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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Charlestown short takes

  • Gov notes
  • Mulch from above?
  • Kittens doing well
  • Fight, fight!
  • Energy Note – winter heating prices; green energy; Tina Jackson fail; greasy energy
  • Hats for birds
By Will Collette

Town Gov: The November Town Council meeting will be on Tuesday, November 12, bumped one day because of the Veterans’ Day holiday….The town now offers you a way to get e-mails notifying you of proposed changes to the town’s ordinances that affect zoning and businesses. Click here to sign up for notices. 

This new e-mail message system is in partial atonement for the Council and Planning Commission getting publicly hammered for trying – again – to slip two more ordinances through that will hurt local businesses. One regulates mulch and shrubs. The other regulates parking. Click here and here to read about these two terrible ordinances…Incidentally, these two ordinances have been postponed for consideration until the December Town Council meeting. Planning Commissar Ruth Platner is counting on town residents’ notoriously short attention spans.

Can you apply mulch from a helicopter?

Our CCA Party dominated town government and has spent a lot of time over the past five years figuring out how to regulate almost every tiny detail of life in Charlestown.

The two aforementioned ordinances will regulate the depth of mulch local businesses have to spread under their shrubs and even what color that mulch should be, what you can park in your driveway (e.g. no work vehicles unless they’re really small), the diameters of trees that must be planted in new subdivisions, etc.

These rules would join such classics as the rules about what color plates businesses can put over outside electrical fixtures or what kind of shingles you can use.

But with all that regulation, we apparently don’t have any rules about shooting guns from aircraft in the skies over Charlestown. At least, that’s what the Charlestown Police said when they responded to calls from scared residents who complained about a group of guys firing semi-automatic weapons from a helicopter at a junk car in the bottom of a quarry off Narrow Lane.

Maybe protecting the public from such irresponsible acts might rate a little higher priority than protecting shrubbery.
Abandoned kitties getting well and getting adopted

Despite reward money, police haven’t found the sick bastard who dumped fourteen kittens squeezed into a sealed box on Indian Cedar Trail on August 24. However, Charlestown Animal Control Officer Kathy McA’Nulty reports that they are a lot healthier now and ready to be adopted. Two were adopted promptly, including one that had lost its sight due to its ordeal. The others are ready to go. 

Check in with the Charlestown Animal Shelter and donate to support the continued operation of Charlestown’s only refuge for abused and abandoned animals. Send donations to Friends of the Charlestown Animal Shelter, 50 Sand Hill Road, Charlestown, RI 02813.

Will war between Charlestown and Westerly escalate?

Michelle Buck is Westerly pick
Those of you who follow the Copar Quarries story may recall that Charlestown decided to do its part to fight this notorious company by writing a letter to the state Attorney General asking AG Peter Kilmartin to investigate why Westerly hasn’t solved the problems caused by Copar. Meanwhile, Copar’s neighbors report that Charlestown Police refuse to take action on Copar’s dust and noise violations, even when they affect Charlestown.

Then interim Westerly Town Manager Michelle Buck wrote to Charlestown Town Council Boss Tom Gentz (CCA Party) to call Gentz’s letter to AG Kilmartin an ignorant insult, a mistake and an effort by Charlestown to pass the buck. Gentz ignored the letter and proceeded. 

Now Michelle Buck has been named permanent Town Manager by a unanimous vote of the Westerly Town Council and among the matters she is expected to address is Copar (and tangentially, Charlestown’s conduct). I’m looking forward to more fireworks between these two.

Energy notes
  • Winter is going to cost you more. The US Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration is predicting high energy costs this winter for the 91% of Americans who heat with fossil fuels or electricity. Though oil prices are slightly lower (-2%) than last year’s brutal high marks, the costs are not down by much. Natural gas is 13% higher than last year. Propane is up by 9%. Electricity is up 2%
  • Rhode Island to buy wind power from Maine. It’s taking Rhode Island so long to get enough green-energy generated electricity on line (wonder why?) that National Grid plans to buy green energy from Maine’s 48-megawatt Bowers Mountain wind farm. It plans to sign a 15-year, fixed price contract for 7.8 cents per kilowatt hour as a hedge against anticipated surges in the prices of non-renewal energy sources.
  • Some wind resistance blows out. The RI Superior Court denied the appeals of several anti-wind objectors to the Deep Water wind project planned for the waters off the coast of Block Island. Last spring, the Coastal Resources Management Council denied standing to object to several individuals, including Charlestown’s own erstwhile Republican candidate for state Representative, Tina Jackson.
Jackson was kicked off the case because her organization, the American Alliance for Fishermen and their Communities, had its corporate charter revoked by the Secretary of State in January. The reason: Jackson does not file legally required reports. 

Jackson did not file an appeal to be reinstated as an objector before the CRMC, perhaps because she still has not filed the reports required (plus pay the fine) to get her group’s corporate charter re-instated.
She created a student-led project called TGIF - Turn Grease Into Fuel - an initiative that now partners 113 local restaurants who are willing to donate their used kitchen grease with charities that help families who need heating assistance. The project now recycles 4,000 gallons of grease into heating oil per month. 

She recently earned the Brower Youth Award from the Earth Island Institute for her efforts towards ecological sustainability and social justice.

She probably could not have carried out this project had she lived in Charlestown where simply exploring the feasibility of a biofuel project was added to the bill of indictment that led to the ouster of former Town Administrator Bill DiLibero.

Just the thing for town birds and birders

Hummingbird-feeder-pat_02Charlestown’s open spaces, environment and position along the Atlantic Coast migratory bird flyway makes it a great spot to be a birder. 

And we have many enthusiastic birders, perhaps the most prominent being Planning Commissionario Peter Herstein (CCA Party). In one of my favorite science sites, Improbable Research, I spotted a wonderful new patent issued in September for a “User Mounted Hummingbird Feeder.” The device clips onto the bill of a baseball or other cap and hangs a feeder just inches in front of the wearer.

It is much superior to an earlier 1999 design for a wearable device for feeding and observing birds and other flying animals. That device was much heavier with three feeding stations hanging from its own helmet.