2005-08-04 / Front Page

Many issues on agenda for next council meeting

By Dotti Farrington

Assessment, burning, costs, deer, exemptions, farms… Alpha-betically, or otherwise, the Town Council deals with a multitude of topics and issues, sometimes monumental and sometimes not. Here is a sampling of matters under consideration by town offi-cials:

Assessment appeals

Cliff Largess, a member of the Tax Assessment Board of Review, has notified the town that he and his wife Mary, residents here more than 40 years, have moved from their Standish Road home to Hamilton Gate Court in North Kingstown. That means he is no longer eligible to continue on the board.

“The other members of the board are experienced and com-petent. I do not believe that my absence will effect in any way the efficient functioning of the board. Of all the volunteer time I have given, my tenure on the board has been, by far, the most satisfying and rewarding.”

The councilors are not sure Largess is all that dispensable, but they are not planning to change the residency requirements for board service. However, they agreed to break practice of basic letters of appreciation to outgoing volunteers and next week expect to sign a detailed litany of his work on a special certificate currently being drafted.

Burning

The councilors next week are due to receive legal and fire department reports on a proposed ordinance governing outdoor burning, including a proposed requirement that no outdoor burn-ing be allowed unless authorized by a permit costing $25. Once the wording is acceptable to them, the councilors will set a public hear-ing date on the matter.

The ordinance was drafted after Fire Marshal Arthur Christman reported some weeks ago that confusion existed about current rules on outdoor burning. Incidents in recent weeks were the first time he had met such “unreasonable” response in his more than 20 years in public serv-ice, as fire marshal, he told the council. Christman asked the council for immediate action.

The councilors assigned staff to develop his proposals. Christman seemed to interpret the process as lack of support for his situation. “If I am not helped, I will not do it any more. It is not right to get abused by anyone,” he said. “No one wants you abused,” the councilors emphasized, and they were not abusing him by seeking a comprehensive law.

In addition to outdoor burning regulations, other proposed ordi-nances due to be discussed Aug. 9 involve efforts to develop a noise ordinance and proposed revisions to road and right-of-way regula-tions.

Costs

It may get more expensive for non-profits to conduct events that raise money for their causes. The councilors assigned town staff to evaluate costs to the town for police and other town services for events, especially those attracting many people and vehicles.

A similar brief review more than a year ago was turned aside by observations that the events attract tourists and other cus-tomers to local businesses and costs should be part of town expenses.

However, budgeting scrutiny in recent years has included sev-eral revisions or additions of fees to reflect increasing costs to the town. This thinking is reflected in such increased fees as those for use of the transfer station, and for recreation programs.

No figures were cited in con-junction with talks last month, which will be continued at the upcoming Aug. 9 meeting. The councilors said no fees would be applied to approvals they gave that night for the rescheduled fire-works event that has been moved from Fort Wetherill to Mackerel Cove for Aug. 13, and for the sanctioned pre-ironman triathlon on Aug. 21 to benefit Henderson High School Alumni and the Jamestown Teen Center.

Deer

The councilors are due on Aug. 9 to decide how to set up a com-mittee that would help them find ways to control the island’s deer population. Last month, Council Vice President Julio DiGiando proposed such a committee but he and his colleagues could not agree on requirements for committee members and the committee’s assignment. DiGiando wanted to focus on the deer while other councilors wanted all animal con-cerns to be covered.

Whether to hunt deer or how to hunt deer to cull the herd was much-debated over many months last year, only to be set aside by a legal ruling that eliminated any action at Beavertail State Park last season. It already has been pre-dicted that no action will result during this hunting season that opens Oct. 1. The state Department of Environmental Management formulates rules each spring for the next hunting season, conducts hearings, and makes decisions months before the season’s opening. Meanwhile, residents are reporting major problems because of the growing number of deer on the island.

Exemptions

The councilors hope to get more answers at their next meet-ing so they can move forward with a proposal for tax exemp-tions for people with disabilities. The ordinance was spurred by Gemma Guinguing of Intrepid Lane, the reigning Miss Deaf Rhode Island. She initially asked that deaf people be eligible for the same tax exemptions as blind people. Her request led to a plan to extend the exemptions to all people with disabilities if they meet low-income standards.

Guinguing supports the inclu-sion of people with other disabili-ties but continues to question the reason for applying an income standard that is not applied to all tax exemptions. She also has said that she feels the council has not been sensitive to her cause because few members have attempted to communicate with her about their differences or about the implications of their expanded proposal.

Farms

The councilors last month renamed the Farmland Protection Committee. It is now the Farmland Acquisition Com-mittee. The councilors also reaf-firmed the appointment of three members — Jack Hubbard, Anne Garnett and Jerry McIntyre — for a year’s term, with the future of the committee to be determined next year. If the committee is to continue, the terms will be stag-gered.

In addition, the councilors agreed to ask the committee to give an initial report by the end of August, and to otherwise keep the council informed about the posi-tions of other groups with which the committee is to work. Councilor Barbara Szepatowski noted that the members represent “a strong group,” and they and councilors need to realize that the council is to be involved and make the decisions about the town’s commitment to acquiring farmland.

The committee members, all land bargaining experts, were named to a panel to negotiate pur-chase of developmental rights to 160 acres of farmland owned by three parties. If purchased, the farmland would be part of more than 1,000 contiguous acres of land protected by public or con-servation organization ownership in the island’s so-called Center Island District.

Purchase of developmental rights of farmland is being dis-cussed by local, state, and federal agencies with conservation groups and private-funding sources.

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