Council makes plans for next year
Town Councilors Monday were planning to cancel their regularly scheduled meeting for Dec. 27. They said they might consider some decisions at the regular Board of Water and Sewer Commissioners meeting on Dec. 19, and defer most matters until the first meeting of 2006, on Jan. 9.
Town Clerk Arlene Petit advised the council that the holiday schedule called for closing Town Hall on Friday, Dec. 23, at 11:30 a.m. and not re-opening until Tuesday, Dec. 27, at 8 a.m.
The council designated Jan. 9 for continued discussion about high groundwater problems in Jamestown Shores in conjunction with pending applications for new septic system installations in that large and densely populated development.
At that meeting, they will also conduct a full review of data and needs for work to the ball fields at the Lawn Avenue School. Parents have been asking for a commitment from town officials that would allow them to raise funds and make improvements to the playing fields. Some councilors have suggested that the council needs to make a greater and clearer commitment to the field maintenance in the town budget, and also to co-operate with the parent groups willing to contribute money and volunteer labor to upgrading the fields.
The council slated its Jan. 23 meeting for a comprehensive review of data on costs for the town to allow use of town facilities for a variety of events throughout the year, and to decide what portion of those costs should be charged to the sponsors of the event and what part should be continued to be paid by the town as its contribution to recreation and tourism, which benefits townspeople. Town officials have been collecting data about costs and related concerns about the events. Some activities are considered totally local, and others are sponsored by out of town groups, some of which already pay part of expenses incurred. The main cost is for police officers who are paid overtime rates when their services are needed at such events.
As part of planning its timetable for the upcoming new year, the council directed the town clerk to schedule a public hearing, probably for January, on the long-awaited noise ordinance.
When they last considered the noise rules at a Nov. 15 workshop, the councilors were divided. The town’s two top police officers, Chief Thomas Tighe serving as interim town administrator, and Lieutenant William Donovan serving as interim police chief, both said they would prefer the most recently proposed noise regulation to no regulations at all.
Tighe and Donovan said that having no ordinance would end what little leverage the police might have when any resident files a noise complaint. They said current breach of peace and disorderly conduct laws can be applied at least in some cases in which noise is an issue. They explained that the police respond to complaints by asking offenders to voluntarily lower the sound level. However, Tighe and Donovan said they needed a noise ordinance to be able to increase enforcement when violators refuse to co-operate. Even the disorderly conduct charge is undergoing Supreme Court scrutiny for constitutionality, Tighe noted.
Last month, Council President David Long said he believed the best action would be to have no ordinance, but he also wanted to give the police what they said they needed. Long said he wanted time to think through the information that had been presented to the council. He was concerned that an ordinance represented a “hollow” effort, Long said. Monday he said he has decided to support the noise ordinance out of deference to the police department.
Council Vice President Julio DiGiando and Councilman William Kelly also said they support the proposed noise ordinance. Councilors Michael Schnack and Barbara Szepatowski oppose it. They are convinced that any form of noise ordinance would create more problems than it would solve, and that enforcing such an ordinance would be difficult.