Highway barn saga continues on May 21
Town Councilors, at the meeting on Monday, set a date for a public forum on highway barn issues for Monday, May 21, to start after the regular water and sewer meeting that opens at 7 p.m. in the town library.
They also set Tuesday, May 29 as the meeting date at which they will make a decision on what to do about the barn location.
The schedule was developed after Bolger asked to schedule a presentation about his views on the barn issues.
Among the speakers at the May 21 hearing, resident Pat Bolger has asked to give a 15-minute presentation.
Councilor William Kelly asked what Bolger wanted to discuss. Bolger said Town Administrator Bruce Keiser gave a 45-minute presentation to the council on April 8, after which David Long said he needed time to evaluate the information. Bolger said he wanted to make comments on that information and ask questions.
Councilor Michael Schnack said, "If we let you, we have to let everyone else. I'm not saying we shouldn't allow you. It could drag on for months or years if we allow all requests to give it their own spin. If we do it, we should do it all in one night."
Councilor William Kelly said, "I don't know how much new information there is to add. Ten minutes should be adequate."
Resident Sav Rebecchi asked, "Assuming the council (members) decide among yourselves about a location, will we still need state legislative approval for a referendum?"
Keiser clarified that state approval is needed if the matter is set for the November ballot or a special election, and that state approval is not needed if the matter is put to a financial town meeting. The state legislature is in session until late June, so its approval needs to be scheduled soon for action this year.
Bolger tried to clarify when the public would have time to air their concerns. Council Vice President Julio DiGiando said the council had not yet made any decision, and was awaiting information about a small parcel the town wants to buy from the Rhode Island Bridge and Turnpike Authority to combine with a town parcel as a possible barn location. "We have time constraints," DiGiando said.
Bolger said Monday's request was the third time he has asked about a public presentation. DiGiando suggested the council could not decide about that until one of its May meetings. Keiser asked about a special workshop session. Kelly said it would be late May. It was noted that any meeting could be scheduled with 48 hours notice.
DiGiando said, "We need to let the public speak." The councilors decided to have the hearing on May 21.
They determined if they decide May 29 how they want to handle the barn matter, they could not bring the matter to the annual town finance meeting on June 4. Keiser said they could schedule a special town finance meeting anytime with proper notice.
Some members called for advance notice from residents wanting to speak, or for time limitations on presentations.
Town Clerk Arlene Petit urged an advance setting of rules, and said a sign up sheet at the session would be helpful. Councilors indicated the sign-up sheet would be provided, but did not specify a time limitation.
The bridge authority was scheduled to discuss at its annual meeting yesterday its position about the town's request for use or purchase of any authority property. It was one of several matters on a lengthy authority agenda at the town police headquarters conference room.