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Thursday, June 25, 2015

Killer released, quarry bills pass, Weidman’s future, ticks, nukes (again) and lots more

Another steaming plate of Charlestown Tapas
By Will Collette
More more Mutts cartoons by Patrick McConnell, CLICK HERE
 Colin Foote’s killer released from prison

LauraReale, habitual traffic offender and drunk driving killer, has been released from prison after serving four years of an eight year sentence for killing Charlestown’s Colin Foote in 2010 when she ran the red light at West Beach and Route One and struck down Colin on his motorcycle.

Colin Foote was 27. His mother was in a car following right behind and saw her son get killed. She and Colin’s father formed which worked closely with former state Rep. Donna Walsh (D) for stricter traffic safety laws.

The site of Colin’s death is now covered by a set of red light enforcement cameras. Those cameras, due to a variety of problems the town’s contractor can’t seem to handle are STILL not able to issue tickets to violators.

Pleasant Surprise, with an unsurprising twist

It was Brian Patrick Kennedy who got
the quarry dust through the General
Assembly, contrary to the e-bleat from
the weasels at the CCA Party. It was not
Rep. Flip Filippi who's main role was to
grab headlines for himself.
Both the RI House and Senate have cleared bills that will require DEM to write new regulations to control quarry dust and other air pollutants from mines, such as our many local rock quarries.

In craven CCA Party fashion, they give all the credit for the legislation to their own state Rep. Blake “Flip” Filippi (I/R/Tea Party -Block Island/Lincoln/Providence[Footnote 1])….when it’s not even his bill! 

The sponsor of H5680A is Rep. Brian Patrick Kennedy (D). Flipper is the second co-sponsor. The CCA is so loath to give a Democrat credit that they’ll fake it for the Flipper. Flip’s main contribution to the cause was to grab some media attention….for himself.

The Senate version of the bill, Senate Bill No. 621  SUB A, also passed. This bill was sponsored by Sen. Dennis Algiere (R) scarcely rates a mention by the CCA.

Flipper’s two bills on quarries continue to sit in committee “held for further study.” House Bill No. 5676 Would give the town of Charlestown powers it actually already has to regulate quarries.

The other, House Bill No. 5740 , partially addresses the environmental effects of quarries by telling DEM to write regs. That bill completely omits any mention of the need to reclaim quarries. The issues it does address are largely contained in Brian Patrick Kennedy’s bill.

Any bill that requires action by DEM will be handicapped by DEM’s serious staff shortage, as we reported HERE. Even with a full staff, it would still take at least one year, if not more, just to write the regulations. As for then getting those regulations enforced, faggedaboudit! Not that it’s not worth trying….but keep those expectations low.

Block Island Planning Board gives Jane Weidman a send-off

Will Platner get her pick? Silly question.
As I reported here, Charlestown’s part-time town Planner Jane Weidman was recently terminated from her part-time Planner gig on Block Island when the town simply wrote her out of the new town budget without telling her. “Blind-sided,” to quote Weidman.

On June 10, the BI Planning Board said goodbye to Weidman and debated how to tell the Town Council they were displeased with the process they used to dismiss Weidman. The Planning Board, which is appointed by the Town Council, was not consulted about the Council’s decision to eliminate Weidman’s position and instead hire a GIS Specialist for the job.

Two Planning Board members pushed to send a letter to the Council from the Board as a whole but that idea was defeated by a five to two vote.

At roughly the same time that Weidman learned she was being given the ax in New Shoreham, the town of Charlestown finally posted the job opening for Town Planner – as a full time position. They waited almost two years to post the vacancy (former Town Planner Ashley Hahn left in November 2013). That notice has since been taken down.

Seems to me we’re likely to see the Town Council make a quick personnel decision very soon, probably to hire Weidman who has pretty much done whatever Planning Commissar Ruth Platner has told her to do.

On another personnel note, the town has posted the position of Parks and Recreation Director, once held by ousted P&R Director Jay Primiano and currently held on an acting basis by Vicky Hilton.

Ticks carrying more Lyme Disease

The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station has discovered that a higher percentage of black-legged ticks are carrying Lyme Disease this year. They’re finding Lyme bacteria in 34% of samples, compared to 26%, the running five-year average. While these results are for Connecticut ticks, I think we all understand that ticks do not respect state boundaries so we may also expect an “up-tick” (sorry, couldn’t stop myself) in Rhode Island results.

Connecticut orders Millstone to practice for larger evacuation; Hartford Courant looks at harm to Long Island Sound

Our nearby Millstone Nuclear Power Plant (just 20 miles upwind from Charlestown) had a double-whammy of challenges to its basic operations. When the plant ran an emergency drill on June 17, simulating plausible scenarios involving failures of the cooling systems that keep the two operating reactors from melting down or exploding.

These failures are all the more real, given that Millstone has been repeated cited by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for violations involving exactly those systems. 

The exercise presumed the need for an evacuation within a 10-mile danger zone, but state officials insisted on extending the zone further east to Groton and west to Lyme. Still not quite at the Rhode Island line, but close. The Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011 caused by Japan’s huge earthquake now shapes a lot of emergency planning thinking for nuclear “events.” The danger zone for Fukushima extended out 50 miles from Ground Zero.

The potential for a major accident at Millstone is still a hypothetical, although a distinct possibility, especially given Virginia-based Millstone owner Dominion Energy’s track record. However, the Hartford Courant recently looked in depth at the on-going negative effect Millstone has on the ocean.

As the Courant notes:
“The Millstone nuclear plants suck in about 2 billion gallons of seawater a day to cool their reactors and then pump the heated water back into Long Island Sound , a shallow estuary scientists say has been warming for decades.”

The way Millstone is constructed, if they don’t suck in all that seawater, the reactors will fail and could lead to the worst case scenario of a meltdown and explosion rivalling Fukushima.

Suffolk County, NY’s County Council appropriated $80,000 to have scientists at Stoney brook University study Millstone’s effect on the waters of Long Island Sound. Of course, we in Charlestown are only concerned about the unproven health effects of wind turbines.

New Bedford voters overwhelmingly approve casino

The CCA Party has cold sweats thinking the moraine could look like this
(I wouldn't like it either, but I don't worry about it happening)
On Tuesday, New Bedford voters said YES by almost a three to one margin to advance a proposed casino that would be built on currently contaminated, derelict land on the harbor waterfront. The casino would be operated by Foxwoods.

This could be one of three resort casinos, plus slot parlors, built in Massachusetts that will further glut the casino market in Southern New England.

It’s yet another tangible reason why a Narragansett casino in Charlestown is a virtual impossibility. Even if the Narragansetts wanted a Charlestown casino (which they don’t) and could overcome the serious logistical and financial barriers to entry (which they can’t), between the new casinos in Massachusetts and the existing ones in Connecticut, there is no market left.

Will the Charlestown Citizens Alliance now stop using the “threat” of a casino to whip up fear among Charlestown voters, or will they continue to use it as their own special code to maintain that “Us versus Them” attitude that is one of the CCA’s key to power? What do you think?

RI Attorney General rules against Charlestown in Open Records complaint

Attorney General Peter Kilmartin ruled the Charlestown Police Department violated the state’s Access to Public Records Act (APRA) by failing two specific administrative responsibilities. The complaint noted that CPD undertook corrective action so the AG’s Office will take no further action. No actual records were withheld. To read the decision, click here.

The complaint was filed by Access/Rhode Island and this decision is one of many findings against Charlestown town government since the CCA Party took over control in 2008.

Aldi to open new store in the former Shaw’s in Westerly

CCA School Committee member Ron Areglado will no doubt be relieved to learn that come October, the former Shaw’s building in Westerly will no longer be vacant. Areglado has been heard about town expressing concern about the vacancy and suggesting possible uses for the building. 

In an apparent effort to branch out into commercial real estate development, he’d even forwarded his suggestions to the appropriate authorities. Gee, wonder why. One also wonders why he didn’t take advantage of the spot himself for his Center for Ethical and Moral Leadership (which may or may not exist).

Aldi, for those who haven’t had the pleasure of shopping there, is a discount grocery chain owned by one of the pair of brothers who founded Trader Joe’s. The chain is wildly popular in its native Germany.

Here in the U.S., it’s perhaps best known for its shopping cart rental system, in which you insert a quarter into the locked row of shopping carts to release a cart. The quarter is then returned to you when you return the cart to its proper location. Aldi is also known for its house brands and as a price setter on milk and bananas.

When the store opens in October, you just might spot Maureen Areglado shopping there if she finds the Aldi-brand Greek yogurt comparable to her favorite, Chobani, and they manage to beat Walmart’s price it. She reportedly has an “app” that tells her if she’s about to pay too much for a grocery item, as well as a Frequent Flyer app that points the way to the best deals in tropical time share condominiums.

Winter-weather recovery low-interest loans

If your small business suffered losses from this past winter’s brutal weather, the South Eastern Economic Development (SEED) Corporation and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is offering 5% fixed rate loans of up to $50,000 to help you bounce back. The application is available on SEED’s website

Congratulations to….

Arrowhead Dental StaffArrowhead Dental of Charlestown. In the current issue of Rhode Island Monthly [no link], three of their staff dentists were named among Rhode Island’s best dentists. The three are Arrowhead owner Dr. Bruce Gouin, his son Dr. Brendan Gouin and Dr. Nectara Stefano. In the interests of full disclosure, Cathy and I have been patients of Dr. Stefano for over ten years and we certainly would pick her as Top Doc.

Eco-RI. Our friends at Eco-RI were commended by the Providence Business News for practicing what they preach. In addition to being the only environmental news service in Rhode Island, they also run a recycling effort that, according to PBN, has diverted over 40,000 pounds from the state Central Landfill. They are a non-profit organization very worthy of your support. Tom Ferrio and I are active supporters.

Mystic Aquarium Marine Animal Rescue. So far this summer, hardly a week goes by without another release of a rescued and rehabilitated seal or sea lion. They take hurt animals from all over New England, patch them up and send them back into the wild. If you’ve never seen one of their releases at Blue Shutters Beach, it’s great thing to see. It’s a fine thing they do at the Aquarium so if you’d like to support their work, click here. Here’s Wasabi, their most recent release:

Charlestown water holes. In the same issue of Rhode Island Monthly that honored our local dentists at Arrowhead, they also rated Rhode Island’s best fresh-water swimming spots. They only listed five, and one was in Massachusetts. 

Of the four Rhode Island’s best, #1 went to Little Nini Pond with its free parking family-friendly style and the amenities in Ninigret Park, although watch for the CCA Party Town Council members to decide to levy a $1 per child parking fee as part of their plan to make Ninigret Park a child-free zone. #2 went to Watchaug Pond.

Jobs and employment news

Though Charlestown has seen a one-month improvement in its unemployment rate, down from 8.5% in March to 6.6% in April, Charlestown is still way behind the state average which fell to 5.9% below 6% since 2007.

Even though the Charlestown Citizens Alliance promotes the image of Charlestown as a retirement community that should ideally be comprised only of wealthy pensioners, the reality is that more than half of Charlestown population – 4,113 out of 7,781 or 53% - are adults looking for work. The CCA might brag though that the numbers are shifting in their direction. In December 2014, the Charlestown workforce was 4,519 so there are over 400 Charlestown residents who have dropped out of the workforce.
  • The Mystic Arts Center in Mystic, CT is looking for an Events Coordinator
  • Thundermist Health Center in Wakefield is looking for a Behavioral Health Nurse Practitioner.
  • The WARM Center in Westerly is looking for a Driver/Maintenance
  • The YMCA of Greater Providence is looking for a Health and Wellness Coach and Summer Camp Counselors to work in Peace Dale.
  • The South County Community Action Agency is looking for a Program Manager for their Family Care Community Partnership
  • According to Patch, the Block Island Ferry company is still looking to hire summer help. Click here for more detail.
  • Patch also reported that the Rhode Island Marine Trades Association is about to open up to applications for apprentices to sign on to learn the crafts needed to snag a good blue collar job in Rhode Island’s growing maritime industry. By completing an apprenticeship training program, your chances of landing a job improve significantly. Click here for more information.

Other employment news

Death in the family. One potential cloud on the horizon for the maritime industry is the recent death of Richard Carpenter, 77, of North Kingstown. Carpenter was the co-founder of SENESCO Marine, a ship-building company that employs 300 people at Quonset. Sometimes, after the death of a figure like Carpenter, the new leaders of the company may get itchy to make big changes. Case in point – the PawSox after Ben Mondor’s death. Senesco is an important part of Rhode Island’s growing ship-building industry and I hope the company sticks around.

First contract approved. UCONN’s Graduate Assistant Union had its contract proposal approved by the Connecticut legislature marking a historic break-through for this particular group of workers. Part-time faculty and student workers all over the US and particularly in New England have been organizing for respect and better working conditions in a cloudy legal environment that sometimes does not recognize their right to organize and bargain for contracts.

L&M Westerly doing OK. Despite grumpy noises from Bruce Cummins, the CEO of Westerly Hospital’s owner Lawrence & Memorial Hospital of New London, it looks like Westerly Hospital is doing ok. L&M has extended its commitment to Westerly Hospital and plans to spend $1 million in upgrades to its cardiac unit. They are also talking to Yale-New Haven Hospital about a possible affiliation.

Yale-New Haven is a major medical center in New England and an affiliation would probably boost the level of care at the L&M chain, including Westerly Hospital.

But one thing that might make Yale-New Haven an attractive hook-up for Bruce Cummins is that Yale-New Haven is pretty hard-core in dealing with its unions. In 2007, Yale-New Haven was ordered to pay $4.5 million for labor law violations.


[FN1] Filippi is registered to vote from his mother’s address in Block Island, except he doesn’t live there. Numerous official records place is actual residence as his mother’s other house in Lincoln, where Flipper grew up and graduated from Lincoln High School. Except he doesn’t live there, either. Filippi told Bob Plain, editor of Rhode Island’s Future, that he actually lives in an apartment in Providence where he has his law practice. Filippi claims to be a full-time lawyer in Providence, a full-time cattle farmer in Lincoln and a full-time entrepreneur, owning Ballard’s of Block Island, as well as being a member of the General Assembly. In his spare time, he takes ultra-fast flying lessons from Superman to make it from one place to the other. Whaddaguy, our Flipper!