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Monday, May 14, 2012

The “B-List”

In addition to many red-hot major issues, there are lots of other items listed on the under-card
Sometimes, the undercard is better than the main event
By Will Collette

Tonight’s Monday, May 14 Charlestown Town Council meeting is so overloaded, the Council already plans to hold a second meeting next week (May 21).

On tonight's agenda are huge issues like the Town Budget, including “Y-Gate,” the likely denouement of Deputy Dan Slattery’s jihad against the town’s management of Ninigret Park (especially after his spanking by the Sunday Westerly Sun), the first Town Council outing of a major power grab by the Planning Commission, a major affordable housing project, and continuity of town government after Deputy Dan forced the resignation of Town Administrator Bill DiLibero. 

Whew! We will also see honor bestowed on Charlestown’s oldest living resident, at least 16 scheduled speakers and, if all that wasn’t enough, at least a dozen and a half issues that I would lump together as, no offense intended, the Council’s B-List.

Some of these B-List items will actually be given precedence on the Council agenda – indeed, many of them will, reflecting the Council’s choice to place minor agenda items first if there is a speaker or representative coming to address that item. This often means that major issues get pushed to the back where they get less time or might get bumped to the next meeting.
Frank Glista with air field artifacts in need of a home

Plus, if you watch this Town Council, most of the Council members lose their focus after 8:30. Town Council Boss Tom Gentz’s “unforced error” rate, which is always high, sky-rockets as the meeting drags on.

Let’s take a look at the B-List:

Charlestown Naval Air Field Memorial. This is a subject friend and colleague Frank Glista has devoted much of his time and resources to fulfilling. Frank has been a prime mover in making sure the memory of the Naval airmen who flew out of what is now Ninigret Park and National Wildlife Refuge are not forgotten. After rude rejection by Charlie Vandemoer of the National Wildlife Refuge, Frank is looking for display space within the town-owned portion of the Park. Frank is not popular with the CCA-controlled Town Council majority. 

"How much ya gonna pay us for those lights, kids?"
Chariho Cowboys. Here’s another group that somehow earned a spot on the Town Council majority’s s%@#t-list. This is the Pop Warner football team that hoped Charlestown would install the dark-sky friendly sports lights at Ninigret Park. Not only did the kids not get the lights, but the issue became one of the charges that led to Bill DiLibero’s forced resignation. The kids have been asking for the old lights that are installed but not used at the old town Driving Range on Route 1.

The kids promise they will install those lights far, far away from Charlestown. They’ve been jerked around on this for the past several Council meetings. At the agenda meeting, Deputy Dan wanted to know if the town had placed a price or inventory value on the lights. Uncle Fluffy Gentz muttered that he thought those lights were probably fully depreciated by now.

Parking Disputes. Former town Republican leader Mary Taylor has been in a feud recently with Rob and Pam Lyons that is now starting to break out into the open. On the agenda for Monday is a report from the Charlestown Police based on a Mary Taylor complaint that employees and customers of Ocean House Marina (owned by Lyons) are parking on Town Dock Road, greatly annoying Mary Taylor. Click here to read all about it.

There are two other similar disputes that will be discussed behind closed doors in Executive Session – one is recent litigation, “Charlestown v. Charlestown.” No, this is not a divorce action, although someday we may see a divorce and division of community property between South of 1 and North of 1. Nope, “Charlestown v. Charlestown” is a dispute over the parking rights of Shelter Cove LLC, a.k.a. the Sugar Shack. And a third item is potential litigation by the town against an out-of-state beach property owner who has decided to block a footpath right-of-way to the beach. Doncha just love it when nasty little personal disputes go public?

Will Gentz attack the Breachway Grill again?
Breachway Grill. Once again, Craig Marr comes up before the Council for a liquor license (seems like he’s on the docket every other month). He has one neighbor who has been trying to kill his business and has been calling in town officials (police, wastewater and the town building official) over various issues.

Last September, Marr was treated to one of the most over-the-top public personal attacks I’ve ever seen by none other than Uncle Fluffy Gentz. Gentz was so relentless in attacking Marr and the Grill that it gave me a great excuse to use the video of my favorite Monty Python bit, “the Spanish Inquisition.” Encore! Encore! 

General Stanton Inn. Janice Falcone is re-opening the Inn (hooray!) and needs Town Council approval for a liquor license. Janice has been the savior of the Inn in the past. She and her husband Sonny made the Inn an important Charlestown institution. Now she is coming back to rescue the Inn again from the neglect and abuse of a string of bad operators. I hope the Council will support her petition, and this time without the patronizing treatment she received from Boss Gentz the last time she appeared before the Council. 

Skim-boarding. I wasn’t aware that Charlestown has many restrictions on things you can do at the beach – and skim-boarding is one of them. I’m just not a beach person, so I had no idea.

Apparently, a group wants to do a two-day skim-boarding competition at beach and a one-week camp. But under Charlestown’s ordinances, it’s illegal. The Parks and Recreation Commission rejected a motion to request a change in the town ordinance to loosen up the rules, but that motion failed. So, alternatively, they are asking the Council to approve a temporary waiver to allow this event to go forward. 

Beach Passes. This is another Parks & Recreation recommendation that should be non-controversial but probably won’t be. P&R recommends Ordinance 348 that Charlestown allow residents with residents’ beach passes to be able to buy as many beach passes as they wish. This may trigger opposition from our landed gentry with beach property who do not like the idea of more people, or more cars, going to town beaches.

Miscellaneous stuff.
  • Pawcatuck – the Council will be asked to act on a “partnership” (something that makes Mike and Donna Chambers break out in hives) to clean-up the Pawcatuck. Chris Fox of the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Association will ask for Council support on changes to the FEMA flood maps
  • Stat Chef wanted. The Planning Commission wants approval to hire an intern to cook some affordable housing statistics (read more detail about the back story by clicking here). 
  • Ordinance introduction process discussion. This should be interesting since for the past year, it seems that every time the Planning Commission forwards an ordinance to the Council, it gets screwed up – they send the wrong document, they forget or miss changes, etc. I’m sure this discussion will clear everything up. 
  • Get your tickets! According to the Police Chief’s report, the number of traffic citations for all violations fell to 45 in the month of April.  This is an important number in the context of whether the town will go forward with a red-light camera enforcement deal, which is also on the agenda
  • Birth, Death, Infinity. According to the Town Clerk’s report, Charlestown births are now starting to substantially outpace deaths by 10 to 6 so far this year. Usually, Charlestown loses more residents than it gains. Planning Commissar Ruth Platner is in a state of heightened alert over this. Councilors Gentz and Slattery are already preparing their speeches opposing enrollment of more Charlestown kids in the Chariho school system.
  • The Memorial Day Parade Committee which is run by Jim Mageau wants $500 more from the Town than was in the Budget Commission’s recommendation. 
  • Energy Savings. Charlestown is up against a deadline to use federal stimulus funding soon to carry out a deal with Johnson Controls to make municipal government more energy efficient. Somehow, it seems that time slipped away on this one and the town is now in a use-it-or-lose-it situation for critically needed upgrades that will save the town lots in energy costs. 
  • Approval of the minutes. Normally, this is such a mundane item that’s not worth mentioning. But last month, Boss Gentz made such a big deal about wanting to re-write the Council minutes for March that it turned this very dull agenda item into something that now holds forth some promise of excitement. Or not. 
 See you tonight. Bring a pillow.