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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Charlestown Tapas

State Senate nail-bitter, and other tasty tidbits
By Will Collette

Cameron Ennis – despite break from BOE, still might not make the ballot

Cameron Ennis of Charlestown, a newly minted lawyer, filed his declaration to run as an independent against first-term incumbent state Senator Catherine Cool Rumsey. Apparently Ennis forgot to read the candidates’ rule book published by the Secretary of State and collected signatures on his Nomination petition without regard to where the signer lives.

The rulebook says each town within a district must be on a separate page so that the signatures can be turned in to the Town Clerk in each municipality – e.g. Charlestown signatures go to Charlestown, Richmond to Richmond, etc. Ennis simply turned in all of his 100 signatures to Charlestown Town Hall, thinking Town Clerk Amy Weinreich would take of this for him.

Wrong. Charlestown only validated the Charlestown signatures – 49 of them – leaving Ennis 51 signatures short of the required 100. Ennis appealed to the state Board of Elections and the BOE decided to cut him a break, even though he failed to follow the rules. They gave him an extra 72 hours to get his signatures from the other towns validated by the other towns.

Ennis got his wish as the other towns in the District (Richmond, Hopkinton, Exeter and West Greenwich) validated signatures from their towns. However, as of Thursday morning, Ennis was still short with only 98 validated signatures showing on the SOS website. Well, maybe there are more signatures still to be tallied. Or maybe Ennis will go back to the BOE and ask them to suspend the rules against and call it “close enough.”

Red light cameras are finally happening

Expect to see new cameras mounted in both directions of Route One at the intersections with East Beach Road and Route 216 (Ross Hill Road), perhaps in August. These cameras are intended to deter people from running those red lights by automatically photographing offenders and, if the Charlestown Police approve, issue tickets for the red light running.

At one point, the plan was to have all four intersections in Charlestown with traffic signals - the two listed plus West Beach (site of Colin Foote’s tragic death in May 2010) and Route 1 and Wildflower (at the Hitching Post). But for now, two intersections is what we get.

RI DOT had been putting the town’s contractor, Sensys America, a subsidiary of a Swedish company, through a long series of hoops, but gave its final approval.

Click here for the latest. Click here and here for more detail on how this system is supposed to work.

Charlestown gets praise from statewide press

Charlestown did well in both the Providence Journal and GoLocalProv. Every year, GoLocalProv does a statewide rating of Rhode Island’s best communities. In the last three years, Charlestown was stuck in the middle of the pack, scoring only 14th place in 2011, #19 in 2012 and #17 in 2013.

But the new ranking are out and Charlestown jumped four places to rank #13 in the state. That still leaves us in the middle third among the 39 Rhode Island cities and towns, but it’s an improvement.
Newport came in as #1 followed by Providence and Cranston. 

While many of us love Charlestown and think it should be even higher, it's nice to seen this improvement in position.

In South County, we were beaten out by South Kingstown (#5), Exeter (#8), Narragansett (#9) and Block Island (#12).

Ranking behind Charlestown are North Kingstown (#16), Richmond (#19), Westerly (#23) and Hopkinton (#23).

Maybe Charlestown got its four-place bump-up from Quonochontaug getting recognized as the “Neighborhood of the Week” by the Providence Journal. Here’s how the ProJo described it:
“Quonochontaug, also known as “Quonnie,” started to become a summer colony in the late 1800s, and today, it is still mainly a second-home, summer neighborhood. This pricey oceanfront community is located between Quonochontaug Pond and Ninigret Pond.”
Those part-time residents provide the bulk of the funding for the Charlestown Citizens Alliance and the full-time residents are hard-core CCA Party supporters who would vote for a roundworm wearing a suit if it was endorsed by the CCA.

The Central Quonochontaug neighborhood has the added benefit of being designated a “Fire District” even though they have no fire trucks, fire house or fire fighters. However, through their fire district, the residents own some incredible property that is taxed at assessments that are only a fraction of what similar properties elsewhere in Charlestown would be assessed.

Building Photo
Casa de El Jefe Gentz from the Charlestown Tax Assessor database
The fake Fire District properties also include tennis courts, docks, beaches and other amenities, plus public drinking water, trash pick-up and more – all of which is tax-deductible on state and federal income taxes.

It’s good to be rich. Among the properties shown in the ProJo’s accompanying photo gallery is #17, the home of CCA Party Town Council Boss Tom Gentz. The ProJo is sticky about its fair use policy, so the photo of Gentz’s house is taken from Charlestown’s Tax Assessor database.

Nuke regulators grant Millstone nuclear power plant dispensation

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission granted Virginia-based Dominion Power, owner of the Millstone Nuclear Power plant only 20 miles to the west of Charlestown a rise in the temperature of sea water it can use to cool the reactor in Unit #2. 

Millstone was shut down for several weeks in 2012 when water temperature climbed above the safe limit of 75 degrees set by the NRC.

Rather than take steps to draw cooler water, the NRC acceded to Millstone’s request to bump up the safety limit to 80 degrees. Millstone has had lots of documented problems (click here and here and here) but they can generally count on the NRC to go easy on them.

The issue of cooling water not only affects the safe operations of the plant, but also highlights the damage to the ocean ecology caused by Millstone’s discharge of billions of gallons of heated water back into the ocean.
Incident at Wood River Junction
At the July 17 Charlestown Town Council meeting, Frank Glista noted that this is the 50th anniversary year of one of the only nuclear accident fatalities in the United States that happened right here in Charlestown at the long-shuttered United Nuclear "recycling" operation. 

On July 24, 1964, Robert Peabody of Charlestown was exposed to lethal levels of radiation when there was a small explosion. For a detailed reporting of this tragedy, click here for a special article on the subject by Yankee Magazine.

Job Opening

Wood River Health Services in Hope Valley has another opening, this time for a medical assistant. Click here for more details.

I’ve mentioned this service before, but in case you’re looking for a new job in the non-profit sector, the one best source of information in Rhode Island is the RI Community Jobs listserve being run by the Swearer Center at Brown University. I’ve only been mentioning the jobs in southern RI in Charlestown Tapas, but they’ve got postings of new jobs from all over in their daily e-mails and on their website. To sign up for daily e-mails of job openings, click here.

Get Well wishes to Richard Hosp

Former Town Council member and member of the Charlestown Budget Commission Richard Hosp has been struggling with a lot of health problems lately, but on July 1, he nearly died of a heart attack.

His wife Martha wrote a wonderful letter to the editor of the Westerly Sun to talk about what happened and to praise the “seamless work” in saving Richard that started with Charlestown Volunteer Rescue’s prompt respond and coordinated care at Westerly Hospital and its parent, Lawrence & Memorial in New London.

According to Martha’s letter, Richard survived and was healthy enough to come home on July 6. We all wish him a speedy recovery.

Charlestown residents with electronic waste: go somewhere else

Up until recently, you could dispose of your electronic waste (TVs, computers, etc.) which is potentially harmful to the environment if simply dumped in your regular trash at the Charlestown trash transfer station. You could do it for free and didn’t even need a residents’ transfer station permit sticker.

According to Town Administrator Mark Stankiewicz, in his July report to the Town Council, the state has decided to consolidate its E-Waste program so that e-waste will only be accepted at a few regional collection points. The one closest to us is Narragansett’s Public Works Department at 260 West Moreland, between 7 PM and 3:30 PM, Monday through Friday.

Colors for a Cause gets its IRS go-ahead
Congratulations to Ray Dussault and the board of Colors for a Cause, a cancer victim support group, for getting official IRS non-profit recognition under section 501(c)(3) of the tax code. This permits donors to the group to deduct their contributions from their federal income taxes.

Ray made the announcement at the Charlestown Town Council's July 17th meeting.