2007-12-06 / Front Page

DiGiando settles in as council president

By Tom Shevlin

As the new town council settles in for its requisite two-year term, Council President Julio DiGiando is preparing himself for the task of leading a council of diverse experience levels and potentially competing priorities.

DiGiando, now in his third term on the council, hopes that those priorities will be set at an upcoming town council work session planned for early next month. The special meeting is aimed at building consensus among councilors and staff.

"We didn't do one last term," DiGiando said. "But we did my first term, and attending the first one felt good. I think it gives people a feeling like they're being listened to…I think that's important."

Making people feel like they are on the same page is something DiGiando hopes to do throughout his tenure.

First on the council president's list are two issues that should be very familiar to island residents: the completion of the town highway barn and water treatment plant. Once those projects are complete, DiGiando said that a number of unresolved issues brought up during the last council's tenure still need to be addressed.

From exploring an island wind energy project to tackling the island's rising water rates and addressing the recommendations of the town charrette, Jamestown's new town council has a full plate. Not lost on DiGiando, and at the center of that plate, is the state's Paiva-Weed legislation, which places a diminishing cap on the allowable increase in local property taxes.

According to DiGiando, as the allowable property tax increase rate diminishes, Jamestown, like other Rhode Island communities, will have to be careful not to commit the town to anything now that will pose financial woes in the future.

The challenge, according to Di- Giando, is prioritizing the town's business.

"It makes us stop and examine how we do business," he said.

High on DiGiando's personal list is addressing the deficiencies to the wood pile pier at East Ferry. DiGiando, who acts as liaison to the Harbor Commission, stressed that the pier represents an asset that the town would not be able to rebuild should it fall into irreversible disrepair.

Also topping his list is addressing the town's rising water rates.

As indicated during his reelection campaign, DiGiando views Jamestown's water supply as a critical and ongoing issue, which the town needs to address. Once the town completes renovations to the water treatment plant, DiGiando said that island residents could expect an increase in the available water supply, which if sold, should reduce rate payers' bills.

In addition to the familiar projects carrying over from the last council, DiGiando's leadership style has so far been familiar in its similarity to former council president David Long's business-like style.

"I don't know how it appears from the outside," DiGiando said. He concedes he is inclined to get things done quickly and eager to move impromptu council discussions into more formalized agenda items for further examination.

Among the new measures, apart from those left over from the previous council, that DiGiando said he would like to address is an effort to expand the town's composting program. "It would save us lots of money," to have Jamestown residents take a more active role in composting on-island rather than adding to the town's off-island waste management costs.

Another potential issue the town might consider examining, accord- to DiGiando, is determining what, if any, programs or departments could benefit from increased regional relationships. Jamestown, which already maintains a regional relationship in its school system with North Kingstown, might benefit from other such projects, DiGiando said. Examining other regionalized services that "may make sense" is something the council could consider moving forward, he added.

Thankfully, DiGiando said, he is pleased to be joined on the council by individuals he feels hold the best interest of the island at heart. In particular, DiGiando said that he was looking forward to benefiting from the experience and insight of former Town Administrator Bob Sutton.

Town councilors are next set to meet on Monday, Dec. 10, at 7 p.m. at the new Town Hall.

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