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Monday, September 10, 2012

DiBello plans to raise a REALLY IMPORTANT issue

Councilor plans to challenge signage at Blue Shutters Beach
By Will Collette

Looks like Councilor Lisa DiBello plans to start up her big push for re-election at the September Town Council meeting on September 10 by raising a matter of paramount concern to Charlestown voters: the wording of the sign on the new beach pavilion at Blue Shutters Beach.

DiBello has been laying low since her June 25 personal attack against me from the Council dais. But she's willing to come out on this very, very important issue.

Apparently, according to my sources, DiBello belatedly remembered that, technically, the full title of Blue Shutters Beach is Blue Shutters – Sam Ferretti Beach, not simply Blue Shutters Beach as it says on the beach pavilion sign. 

In 1990, Charlestown bought the beach from the Ferretti family for $1.4 million – half from the state and half from bond money authorized by Charlestown taxpayers. The Ferretti family took a tax deduction for the $200,000 difference between the $1.6 million appraisal and the $1.4 million sale price.

$1.4 million in 1990 translates into almost $2.5 million in 2012 dollars.

DiBello described the history of the property before the Town Council at its April 19, 2007 meeting (go to Clerkbase for those minutes) when Charlestown first began planning major improvements to the facilities at the beach. Those facilities had remained largely the same as when they were built by the Ferrettis after they bought the beach in 1948. Except they showed half a century of wear and tear.

After that single reference to the Ferrettis in 2007, there’s no mention of them again in Clerkbase.

Flash forward to 2010-2011 when consensus began to build that Charlestown needed decent facilities at the town beaches. Except for CCA anonymous commenters. They argued that building toilets at the beach would only encourage more people to come. They also said that if you couldn’t walk to your home to use the toilet, you didn’t belong. But most sane Charlestown voters felt that when ya gotta go, ya gotta go. We had a public health duty to provide decent toilets.

The only question was how elaborate those facilities should be. Ultimately, a bare bones plan went before the voters in June 2011. Despite opposition from the CCA, the voters approved the funding for the plan to build new sanitary facilities at both beaches by an 11% margin.

DiBello largely stayed on the sidelines during the campaign for new beach facilities even though she ran the town beaches for years[1] as town Parks and Recreation Director until she was fired in 2010, and her housemate and business partner Deborah Dellolio held a monopoly on beach concessions

The facilities are now operational, having come in on budget and very close to schedule despite efforts by the Planning Commission to obstruct. But now sources tell me DiBello wants the sign changed from “Blue Shutters Town Beach” to add Sam Ferretti’s name.

Wow, now that’s really going to improve the life of the average Charlestown voter and taxpayer.

Why didn't DiBello raise this issue when the Planning Commission put the project through two full days of hearings on every minute detail of the pavilion plan. Nobody breathed a word about Sam Ferretti—including Lisa DiBello.

I’ve only lived in Charlestown for ten years, so I never knew Sam Ferretti, who died in Bradford in April 1978 at age 59. I do know that I have never heard anyone add the Sam Ferretti name to the title of Blue Shutters Beach.

I also know that the Ferrettis were paid good money for the beach by the taxpayers. The $200,000 difference between the appraisal and the final price is pretty much within the normal spread in any property transaction. In this instance, Sam Ferretti’s heirs got a tax write-off, rather than just chalking up the difference to typical buyer-seller give and take.

Usually naming rights are given to donors, not sellers. When we sold our old house in Maryland in 2002, we didn’t demand that the buyers name it The Collette House.

I also know that DiBello could have raised this issue before the town spent the money for the sign.

During all the years that DiBello was in charge of Blue Shutters Beach, there were NO signs at all. That includes the chronic problem of no road signs, but also included no signage on the facilities, such as they were (see photo at right).

I have nothing against Sam Ferretti or his family. However, unless they – the family – are asserting an enforceable legal right to make Charlestown change the beach pavilion signage, I don’t see the point in paying for changing the sign.

This raises yet another in that long series of unanswered Lisa DiBello questions: why did she wait until now to bring this up? Is this another attempt to find a way to attack Charlestown? You’d think her $1.5 million lawsuit against the town would be enough.

Is she looking for some new way to attack her successor at the P&R job, Jay Primiano? Or is this just another classic Lisa DiBello ploy to draw attention to herself with another trivial though costly matter?

For more on questions that Councilor Lisa DiBello needs to answer, click here and here.

[1] How many years is in dispute. DiBello gave multiple hiring dates on her annual disclosure statements to the RI Ethics Commission.