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Friday, January 10, 2014

PREVIEW of Town Council meeting on Monday January 13, 2014 at 7:00 p.m.

A look at what new plans are in store for Charlestown at first meeting of 2014
By Will Collette

George Tremblay takes his turn on the ramparts of Charlestown's stone
wall against the people's right to know
In this upcoming meeting, amid a lot of routine mundane business, there are some serious and far-reaching issues on the agenda. Among them is an attempt by CCA Party Councilor George Tremblay to curb public access to town records by cranking up fees to the maximum.

There’s the patronage appointment of CCA Party founder Cliff Vanover to a position on the Zoning Board of Review where he will be obliged to make quasi-judicial decisions - if you can believe that, given his famous temper.

Charlie Vandemoer of the US Fish & Wildlife Service returns to get a renewal of his Memorandum of Understanding that says that Charlestown and the Service will voluntarily talk to each other on matters of mutual interest. This MOU was all Charlie got out of the bitter, awful Battle of Ninigret Park in 2012.

CCA Party Council Boss Tom Gentz will float his idea for a referendum that would allow parents to send their kids to any of the Chariho elementary schools, not just the one in their town, which should add some gasoline to the simmering civil war pitting Charlestown, Richmond and Hopkinton against each other.

As always, there might be a surprise or two when a seemingly non-controversial agenda item turns into a major big deal. Here is Monday night’s agenda in the actual order of business.

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

2.      ROLL CALL
Motion to move items 15a and 17a to be heard next on the Agenda

a.      Discussion and potential action regarding the presentation of a Proclamation for Joshua Alan Hedin in recognition of his attaining the rank of Eagle Scout

a.      Swearing in of Officer Lawrence Scott to the Charlestown Police Department

RECESS - Volleyball, under the lights in the Town Hall parking lot

3.      PUBLIC COMMENT for items not on the Agenda



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


Charlie Vandemoer wants to get his MOU renewed
a.      Discussion and potential action regarding the re-authorization of the Town’s Memorandum of Understanding with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in order to facilitate coordination and cooperation on the Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge and Ninigret Town Park for a term of five years. 

Editor’s note – this “MOU” was the anticlimactic end of the “Battle of Ninigret Park” that began with CCA Party Town Councilors Tom Gentz and Dan Slattery wanting to giving the Fish & Wildlife Service effective control over Ninigret Park. It ended with general understanding that Gentz and Slattery didn’t know what they were talking about. As a face-saving gesture, they entered into this meaningless MOU with Charlie Vandemoer of the US FWS. Renewing this MOU has no practical meaning.

b.      Discussion and potential action regarding the revision of Chapter 218-59: Commercial Vehicles and Trailers. 

Editor’s note: This somewhat clarifies Charlestown law that restricts residents from parking commercial vehicles at their homes. But it doesn’t resolve the problem that some working people need to bring their vehicles home.

Gentz proposal could start a war if it opens up
the Chariho Act to revision
c.      Discussion and potential action on a letter requesting the Chariho School Committee to request a Charlestown, Richmond and Hopkinton referendum item that Chariho students can voluntarily chose to attend a Chariho elementary school in a town other than their town of residence and a nine member school committee.

Editor’s Note: this is a Boss Tom Gentz proposal that would allow parents to pick and choose among all the elementary schools in the Chariho system, not just the one in their town, to send their kids. I’d really like to see the cost estimate for this, given its potential to create even more chaos in the school system.

It’d also be interesting to know where this idea came from. Perhaps from our two CCA Party patronage appointees to the School Committee, Ron Areglado and Donna Chambers.

And will this require changes to the Chariho Act, which CCA Town Council Dan Slattery has declared to be inviolate? Or is this a retaliatory move against Richmond by Gentz (with Slattery's approval) to punish them for their efforts to reopen the Chariho Act? 

d.      Discussion and potential action regarding a review of the history of APRA requests for potential revision of policy to reduce administrative costs of compliance

Editor’s Note: this is a George Tremblay (CCA Party) initiative to treat open records requests as an onerous unfunded mandate and calls for a policy that, as he puts it, “charges user fees to the fullest extent of the law.” 
This is what the CCA Party says it believes in. Compare it to what
CCA Party Councilor George Tremblay is proposing.

I'm going to take a wild guess that this is really about Tremblay being pissed that Progressive Charlestown routinely uses the open records law to tweeze out documents that the CCA Party would rather not see come out in public.

This comes from a CCA Party leader who swore allegiance to the CCA Mission Statement that says the CCA supports “open, professional and ethical government that is transparent.” They should amend the CCA mission to say, “providing you can pay.” This is, however, consistent with the CCA Party policy of “pay to play.”

e.      Discussion and potential action regarding the Charlestown Hometown Hero Award
This is another George Tremblay brain storm (apparently he had a lot of time on his hands over the holidays). Tremblay thinks the name should be changed to something less heroic, since the honorees are not always cited for what he considers heroic acts. Whatever.

a.      Public hearing and potential action regarding #361 amending Chapter 158-4.1, Friends of Ninigret Park - Establishment and membership. 
Editor’s Note: this ordinance simply increases the size of the group from three to five to correct an error when the town adopted its initial ordinance establishing Friends of Ninigret Park.


All items marked with “CA” are to be considered consent agenda. 
Consent agenda items are generally non-controversial items that are not discussed or debated, but simply voted on as a bloc. Sometimes a Council member (usually Lisa DiBello or Dan Slattery) will ask that an item be pulled so they can make some point.
Motion to accept, approve and place on file the following as the consent agenda: 11a, 11b, 13a, 13b, 17c, 17d, 17e, 17f, 17g, 17h, 17i, 17j, 17k, 18a, and 18b

“CA” a. Application for a Peddler’s License from Michele LaPaglia d/b/a/ The Cart of 61 Charlestown Beach Road, with a recommendation from Building Official Joseph Warner, subject to receipt of all required paperwork and that stipulations and rules and regulations as required by the State of Rhode Island, Department of Health and the Town Council
“CA” b. Discussion and potential action regarding the 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.            Event: Rhythm & Roots
Park Reservation (Setup): August 23 – September 4, 2014
Event Dates: August 29 – 31, 2014
Camping: 1,500 Max Campers
Insurance: $2 Million General Liability; $2 Million Liquor Liability
Fee: $9,000.00

“CA” a. Town Council Minutes:
1.      December 4
2.      December 9 (Executive and Regular)
“CA” b. Reports:
1.      Building Official – December 2013
2.      Police Chief – December 2013.
3.      Public Works Director – December 2013

4.      Town Clerk – December 2013
Editor’s Note: statistics of interest – we ended 2013 with only six foreclosures officially filed at Town Hall. A total of 59 Charlestown residents died while only 40 were born for a net loss of 19. The number of births is the lowest for any of the 20 years listed in Amy’s report.

5.      Treasurer – November 2013

“CA” c. Appointment of Constables as recommended by the Chief of Police, terms to expire January 2015: Charlestown Police Dispatchers - Tammy Belden, Kim Anderson, Michael Previty, and Michael Carrasquillo; Records Division - Laura Knudsen; Harbormaster - Justin Vail; Building Official - Joseph Warner; Animal Control Officer - Kathy McA’Nulty; CEMA Program Director - Andrew Checcia
“CA” d.  Appointment of Traffic Constables as recommended by the Chief of Police:  Todd Allen, Gary Bellows, William Bennett, Michael Carrasquillo, Thomas Doherty, Raymond Dussault, Dennis Evans, Eric Linacre, Matthew Manni, Paul Pepler, Michael Previty, Keith Place, Patrick Strickland, Lawson Durfee, Peter Yee and Christopher C. Lyman  terms to expire January 2015
“CA” e.  Appointment of Special Police Officers as recommended by the Chief of Police: Kevin R. Gallup, John S. Heston, Kathleen A. Currier, Justin J. Habershaw, Shawn Richards, Lauren Matarese and Paul M. Gentile, terms to expire in January of 2015. The above individuals are all RI Municipal Police Training Academy certified.
“CA” f. Reappointment of Lillian B. Arnold, Hal Hultgren, Forrester C. Safford and Kenneth E. Simoneau to the Conservation Commission, terms to expire in January of 2017
“CA” g. Reappointment of Justin Vail as Harbormaster, term to expire in January of 2015
“CA” h. Reappointment of Lawson Durfee as Assistant Harbormaster, term to expire in January of 2015
“CA” i. Reappointment of Sandra M. Arnold and David Tobin to the Juvenile Hearing Board, terms to expire in January of 2017
“CA” j. Reappointment of Julia Beasley, Cheryl Dowdell, and Jodi Frank to the Parks and Recreation Commission, terms to expire in January of 2017
“CA” k. Reappointment of Robert D. Frost and Elizabeth V. Richardson to the Wastewater Management Commission, terms to expire in January of 2019

“CA” a. Discussion and potential action regarding the award of the Landfill Monitoring Services bid to SCS Engineers in the annual amount of $7,800.00, and enter into the balance of the three-year initial contract with payments of $7,800.00 in years 2015-16 and 2017-18, as budgeted through line item 01.640.6001, and authorization of the Town Administrator and Town Treasurer, each, to take any and all such actions, and execute and deliver such certificates, receipts or other documents as may be necessary to carry into effect the foregoing
“CA” b. Request from the Tax Assessor for abatements in the amount of $5,020.43

a.      Board and Commission vacancies


b.      Discussion and potential action regarding appointments to the Zoning Board of Review, with a recommendation from the Chair. Applications received from Clifford L. Vanover and Kara Scott. 

Editor’s note: fasten your seatbelts, Charlestown, Zoning is about to get a whole like weirder. Even weirder than it was during the whole Whalerock debacle. Both of these persons are being recommended for membership to the ZBR, with Vanover recommended to become Alternate #2, behind CCA Party pundit Mike Chambers, who is recommended to become Alternate #1. Kara Scott is recommended to join the ZBR as Alternate #3.

Many of you are familiar with Cliff Vanover (some of you have probably gotten a lot closer to him than is comfortable). Vanover was the guy who goaded Jim Mageau into a physical altercation that led to assault charges. Vanover ran and lost in a 2010 bid for election to the Town Council as a CCA candidate. Vanover is a CCA Party founder and member of its steering committee. He is an implacable opponent of building anything in Charlestown and will probably become an automatic cause of action for lawsuits by any petitioner who comes before the ZBR.

Let’s make sure Charlestown sets aside a lot more money for lawsuits from zoning petitioners who feel they didn’t get a fair decision based on the law, as opposed to personal bias. With Vanover joining Mike Chambers on the Zoning Board, the odds of more such problems double. Chambers, as his posts on the CCA Party website demonstrates, is not a person encumbered by the facts.

But as a CCA Party stalwart, Vanover is an obvious pick for a patronage appointment from the CCA Party majority that controls the Town Council. He certainly has more claim to it than Mike Chambers did.

However, his positions will probably be even worse lawsuit-bait than Chambers. Vanover's application indicates that he would place a higher emphasis on the Comprehensive Plan than the Zoning Ordinance, except that's not what the law says.

The Westerly Sun's Cynthia Drummond wrote about the pecking order that puts the zoning law ahead of the Comprehensive Plan in a October 23, 2011 article, "Zoning Changes Come to the Fore," which unfortunately is no longer in the Sun archive, but you can read it by clicking here

Kara Scott is not overtly tied to the CCA Party, but she has given money to former Moderate Party founder Ken Block in his quest to become Governor. That provides a good reason for Councilor Dan Slattery, served as Block’s Moderate Party Treasurer, to vote for her.

19.    LEGAL MATTERS – None