plan is simply a planning guideline for possible future park improvements. The Town Council’s review of the consultant’s suggestions is anticipated to begin early in 2024.
This upcoming year, the Council will also discuss the possibility of Ninigret Park becoming the first stop on a newly created whimsical “Troll Trail”, an installation by internationally known artist Thomas Dambo, which would be sponsored by the South County Tourism Council. The trolls are proposed to be created by collaboration between the artist and local tradespersons, and would provide a year-round attraction, at no cost to the Town.
In 2023, the Council hired a new Town Administrator, Jeffrey Allen, Charlestown’s former Police Chief. Mr. Allen brings with him a firsthand knowledge and understanding of Charlestown and a personal interest in working to make Charlestown an even better place to live.
In addition to Mr. Allen, the town also welcomed newcomers Patrick Gormley, Jill Cuddy, Kristen Hemphill, Jan Lombardo, Drew Perry, Shirell Perry and Jim Stepalavich to our staff. We said goodbye to retirees Don Black, Lt. Kevin Kidd, Michele Voislow and Kim Wheeler and thank them for their dedicated service.
Charlestown’s challenges for 2024 include filling its volunteer opportunities, particularly in its fire districts. For more information visit http://www.charlestownfd.org or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Affordable workforce rental housing and homeownership for families, in the face of rising real estate valuations, will continue to be daunting, but must be addressed.
As always, the Town Council encourages residents to apply for positions on boards and committees, attend Town Council meetings and/or view them via the Town’s website www.Charlestownri.gov. We encourage our residents to reach out with comments, questions, and suggestions. By working together, we can accomplish many things in 2024.
I, along with the Charlestown Town Council, wish you all a Happy, Healthy, and Safe New Year!
Deborah Carney, President, Charlestown Town Council
This article first appeared in The Westerly Sun on December 29, 2023.