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Monday, July 22, 2013

How the Charlestown Town Council Promises on Copar Work in Reality

My unsatisfying conversation with our Town Administrator
 By Susan Clayton
My not-so-good neighbors

I'm a resident of Charlestown. I live on the dirt road that borders the Copar Quarries operation in Bradford on the Westerly-Charlestown line.

At the end of June, shortly before 2 p.m. and without any prior warning, there were 3 tremendous blasts at the quarry.

I was standing in my kitchen, looking out at my screened porch, when I saw it shake and shudder, and the floor beneath my feet moved! My children, Mary Grace (10) and Michael (9), were home for the first time during a blast, and they came running to me, terrified.

I immediately called Town Hall since we were promised help by the Town Council, especially Town Council President Tom Gentz, when we were disturbed by heavy blasting at the quarry. Tom Gentz promised us that Copar would give the town advance warning about blasts and that the town would then send out alerts to those of us who live nearby. That has not happened.

I was connected to Mark Stankiewicz, who is Charlestown Town Administrator.

I told Mr. Stankiewicz what had occurred. His first remark to me was that Charlestown can't shut down a Westerly business.

Charlestown Town Administrator Mark Stankiewicz - 
wouldn't help, didn't even seem to care
I asked him exactly what Charlestown would be willing to do to help its residents, whose homes and lives are being disrupted by Copar. I described the wells on Niantic Highway. I said we were at Copar’s mercy.

When he asked what I meant, I reminded him that Charlestown residents rely on wells and septic systems .That when Copar blasts, the granite ledge, which unfortunately does not stop at the quarry gate, shifts. 

Silt and sand fill in the area within the wells where the water was flowing. The water dries up, then gradually, so far, comes back very slowly but never back to its previous level.

Mr. Stankiewicz told me to file a claim with my insurance company, and they would pay half the cost.

However, if the granite plates are blasted and shift, no matter how many wells you sunk, the result would be the same.

I told him about the structural damage to my home, and again he told me to file a private claim. I asked him whether this would result in my insurance premium going higher or not being renewed at all. He did not know, and his tone said he was clearly uninterested.

I reminded him that Charlestown took an official position 
against Copar and the Town Council promised to help us
He then told me to get a video camera and tape everything that was damaged.

I'm a working single mom, I laughed at the thought of being able to buy anything on a whim. I did ask him how it was possible to tape disappearing water. I also told him that I felt he was talking down to me and that this kind of response to any citizen was unproductive.

Continuing the conversation in the hope of getting any kind of useful answer at all, I asked Mr. Stankiewicz why the town of Charlestown granted a permit to Copar to operate on Alton Bradford Road.

I said the Town Council promised to fight for us and drafted a resolution. Then we found out that Copar has a lease with the Morrone Company for a new site in Charlestown.

He said the Town decided they couldn't win, so they
wouldn't even try to fight
I wrote down what Mr. Stankiewicz said to me, which is as follows: 
  • He said the attorneys for Charlestown were consulted and they decided there was no way the town could win it. So they chose to simply not fight it.
I said to Mr. Stankiewicz that there were many instances in American history that I could think of, starting with the American Revolution and continuing through World War II, where deciding to not to fight because we may lose would have been disastrous for us. 

Since when is the possibility of losing a righteous battle an excuse to run away from it?
  • Mr. Stankiewicz then said the Morrone company is in good standing.
Morrone may have been in good standing, but according to the resolution the town council drafted, Copar is not. Now it’s Copar, not Morrone, running the site on Route 91.
  • Mr. Stankiewicz then told me that Charlestown does not have an ordinance to deny a company based on the behavior and integrity of its owners or staff.
I asked him about drafting an emergency ruling, putting it to vote, whatever it takes to assure that a questionable company not be allowed to set up shop in Charlestown so easily.
  • Mr. Stankiewicz then said that the Copar annex (the Morrone site) is considered acceptable by the Town Council because they are only trucking out stone at Morrone's, not blasting at that site. He said the Town Council could not see a fit reason to deny them.
No fit reason? I reminded him of the Council meetings in both Westerly and Charlestown where the residents whose property has sustained damage were heard. How people are suffering, and how we were promised relief by both Councils. I reminded him that the Town Council promised us they would fight Copar.
  • At this point, Mr. Stankiewicz said we were just going round and round.
I told him a straight answer is always the cure for going around in circles.
  • He then told me to get my own lawsuit with my own lawyer, that he did not see that Charlestown would ever engage in a lawsuit with a company that has not yet been proven to have caused the damage that those of us who live next door to it are living with.
At that point we bid each other good day. An hour later, I was leaving and saw my neighbor.

She said she couldn't believe how bad the blasts were, and how frightening. She said she tried to call Town Hall.

She was told Mark Stankiewicz was not taking any more calls that day.