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Monday, April 23, 2012

Town Council serves up garbage soup on April 23

CCA’s War on Ninigret Park tops the bill for second “Regular” Council meeting for April
By Will Collette

Charlestown’s Town Council majority hasn’t quite finished its April apocalypse – they will meet once more to see if they can do more damage to the town before wrapping up the month of April.

This will be their second “regular” meeting. They held a “special Executive Meeting” on Thursday where they pushed Town Administrator Bill DiLibero to resign. One new item on their Monday agenda that is not a carryover from the April 9 meeting is discussion about who the Town Council majority (Boss Gentz, Deputy Dan Slattery and Lisa DiBello) will pick as an “acting” Town Administrator. Anyone want to make any guesses?

DiBello may play a major role in the succession
We’ve already received the following suggestions: Deputy Dan himself, since he applied for DiLibero’s job but ended up at the bottom of the list, though this would be a flagrant violation of the rule against “revolving-door” employment.

Or Richard Sartor, former Town Administrator and current Budget Commission chair. Sartor is a central figure in Lisa DiBello’s lawsuit, DiBello v. Charlestown. It’s unlikely Sartor could ever get DiBello’s vote, and might even convince DiBello to jump off the CCA bandwagon.

There’s Tax Assessor Ken Swain, who served as acting co-Administrator with retired and much-missed former Town Clerk Jodi LeCroix, though Swain has the same problem as Sartor. Or Town Treasurer Pat Anderson.

Then there’s the “nobody” option – the CCA and the Town Council majority have made it plain they don’t trust anyone who is not totally under their control to run the town. Perhaps they’ll name three ”acting” Town trustees to rule as a triumvirate, such as Ruth Platner, Deputy Dan and Mike Chambers or Maureen Areglado.

CCA's secret clubhouse hidden in the 172.4 acre section of Ninigret Park
Regardless of how the CCA Town Council majority handles the operations of town government having sacked DiLibero, this is a big decision to watch on April 23. There is no mention of formation of a search committee to find a new Town Administrator, which has been standard operating procedure. Maybe they’ll just consider names they get from the CCA’s secret clubhouse.

As for the other leftovers, specifically Deputy Dan Slattery’s initiative to give away Ninigret Park, those leftovers have not gotten any better smelling from sitting in the fridge for two weeks.

A quick recap of Slattery's bizarre view for Ninigret Park: Deputy Dan Slattery claims that old records he recently unearthed show that Charlestown is failing in its “legal, moral and ethical” obligations to run Ninigret Park exactly the way that the US Department of the Interior, the Frosty Drew Observatory and the Arnolda neighborhood want it done.

Deputy Dan intends to root out the Ninigret Park
In Deputy Dan's view, Town Administrator DiLibero and his evil co-conspirators among the town staff and the more disreputable elements within Charlestown, such as the town Parks and Recreation Commission, have tried to cover up that “legal, moral and ethical” duty so they could commit unspeakable crimes against Mother Nature in the Park.

To restore Charlestown to the path of righteousness, Deputy Dan has a major action plan. The first part of that plan, the elimination of the “evil, corrupt” Administrator DiLibero, has been accomplished.

Next, Deputy Dan proposes this series of resolutions:

Flush the Ninigret Park Master Plan down the toilet. According to Deputy Dan, he and his colleagues on the Budget Commission think the Master Plan is old and decrepit since, after all, it was adopted by the town in 2008 after years of hard work and will expire anyway in 2018. So let’s dump it now.

Then, let’s spend $15,000 to hire a consultant and have that consultant work with an entirely new group (forget the Parks and Recreation Commission – they are part of the problem) of handpicked “stakeholders” to rewrite the Master Plan. I can do the plan for half that price – in the world Deputy Dan lives in, the only acceptable use for the town-owned portion of Ninigret Park is the Frosty Drew Observatory. And a bike path. That’ll be $7,500, please.

We will sign an agreement with the US Department of the Interior giving them total control of any use the town might consider for Ninigret Park, even though 55 acres is owned by Charlestown free and clear and is not subject to Interior’s jurisdiction. But in Deputy Dan’s world, Charlestown can’t be trusted with those 55 acres, so let’s let the feds run the show.

Then, we will sign an agreement with Frosty Drew Observatory and with the Arnolda neighborhood and give them essentially the same right to oversee and determine what activities will take place in Ninigret Park.

When the Council met on April 9, two speakers – Deb Carney and Cheryl Dowdell – addressed the false and misleading claims by Deputy Dan that he used as the underpinning for his resolutions.

You can read the detailed analysis and documents presented here at Progressive Charlestown that show that Deputy Dan Slattery is either deliberately misleading the town about our property rights or has severe reading comprehension problems that lead him to draw completely different conclusions about the meaning of the various documents outlining our rights than everyone else has over the years since the transfer took place.

The CCA, with Deputy Dan leading the posse, has decided that rather than run the risk of the Parks and Rec folks pissing the feds off to the point that they take back the park, it’d be better to just hand it over to the feds voluntarily.

The CCA wants Charlestown to give authority over the Park to the federal government, a nonprofit group that has been using the Park rent-free for almost 40 years, and the disgruntled abutters of the Park who have never liked the idea that people actually come to Ninigret for games, festivals, events and other active recreation.

The CCA likes giving away Charlestown resources, as long as they don’t have to pay for them. One way to look at the CCA’s Attack on Ninigret Park is to compare it to Y-Gate, the CCA scheme to give half a million dollars of town taxpayer money to the Charlestown Land Trust for the Westerly YMCA’s trashed-out campground.

That campground will become the playground of a small number of privileged nonresidents in the Sonquipaug neighborhood.

The CCA giveaway of Ninigret Park is on a much grander scale – it seems that nothing less than converting all of the park, except for Frosty Drew, into passive recreation open space is the CCA’s goal.

As if that isn’t enough
Here are some additional odds and ends left over from the April 9 agenda that are slated to be addressed on April 23rd:

The request by the Chariho Cowboys Pop Warner football team for the old lighting no longer being used at the town’s closed Driving Range on Route One. The kids on the team were counting on being able to play six hours a week after dark at the football field in Ninigret Park. However, Town Council Boss Tom Gentz has decreed that there will be no sports lighting in Ninigret Park because it might upset the US Fish and Wildlife Service. So the kids want the old lights which they will use somewhere outside of Charlestown.

This item was only partly addressed on April 9. There was some concern that the town might not be able to just give away the lights since we might have to try to sell them first. The Council wanted to get a legal opinion on its latitude to dispose of these old lights.

It’s ironic to me that the Council is exercising such care on the subject of giving away the old lights while blithely giving away $475,000 for a worthless easement on the Y camp and ceding the town’s property rights to Ninigret Park. I guess you only need to be careful on the small things.

The Council is also scheduled to discuss a proposal for a display of artifacts from the old Navy air base in the unused house near the Ninigret Park entrance. I think there’s a good chance that some Councilors will object to this, just out of spite.

The controversial dark-sky lighting ordinance is technically on the agenda, but all that will happen is an announcement that the greatly rewritten ordinance will be readvertised for public hearing in June.

I am told that Charlestown often calms down for a month or two after the purging of a Town Administrator. Perhaps the Council majority will try to begin proving at the April 23 meeting that they are not completely crazy. But this Council has done a lot of things, terrible things, that have never been done before. Come on out to the Monday, April 23 Town Council meeting and see for yourself.