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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Town Council Meeting - the April Play-by-Play

by Will Collette and Tom Ferrio

The published agenda was daunting but your intrepid reporters were there, in person and online, to get you the earliest summary of Monday's Town Council meeting.

Executive session

The evening started in the afternoon with a private session to have a "discussion with the Town Administrator," discuss collective bargaining progress and consider several lawsuits.

Lisa DiBello - finally recused herself
Before heading off to their private room, Lisa DiBello read a prepared statement saying that she had requested an opinion from the State Ethics Office on whether she could participate in personnel discussions about the Town Administrator. She stated that the Ethics Office has received her request but has not ruled on it and she would recuse herself from such matters until she receives a ruling.

Our readers will, of course, know the background that Bill DiLibero was Town Administrator when Lisa DiBello was let go from her job as Parks and Recreation Director and DiBello is now suing the town, DiLibero and others for wrongful termination over that action.

This was a class act by DiBello, getting a ruling before doing something that would certainly appear questionable to many in town.

Town Administrator DiLibero -
reprieved, for now
The Regular Council session started uncharacteristically late, by almost 15 minutes, with a brief announcement that the Council's personnel issues with DiLibero will be "continued" to the next Council meeting. No vote had been taken, and apparently no decisions had been made.

DiBello should receive a ruling from the Ethics Office by then and the outcome will almost certainly depend on whether she can vote on DiLibero's dismissal.

Resolutions and proclamations galore

While everyone was getting settled, the regular Council meeting got started by honoring a number of fine individuals and groups: Robert J. Schiedler for his efforts to establish the Dog Park, the Chariho High School football team for winning the State Division II championship (I hope the math team gets recognized someday...) and Representative Donna Walsh, Steven McCandless, and Matt Dowling for their work on the breachway dredging project. Recognition of The Four Horsemen of the Chariho track team who set a new record was delayed to a later meeting because they could not attend.

There was a fairly routine though detailed and lengthy presentation on the Town's proposed budget for the fiscal year that starts on July 1. Budget Commission chair Richard Sartor made the presentation, which we had already previewed; click here. The Council voted 4-0, with Councilor DiBello abstaining, to move the budget along in the process. The new tax rate is projected to become $9.31/$1000 under this proposed budget.

Sartor also made a short presentation on the abominable proposal to create a new town Game Show called RHOTAP that would have desperate homeowners appear before a volunteer panel to BEG for help from the town to prevent foreclosure. That was also previewed – click here – and we will have a lot more on that soon. The Council voted 5-0 to have the Town Solicitor try to figure out ordinance language for the new contest.

Maureen Areglado served up
her rehashed CCA comments
But the meat of the meeting, and certainly what everyone came to hear, started with three sets of statements under "Persons wishing to be heard."

Maureen Areglado said she had decided to pass on her comments until she heard Sonita Cummings, a member of the Parks & Recreation Commission, speak in defense of Bill DiLibero. Ms. Areglado accused the TA of exposing the town to litigation. She gave what she said were a list of facts that were actually an almost verbatim rehash of comments from the CCA website that we reprinted and debunked in Kill Bill, Part 6, making it pretty clear that she either wrote those comments or used them as her script for her remarks before the Council.

Deb Carney debunked the idea of
total federal control of Ninigret
Deborah Carney spoke to clarify that the Town owns the 55-acre tract at Ninigret Park outright. She also read an excerpt from the record of a 1994 discussion with Fish and Wildlife about the use of Ninigret Park. That discussion made clear that the 172-acre parcel has some restrictions but the 55-acre parcel does not. It also set the expectation that plans of utilization should be submitted to the National Park Service. She asked that the Council not throw away the hard work of town citizens by giving away any rights to Ninigret Park.

Cheryl Dowdell also spoke about Ninigret Park, saying that Parks and Recreation Commission members have heavy hearts about the seeming rush to take action that will discard the work of many people. She pointed out that Frosty Drew is one of over a dozen important organizations using Ninigret Park who must be given consideration. She pointed out that the Ninigret Park master plan is not some old musty document that should be thrown out because it's obsolete. She noted that a productive workshop on the master plan was held just nine months ago. She expressed shock that a proposal to spend $15,000 on a new Ninigret Park master plan was developed early this year without the participation or knowledge of the Parks and Recreation Commission.

Town Administrator report

Building construction on the new Charlestown Town Beach pavilion will be complete in the next week with landscaping and such remaining finish work to be done. The pavilions are being done within budget.

Goose egg oiling is getting started on Green Hill Pond with 26 eggs oiled last Saturday. (Think 2 pounds of poop per day for 20 years eliminated for each egg oiled.)

Commission reports

Lillian Arnold, Chair of the Conservation Commission, announced an Arbor Day celebration on April 27 at noon at Grandpr√© Memorial Park on Route 112 just north of the railroad tracks. This park includes memorial plaques for soldiers who died in the World One battle for Grandpr√©, France.

Space for the Artist's Guild

Dan Slattery spoke to say that the Artist's Guild has agreed to adjust their times to share a room with the yoga group and remain at the Senior/Community Center.

Pawcatuck River cleanup

Our public works department will help the state conservation commission clean up downed trees in the river by hauling chipped wood to a spot in Ninigret Park.

Deputy Dan Slattery – this was not the big night he
was expecting.
Ninigret Park 

Regular readers know we have been reporting on the explosive controversy over Ninigret Park that erupted in the March Council meeting.

The first part of this was discussion about posting a mysterious document to ClerkBase. Last month, this was described as two documents. Progressive Charlestown uncovered one of those documents, which we analyzed on March 20 along with a link to the original. Later, the CCA posted a link and their own spin on the document. Then the document was posted on the Ninigret Wildlife Refuge website by our federal overseer, Charlie Vandemoer.

So Deputy Dan's resolution about wanting this document posted on Clerkbase became anticlimactic to say the least. But what ever happened to Document #2 in Deputy Dan's resolution?

Apparently, it doesn't exist. Mysteriously, the motion to put "two documents" was changed to "one document," and Slattery stated that it was because of what Town Solicitor Ruggiero said "can and cannot be placed on ClerkBase."

Marge Frank amended Slattery's motion to include the documents presented by Deb Carney. Of course, the Council members had no objection at this point to putting the so-called 50-page historical document on the town website since it's now been available at three other sites for almost two weeks. Progressive Charlestown gave you the link three weeks ago.

Next, Slattery said that despite all that has been said about the Town's rights, the National Park Service now feels there is an adversarial relationship and they want to be included more. This resulted in considerable vigorous discussion about the Interior Department's hurt feelings, or Deputy Dan's impression that their feelings are hurt.

Gregg Avedisian made the point that we have a written agreement and the rights are clear in the agreement. Avedisian was adamant that we should not submit to federal authority without negotiation, nor should we give up our property and usage rights to the Park.

Tom Gentz made a proposal that Peter Ruggiero do research and give a report on the Town obligations regarding use of the park. That motion passed unanimously.

To be continued

We are used to hearing Avedisian be the first to argue that the meeting not be extended until late in the evening. This time Slattery was the one to jump in rapidly, with the most controversial of his Ninigret Park motions to be considered next, to say that we shouldn't keep people up too late. He seemed to breathe a sigh of relief when the rest of the Council agreed.

The rest of tonight's agenda will be continued to a meeting on April 23. We will be there to give you the report!

Note from Will: JoAnn Stolle, an alternate to the Planning Commission, approached me after the meeting to discuss my article about the Planning Commission's handling of Blue "Shingles" Beach. She said that she had BOOKS of shingle samples, where I had written that she had "a whole bunch of sample shingles." I don't know if she meant she had more shingles than I had said or less, but she did say she has BOOKS of them

She also said that she is NOT a building materials hoarder. She also insisted that if I quote her again, that I should not use quotation marks. Please note that I did not use quotation marks around the word BOOKS.

P.S. Stolle now says that she DIDN'T say don't use quotation marks around what she said, but around what she didn't say. OK. My new writing policy for any words related to JoAnn Stolle is to not use quotation marks at all.