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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

VIDEO: Charlestown Tapas

New assessments coming
Chariho war council
Quarry quandary
Feud expands, escalates
UFO spotted in southern RI (I’m not making this up)
By Will Collette

Date of the tax valuation notices

Expect to get notice from Tax Assessor Ken Swain about the new valuation on your home that will be used as the basis for calculating your property tax bill this summer. 

Town properties underwent their periodic review this past summer and the results will be “mailed to each property owner on or before March 30, 2014,” according to Swain. shows almost no change in the average Charlestown home value between summer, 2011 when the last revaluation took place, and the summer of 2013. Charlestown home values hit bottom during 2012, according to Zillow, but have been rebounding ever since.

If Charlestown’s new numbers reflect Zillow’s, we may see very little change in the overall value of taxable property in town’s tax base, but that probably will not be the case on a property by property basis.

Your taxes for next year will be the product of your new assessed property assessment multiplied by the tax rate. For the six years the CCA Party has controlled the budget, they have raised taxes every year, even in years where we ran large surpluses. This is an election year and I suspect that will be a factor in what they decide to do with our taxes.

Charlestown edges closer to war with Hopkinton, Richmond

This feels a lot like the months leading up to the first World War - 100th anniversary this summer - and the conflicts in the Balkans that caused it. Yeah, I know, nobody reads or even cares about history anymore. But for those that do, don't these events seem like the prelude to the assassination of Arch-Duke Ferdinand?

Charlestown, Richmond and Hopkinton, the three towns that joined to form the Chariho School District have had a long history of acrimony and suspicion. Like most political disputes, Chariho’s issues seem to revolve around money and power. Each town wants the school system to be excellent, but they don’t want to pay for either the teachers or technology that brings about excellence. Each town wallows in its victimhood, claiming it is put upon by its Chariho colleagues.

Archduke Ferdinand and Councilor Dan Slattery - is there a hint of
a resemblance?
But now that Richmond and Hopkinton leaders are publicly admitting their interest in combining their efforts to….drum roll….change the Chariho Act, expect Charlestown leaders, especially the CCA Party majority on the Town Council to sound the bugles to muster the town militia on the soccer field at Ninigret Park.

CCA Party Councilor Deputy Dan Slattery has started hyperventilating whenever there’s even a hint that the other towns want to “reopen the Act.” If this continues, I would urge the town to install an EKG monitor and blood pressure cuff at Slattery’s seat in the Council chambers and station an EMT nearby.

Richmond Council members said they felt Charlestown’s reaction to ideas about changes to the Chariho Act were based on a misunderstanding about what Richmond and Hopkinton were thinking. They also expressed resentment that Charlestown challenged their right to explore any legislative change.

Richmond Council Vice-President Henry Oppenheimer said, “Perhaps I didn't do very well in my civics class in elementary school, but it was my impression that any person or legally constituted body could request a change in any state law at any time…. The Richmond Town Council made a legal request: we want a state law changed. The question whether it's lawful what we did – we had every right to request the change.”

Hopkinton Council Vice-President Sylvia Thompson said “We have an opportunity to go and talk to Richmond and say ‘join us. We have had a problem for decades. Will you consider joining us on our issues, and we’ll join you on yours?’”

Charlestown Councilor Slattery is on record as declaring that any effort to “reopen” or change the Chariho Act would be tantamount to an act of war which would lead Charlestown to secede from the Chariho School District to either fend for itself or make a new alliance with either Westerly or South Kingstown. Despite the costs and consequences.

Another reason to make a big deal about quarries

Fire at Stony Creek Quarry. Photo from Peter Sachs' drone
One of the legitimate concerns about quarry sites is how they conveniently provide a dumping ground, legally or illegally. The local Copar quarry operations are financed by Phil Armetta who was once one of Connecticut’s largest waste dumpers until he had to divest those businesses while doing federal jail time. Upon his completion of his federal sentence, Armetta told news reporters he intended to get back into the trash business. That was right at the time he hooked up with Sam Cocopard to start Copar. Copar is in the process of turning an old quarry site in Lisbon, CT into a major waste disposal site.

RIDEM already found illegal trash (e.g. refrigerators) on Copar’s Bradford site.

It’s not unusual for quarries to be used to dump waste. Happens all the time. It’s a convenient use of a big hole in the ground once the valuable mineral deposits have been extracted.

On January 30, 800 residents of Branford, CT, outside of Norwich, CT, were told to evacuate over concerns that a fire accidentally started by quarry workers might spread to the mine’s cache of explosives. Workers were burning large piles of cardboard and the fire got away from them and into a large amount of densely packed rubber and metal cable.

A drone owned by volunteer firefighter Peter Sachs was flown over the blaze to determine how close the flames were coming to the explosives. The drone video showed the flames were far enough away from the explosives to allow firefighters to go back into the site to attack the fire which was expected to smolder for days.

You can read the report on the Facebook Page of the Branford Professional Firefighters Local 2533 Facebook page 


Neighbors’ feud makes headlines, sparks court action

My sympathies go out to the Dowdell family, whose 13-year long feud with their neighbor Peter Bloomquist became a colorful feature story in the Providence Journal.

Charlestown battle ground: Bloomquist at 17 Cherokee and the
Dowdells just above it in this Google Earth screen shot.
Quite a while ago, this private dispute also became an official municipal matter as the parties used the courts, police and regulatory systems to address their apparently irreconcilable differences. You can read the ProJo article for the details on the dispute between Bloomquist and the Dowdells, but the matter now directly affects Charlestown tax payers.

After responding to numerous complaints from the Dowdells, Charlestown Police arrested Bloomquist for disorderly conduct. In December Bloomquist sued the town in state Superior Court, claiming the police intervention was an abuse of power.

Charlestown lawyer Mark DeSisto (who actually represents Charlestown’s municipal insurance company) has since gotten Bloomquist’s lawsuit moved to federal District Court. Click here to read the petition to move the case to federal court and Blooomquist’s initial lawsuit where he claims CPD abused his rights. 

Incidentally, that court record is one of the types of records Charlestown has been trying to refuse to give to Progressive Charlestown.

Tangentially related: I spotted a UPI story out of San Francisco about a start-up on-line service called For a price of between $1,800 and $10,000, this company says it will make the enemies of its clients miserable.

According to Nefarious Jobs CEO John Winters (who told UPI that’s not his real name), "Anyone who has been wronged, hurt, abused, cheated, scammed, stabbed in the back can come to us and we will do our very, very best to make the life of that person who has wronged you completely miserable…. We do not do anything physical whatsoever, however, the truth is our ally. If a person has been scamming people, if they've been abusing people, if they have an extensive criminal record, we will post it. We will start an offshore web site and we'll detail all their nefarious deeds and we'll make sure everyone in their circle of friends knows it."

UFOs in the skies over southern Rhode Island?

On January 31st, at 5:33 PM, two West Greenwich residents reported sighting “two hovering black disc” UFOs as they were driving along an unnamed local road. They took five photos and registered their sighting with the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON), which recorded their report in the file for Case 53853. 

You can see a write-up on whatever it was they say they saw, plus a grainy photo, by clicking here. The presence of space aliens would explain a lot about what goes on in South County.