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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

In case you missed it: Town Council Preview – regular monthly meeting TONIGHT

Money juggling, new anti-business ordinances, exercises in futility dominate the agenda
By Will Collette

The Town Council is continuing their new practice, modeled on Progressive Charlestown’s “real agenda previews," of publishing agendas that actually reflect the order of business. That lifted the burden off of me to have to re-work their monthly agendas so Progressive Charlestown readers could make some sense out of the meetings.

This month’s agenda looks to be pretty light. That’s mainly because the month’s major business will be conducted at a special meeting on August 22 at the Charlestown Elementary School. That’s when the public will get a chance to comment on the proposed $2.114 million deal to buy the site of the proposed Whalerock wind turbines for open space.

Here’s the run-down of what’s coming up on Tuesday at 7:00 at Town Hall:

1.      CALL TO ORDER, Moment of Silence, Pledge of Allegiance

2.      ROLL CALL

Motion to move items 15b, 15e, 12, 18a, 18d, 10a, 7a, 9a and 7b to be heard next on the agenda


b.   Commendation for Rob Krause
e.   Commendation for St. Andrew’s Work Camp

All items marked with “CA” are to be considered consent agenda. 

NOTE: these are generally non-controversial items that are voted on as a bloc without discussion or debate. Councilor Lisa DiBello and sometimes Council Boss Tom Gentz like to pull items off the consent agenda usually because they have some reason to want to grandstand on the subject. The big fight that jeopardized the Rhythm and Roots Festival was an example where the CCA Council majority wanted to pander to its supporters in the Arnolda neighborhood by pulling a simple request off the Consent Agenda, setting up a debate over the merits of holding human activities at the park. That fight took most of April to resolve.
Motion to accept approve and place on file the following as the consent agenda: 11a, 13a, 13b, 18b, 18c, 18e


“CA” a. Approval of the following events at Ninigret Park with a recommendation from the Parks and Recreation Commission, subject to review of contracts by the Town Solicitor, receipt of all applicable paperwork and insurance and that all event details are satisfactorily met by the Parks and Recreation Director:
1.   Bicycle Race, Tour De Cure for ADA, American Diabetes Association
Park Reservation: June 1, 2014
Camping: none
Insurance: $5 million
Fee: Waived
2.   BSA Campout Troop 15 of Charlestown Park Reservation: Friday, Sept 13, 2013 at 4:00 p.m. through Sunday, Sept 15, 2013 at 11:00 a.m.
Camping: Yes, approx. 50 Boy Scouts in Lil Nini re
gion of Ninigret Park
Insurance: $1 million general liability, provided by BSA Boys Scouts of America
Fee: Waived


“CA” a. Town Council Minutes:
July 2; July 8 (Executive and Regular); July 25
 “CA” b. Reports:
Building Official – July 2013; Police Chief – July 2013 NOTE: police calls are way up, at the highest so far in 2013, but that’s normal at this time of year when we get the big influx of summer visitors; Public Works – July 2013 ; Town Clerk – July 2013 NOTE: deaths continue to outpace births by almost 2 to 1 with 21 births versus 39 deaths so far this year; Treasurer – July 2013; Wastewater Management – July 2013 NOTE: always amazes me how many old cesspools are still around in Charlestown, despite the law.


“CA” b. Award of the bid for the Ninigret Park Master Plan Update to Weston & Sampson for an amount not to exceed $10,900 as budgeted through line item 59.000.5100. 

Click here to read the town's Ninigret Park Master Plan
      NOTE: this line item grew out of last year’s Battle for Ninigret Park where Councilors Gentz and Slattery tried to turn over control of the park to the National Fish and Wildlife Service and a hand-picked committee controlled by their allies. After getting beaten down, they made a peace offering to the Parks and Recreation Committee of funding to hire a consultant to revamp the Park’s Master Plan. However, it doesn’t matter what comes out of this – the CCA Party has already signaled its intent to reject any plan that doesn’t sharply curb human activity in Ninigret Park.

“CA” c. Award of the bid for the Web based GIS Mapping project to New England Geosystems for an amount not to exceed $8,000 as budgeted from line item 84.000.5100, with an annual cost for an amount not to exceed $3,500 as budgeted from line item 01.455.6055, with authorization for the Town Administrator to execute the contract

“CA” e. Request from the Tax Assessor for abatements in the amount of $3595.10 

NOTE: one of the abatements is for CCA Party Councilor Deputy Dan Slattery for $1.87. Kinda gives new meaning to the concept of being a retiree on a fixed income. Does this mean he will have to recuse himself on the vote for the Consent Agenda?


a.   Discussion and potential action regarding the rescinding of the following bond issues:
Buckeye Brook Road Phase I in an amount not to exceed $594,000 approved on 6/13/05; Buckeye Brook Road Phase II in an amount not to exceed $788,800 approved on 6/4/2007; and Old Coach Road in an amount not to exceed $500,000 approved on 6/4/2007 

NOTE: these are three road projects where voters OK’d borrowing the money but the CCA majority Town Council decided to instead pay cash out of the town surplus. They said this would “save taxpayers money" in long-term interest charges, which is technically true. 

However, they instead raised annual taxes – for the sixth year in a row. Every year they say they are saving taxpayers money by doing this and every year they raise taxes so they can afford to pay cash for capital projects. 

My question is when will Charlestown taxpayers ever see the savings? I think the answer is next year, maybe, if they feel like they’re in trouble with the voters in an election year.

d.   Discussion and potential action regarding a FY 2013 budget transfer in the amount of $48,700.00 for Stormwater Discharge Elimination from the Capital Improvement budget (01.995.9927) to the Transfers Out budget (01.990.9957)


a.   Discussion and potential action regarding an application received from the Charlestown Rathskeller Tavern, Inc. for a Class F Liquor License, fee to be waived, for a fundraising event to be held at 489A Old Coach Road, Charlestown RI  02813, on August 17, 2013 - alcohol to be served from 3:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. Designated premises: The patio adjacent to the tavern entrance on the east side, including the small deck, bocce court and horseshoe court areas; from the southeast corner of the restaurant, to include the spring house, the sauna area and fire pit; the grounds located southwest of the main entrance (west side) to approximately two hundred (200’) feet south of the employee parking lot; the open porch and deck on the west side of the restaurant; and from the north side of the restaurant up to the stone wall located approximately ten (10) feet from Old Coach Road. 

NOTE: this a special deal for a Charlestown Land Trust fund-raising event. Since many of the Land Trust leadership are leaders and major donors of the CCA Party, the Council majority should be just fine with this kind of deal. If it was somebody else, maybe not so much.


a.   Discussion and potential action regarding ChurchWoods and Shannock Cottages financing and the RI Housing update with an advisory opinion from the Affordable Housing Commission 

NOTE: this is becoming a regular agenda item because it gives Boss Gentz a chance to spout off about the state and its unfriendly policies toward Charlestown. While it’s true that Charlestown is being poorly treated, I believe it’s pay-back for Charlestown’s bad attitude about affordable housing in general – that’s my theory anyway.


NOTE: This is part of the long and winding road Charlestown has been on to try to win a share of federal disaster relief funding spurred by Hurricane Sandy. We are hoping to get $300K+ to recoup costs and prepare for future storms.


b.   Discussion and potential action regarding a resolution requesting that the Rhode Island Attorney General look into the actions/inactions of the Town of Westerly, Copar Quarries and the Westerly Granite Company 

Why won't Charlestown give the Copar opponents the
same support it's giving the Whalerock opposition?
NOTE: Boss Gentz wants the Council to send a letter to Attorney General Peter Kilmartin complaining about how Westerly has failed to control the Copar Quarry. It’s a cheap and cynical stunt because
(a) Gentz and the Council have failed to keep their promises to Copar’s neighbors to carry out substantive actions;
(b) Gentz and the Council have already tried their hand at empty, symbolic gestures by crafting a resolution last fall which they posted on the town website and promptly ignored – plus they already sent copies of this resolution to just about every state official;
(c) Town Administrator Mark Stankiewicz made it clear that Charlestown is afraid to take any real action against Copar’s Charlestown site even though they operated illegally for three months and are likely to pull the same crap there that they have been doing in Bradford and
(d) Gentz and the Council are frankly more interested in helping their campaign contributors and supporters fight Whalerock than they are to help the working class folks living near Copar’s sites.

3.      PUBLIC COMMENT for items not on the Agenda



a.   Town Administrator
b.   Town Solicitor
c.   Commission Reports

8.      NEW BUSINESS – None

a.   Board and Commission vacancies

All power to Ruth Platner

    a.   Introduction and first reading of Ordinance #358 amending Chapter 117, Flood Damage Protection, to be advertised for public hearing on September 9, 2013 

     NOTE: this is a complete re-write of the town ordinance on construction in areas prone to flooding that are supposed to reflect the serious storms and flooding we’ve had in town the past three years.

    c.   Introduction and first reading of Ordinance #359 amending Chapter 218-74 Zoning, Landscaping, to be advertised for public hearing on September 9, 2013 

     NOTE: Planning Commissar Ruth Platner and her merry Commissionaires have been working on this shrubbery ordinance for several years. It is part of Platner’s overall approach to the town, concentrating control over minute details of town life in her hands and giving CCA Party regulars new tools to drive local businesses crazy, and in the process, out of Charlestown.
Bring us some nice shrubbery!

d.   Introduction and first reading of Ordinance #360 amending Chapters 218–56 through 218-61 - Zoning, Parking to be advertised for public hearing on September 9, 2013 

NOTE: ditto on this one. No detail is too small to regulate. 

The cumulative effect is to put a financial damper on any improvements to commercial property because the upgrades required by all these new ordinances are triggered by any improvement. 

In this case parking bumpers will have to be added, greatly increasing the difficulty of plowing snow. (Of course, I doubt we will see them at Town Hall!) Also all kinds of islands, landscaping and trees. Obviously those will look nice but they are more costs in a town where business is very seasonal.

Parking bumpers - Charlestown's next growth industry. Come winter,
it'll be snowplow repair
     The potential consequence is that business owners may decide it’s not worth making ANY upgrades rather than be compelled to make ALL the improvements mandated under these ordinances. But all that is consistent with the CCA Party’s anti-business philosophy.

     And, at the risk of repeating myself, these ordinances are examples of how this Town Council majority has no trouble coming up with ways to bedevil town businesses, if not drive them out of business – except when it comes to the Copar Quarry, where the best they can do is come up with empty gestures.



19.    LEGAL MATTERS – None