2007-12-28 / Front Page

Highway barn tops 2007 island news-making events

By Sam Bari

The original Town Hall, shown here in its Christmas finery, found a new home in 2007 as the council chambers for the new Town Hall. Photo by Vic Richardson The original Town Hall, shown here in its Christmas finery, found a new home in 2007 as the council chambers for the new Town Hall. Photo by Vic Richardson The year 2007 saw several major changes for the town of Jamestown. Some have brought the island together in a united stand, others have caused deep divisions between advocates of opposing beliefs, and still others have been thought provoking and sometimes heart-wrenching, but all have peaked readers' interest.

Highway barn finally approved

The location of the much needed highway barn was a controversial issue for well over a decade. Island residents voted on the location years ago; factions opposed the vote, and the matter was tangled in a web of political and legal maneuvering that caused deep divisions amongst residents and administrations alike.

Three potential sites were being considered to locate the facility: Lots 47 and 48 at the town's transfer station property, and a parcel on Taylor Point partially owned by the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority (RITBA). However, pointing to economic and environmental concerns, Lot 48, which had recently been added as a potential barn site was removed from consideration.

The debate over the issue then focused on Lot 47 and the bridge authority property at Taylor Point. Citizen opinions were sharply divided.

North end citizens groups vehemently opposed Lot 47, citing their concerns about well contamination, even though environmental engineers hired to analyze the possibilities for contamination gave the area a clean bill of health. Taylor Point opponents appealed to the council to listen to the recommendations of experts who had concluded that Lot 47 didn't pose a significant environmental risk.

This year proved to be the year that islanders had enough, and voters approved the Taylor Point site with a vote of 934 to 753. If all goes as planned, the highway barn will be completed within a year.

Land Trust almost

buys the farms

Roadside signs announcing a $4 million, two-month fund-raising effort to be used toward the $11 million purchase of development rights of 160 acres of farmland had Jamestown residents talking for months.

Islanders and visitors were surprised to find a portion of North Main Road lined with cowboards - life-sized, black and white, wooden, livestock cutouts with messages. For those old enough to appreciate their nostalgia, the signs recalled the era of Burma Shave ads that lined roadways, starting in 1925, until superhighways and billboards sped them into extinction after the 1950s.

Just as the Burma Shave signs combined ads, humor and calls for driving safety, the Jamestown cowboards combined a message and a mission to help raise funds to preserve the island agricultural resources in perpetuity.

The cowboards did their job. The funds were raised and the land was set for purchase. Unfortunately, because of a dispute over building rights on the land, the Land Trust pulled out of the deal last week. In an emergency meeting of the Town Council, alternative methods for making the purchase were decided.

Jamestown celebrated

350 years of history

The celebration of Jamestown's 350th birthday was the social event of the year. Festivities began with a parade commemorating the 1657 purchase of Quononacutt Island from the Narragansett tribe. Crowds lined Narragansett Avenue to catch a glimpse of colorful floats, shiny horses and flag-toting scouts.

A color guard led the procession to its first stop at the newly completed municipal building, directly across the street from the Jamestown Museum. Town delegates spilled out of a surrey drawn by a team of twin chocolate horses. The flag-bearing guard stood tall as state and local officials stepped forward for the dedication of the town hall. Witnesses cheered for the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

And that's not all the spectators caught. Soaring sweets accented the celebration like graffiti at a ticker tape parade. Packets of sweet bread slices launched from the Portuguese American Citizens Club float landed in the arms of onlookers. Those lucky enough to bag a treat waved in thanks to the red and green vehicle.

The weeklong celebration included special displays at the library and museum, presentations by the Historical Society, a sunset cruise, sidewalk chalk art contests, walking and trolley tours, a variety of live music performances, and food to satisfy even the most discriminating palate.

Tall Ships visited

Narragansett Bay

The tall ships started arriving early for the 2007 Tall Ships Festival, scheduled for June 28 to 30. The highlight was the Parade of Sail on Sunday, July 1. Jamestown offered an abundance of excellent locations along the East Passage for magnificent views of the longanticipated event.

This year, 22 ships participated in the four-day festival and parade. Ships came from as far away as India, Indonesia, the Cook Islands, Brazil, Columbia and Germany.

The Parade of Sail was led by Rhode Island's own Providence, a 110-foot square topsail sloop, followed by the impressive Cisne Branco from the Brazilian Navy. The 254-foot, steel hulled clipper ship carried 23,627 square feet of sail, had more than a 34-foot beam and a 15-foot, 9-inch draft. Equally impressive was the 267-foot Gorch Foch II, a three-mast barque from Kiel, Germany, as well as the 249- foot Gloria, another three-mast bark that sailed from Colombia.

The parade of ships sailed out of Newport Harbor, up the bay, past Rose Island and under the Pell Bridge, around Gould Island and headed back down the bay, passed Jamestown, and out to sea to their next port of call. Spectators, like the visiting ships, came from around the globe to witness the spectacular event.

Charrette gives residents a

chance to voice their opinion

According to an Internet dictionary, the word charrette may refer to any collaborative session in which a group of designers drafts a solution to a design problem.

Thanks to Town Planner Lisa Bryer, consultants met with local residents and ideas were exchanged and discussed, and recommendations for the future of downtown Jamestown were made through the charrette process.

The state praised the local effort, which successfully joined residents' ideas with consultants' explanations. The status of work is detailed on the web site at www. jamestownvision.org.

The town planner described the consultants as responsible for using form-based zoning for: downtown zoning, affordable housing, and for impacts on the entire island. Bryer identified the existing zones on the island, which are open space, public, residential, and commercial districts. The current zoning system used by the town is Euclidian, or traditional, zoning. Traditional zoning divides the municipality into a series of mapped districts, and then assigns permitted uses to each zone.

The ongoing story of the charrette was an inspiration to surrounding municipalities that commended Jamestown for its efforts to involve residents in the molding of the community at the most intimate levels.

New Town Hall

blends old and new

The story of the building of the new Town Hall couldn't have been better if it were a work of fiction. The project from planning to completion was an overwhelming success. On time, and on budget, the award-winning structure won the hearts and support of residents and visitors alike.

The magnificent design by Jamestown resident and architect Bill Burgin and construction by contractors Richard and Ronald Pazzuco of Cranston, was as close to flawless as any project of this magnitude could possibly be.

A pre-opening tour showed a typical work-in-progress construction scene, with sawdust being vacuumed and signs of incompleteness. Dust aside, it was hard to miss the excitement of town workers and island residents welcoming the new facilities.

A pristine 10,400-square-foot complex of offices was appended to the renovated old town hall built in 1883, of nearly 2,400 square feet, to create a spacious town council meeting room for 100 people.

The new municipal center, with white exterior and green window sashes, was opened to the public for viewing without concern about unpainted walls, hanging wires and assorted unfinished sections, as part of the town's celebration of the 350th anniversary of its purchase by colonists from the Narragansett Indians, whose relics continue to be unearthed on the island.

The new Town Hall opened on Thursday, Oct. 4. Town employees now serve residents in need of public records and municipal services in a pleasant and attractive environment in a facility that offers unprecedented efficiency and ease of navigation, and especially secure record storage. The completed facility is the pride of the town and has more than lived up to its expectations.

David Swain

arrested for murder

This ongoing, heartbreaking story has been making headlines and front page news for over seven years.

Former Town Council vice president David Swain, owner of Ocean State Scuba on North Main Road, was arrested Wednesday, Nov. 14, at his business location on a charge that he murdered his wife, Shelley Arden Tyre, 46, while they were scuba diving in 1999 in the British Virgin Islands.

The arrest was made on a warrant by the BVI court, as prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Lee Vilker in U.S. District Court for Rhode Island, in conjunction with extradition proceedings under a treaty with the United Kingdom.

District Judge Lincoln Almond ordered Swain be held without bail pending an extradition hearing set for Wednesday, Nov. 21, in Providence.

Swain has continued to deny that he killed his wife in waters off the BVI island of Tortola.

Vilker wrote in his court complaint calling for the extradition that there was "overwhelming circumstantial evidence" that Swain killed his wife while they were scuba diving.

New Town Council elected

Some 4,506 residents, most of them not affiliated with any political party, were eligible to vote for municipal leaders in an election that completed the charter changes started five years ago.

Of the registered voters, 1,062 were Democrats and 716 were Republicans. Some 2,728 were registered as unaffiliated with any political party.

On Nov. 6, the registered voters chose five Town Council members for two-year terms from among 10 candidates, and two School Committee members for four-year terms from among three hopefuls. They also voted on the reelection of Democrat James A. Donnelly, who ran unopposed for town moderator for a two-year term.

The Democrats were Julio Di- Giando, going for a third term; one term incumbents William Kelly, and Michael Schnack; Robert Sutton, a first-time council candidate; and Michael White, in his second try for a council seat.

Republicans wanting council seats were Barbara Szepatowski, who tied Long as top vote getter in the last election, her first campaign; David DeAngelis, Republican first-time candidate; and Frederick W. Glomb, a first-time candidate.

Candidates who were not affiliated with a political party were Sav Rebecchi, and new candidate Ellen Winsor.

The results of the election for town council showed Robert Sutton with the most votes followed by Julio DiGiando, William Kelly, Barbara Szepatowski and Michael White.

Teen Center finds

home in community center

Teen Coordinator Melissa Minto had her hands full with trying to turn a section of the community center into the new headquarters for island teen activities.

Minto worked with Town Administrator Bruce Keiser and local architect Ron Di- Mauro to come up with a plan for the space.

The basic idea was to tear down a couple of walls in the former harbormaster's office at the northeast corner of the building, Minto said. In addition to the office space, a couple of large storage closets were included in the teen center plan. In all, the area for teens was about 29- by 45- feet.

Among the features of the center was a lounge with seating and a television for watching movies, and the other side included a com- puter station and quiet area for doing homework and other projects.

DiMauro volunteered the services of his Jamestown architectural firm and worked hard to come up with a design, said Keiser. Input was solicited from the teens, and the Conanicut Community Coalition, the group that originally wrote the grant to start the teen center in Jamestown.

Minto said she had met with folks from the Rhode Island Foundation, who expressed interest in the teen center project and offered some funding.

"I don't know how long it will take," she added, "but I'd like to see it cranked out" by the end of January.

So far, everything is close to schedule, and the grand opening is planned for February. The town praises Minto and all who were involved in the planning, funding, and creation of the long awaited center for teens.

Dutch Island

light renovated and lit

A dozen cars and twice as many people lined the shore at Fort Getty on the Jamestown side of Dutch Island on Saturday, Nov. 16. All eyes were focused on the freshly painted Dutch Island Lighthouse tower that was bathed in white light. At approximately 7:18 p.m., a red light blinked 42-feet above ground atop the tower.

A cheer went up from the small crowd. Four seconds later, the light blinked again for two seconds. The light in the 1857 Dutch Island Lighthouse had completed its first cycle in more than 28-years.

"Now it will stay on every night, 24/7, 365 days a year," Dutch Island Lighthouse Society director Scott Chapin said.

After years of fund-raising, through donations, the sale of T-shirts, and applying for government grants, the faithful and diligent society members raised more than $135,000 with an additional $120,000 in a grant from the Rhode Island Department of Transportation. The light itself was made possible by a contribution from an anonymous donor.

Richard Ventrone, Jr., an architect from Newport Collaborative Architects, designed the lighthouse exterior to restore the structure and reflect its historic appearance. Olga Bachilova, director of preservation at NCA worked closely with Keith Lescarbeau, owner of Abcore Restoration, the contracting company awarded the restoration project.

The restoration included interior and exterior repairs, removal of years of guano deposits, replacement of floors and metal work, and the repair of interior stairs. Graffiti and rust stains have been painted over, and the tower now has a white, stucco finish. The pump house next to the tower has also been restored and painted.

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