2006-03-16 / Front Page

Statehouse bills would have island impact

Municipal court among those pending
By Donna K. Drago

Two months into the 2006 General Assembly, Jamestown's lawmakers are backing bills that will enable the town to have a municipal court, change the way state Department of Environmental Management looks at lots to determine if they are suitable for septic system permits and to help alleviate new burdens the state wants to place on the harbormaster.

Rep. Bruce Long (R-Jamestown, Middletown) is working to eliminate burdensome language in the state's no-discharge law, which seeks to keep harbors and shorelines clean of boating waste.

Passed in 2004, the law with an implementation date of June 1 is causing concerns among towns that have shorelines and marinas. The sticking point, Long said, is that, under the new law, mooring permits are tied to boat owners getting their vessels' plumbing systems inspected. Because town harbormasters typically issue mooring permits, it has become a tremendous burden for them, Long said, noting that in Jamestown the harbormaster would have to inspect more than 1,000 boats in a short amount of time to comply with the law.

Some modern boats have "very sophisticated systems" that could take great periods of time to inspect, Long pointed out.

"We want to remove the inspection requirement from the mooring permit," he said of his goal.

Long said the bigger issue is that "we don't want the state sending us unfunded mandates." The DEM should be responsible, Long said.

Sen. Teresa Paiva Weed (D-Jamestown, Newport) is a sponsor of a similar bill in the senate, Long noted, and shares his desire to "start the discussion" about unfunded mandates.

Bills have been introduced in both the House and Senate to allow the town to create a municipal court to handle enforcement of local ordinances.

The bill has already passed the House, Long said, and Paiva Weed said she expected it to pass the Senate "shortly." If established, a municipal court would handle issues like traffic citations, noise and pet complaints, and money collected from fines would be the property of the town and not have to be shared with the county.

A bill that could impact future development in Jamestown is one that would require the DEM to look at the cumulative impact on an entire area when issuing individual sewage disposal systems. Currently, laws allow the DEM, the only agency that can permit septic systems, to look only at the lot for which an ISDS application is pending. "We want to develop a formula for how one lot impacts the entire area," Long said.

A similar bill, introduced by Paiva Weed, is working its way through the Senate.

Return to top