2008-12-31 / Front Page

Year in review

By Adrienne Downing

The year 2008 was full of headlines for Jamestown. Some of the news was sad, some celebratory and some a long time in coming. Here, in no particular order, we recap the biggest island news stories of the year.

Highway barn finally

breaks ground

After almost 20 years of trying to site and build a new highway garage for Jamestown Public Works personnel, the Town Council finally awarded a $1.7 million contract to build the new facility at its May 19 meeting.

Ten months after Jamestown voters approved the Taylor Point site by a vote of 934 to 753, ground was broken for the construction project on July 2.

The first signs of life at the site started to show on Sept. 30, with the appearance of the salt barn.

Work was briefly halted on Nov. 6 for the town to complete the purchase of 6,200 square feet of land from the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority, but otherwise work has progressed smoothly at the site. The barn is expected to be completed and ready for occupation in March 2009.

Jamestown takes center stage

in state and national elections

The election started early in Jamestown when islanders bucked a 58 to 40 percent statewide Hillary Clinton voting trend during the presidential primary and voted 56 to 44 percent in favor of presidential-hopeful Barack Obama.

Jamestowners Deb Ruggiero and Donna Perry filed in June for candidacy in the state General Assembly election.

Perry sought the District 13 senate seat held by Democrat incumbent Teresa Paiva Weed and Ruggerio squared off against 28-year assembly veteran Bruce Long in the District 74 state representative race.

Islander Jack Reed faced a nearly invisible opponent in his re-election campaign for the United States Senate seat.

When the dust settled, Weed held onto her seat and became the first women ever to win a caucus endorsement as the president of the senate.

Ruggiero surprised long-term incumbent Long when she ousted him by a 54 to 46 percent margin in both Jamestown and Middletown.

Reed received a solid endorsement from his fellow islanders, earning 74 percent of the Jamestown vote in his victory over Republican Bob Tingle.

David Swain

waives extradition

Jamestowner David Swain appeared in federal court in Providence on Jan. 25, and waived his right to fight extradition to the British Virgin Islands, where he had been criminally charged with the murder of his wife while on a scuba diving trip there in 1999.

Swain, 52, a former member of the Jamestown Town Council, was extradited to the Virgin Islands on Feb. 13. Senior Magistrate Judge Valerie Stevens ruled on July 17 that sufficient evidence was presented during a preliminary inquiry for the case to go to trial.

A trial was expected to begin in October, but a judge delayed the start of the trial until February 2009 so Swain could raise money for his defense.

Swain will remain in custody in Her Majesty's Prison, Balsam Ghut, Tortola until the start of the trial.

Newport man drowns

off Fort Wetherill

A day at Fort Wetherill turned deadly for 24-year-old Newport resident Derrick Cazard after he jumped from the cliffs at the southern end of the fort on June 30.

Cazard was visiting the park with several friends when he jumped from the cliffs about 15 feet into the water below.

After Cazard unsuccessfully attempted to scale the face of the cliffs, he swam into a crevice where friends and an onlooker tried to pull him from the water, but the current overwhelmed him.

Heavy seas caused Jamestown and United States Coast Guard personnel to abandon the search at dark. The following day, just over 24 hours after he drowned, Cazard's body was located just 100 feet from where he entered the water.

Dutch Harbor Boat Yard

changes hands

Fall brought a facelift to Dutch Harbor boat yard at the west end of Narragansett Avenue. Upgraded moorings, including new equipment and ground tackle, and a new launch were installed by the yard's new owners Alison and Larry Eichler. The Eichlers have kept the property a working boat yard.

The previous company running the boat yard went into receivership in May, causing the Town Council to debate the future of the town-leased property. The town owns part of the property that the boat yard occupies and leases it to the owners.

The town decided at a special meeting on May 30 not to participate in the bidding process at the court-mandated auction scheduled for June 4. The auction was never held because previous owner Barbara Patterson came through with eleventh-hour financing on June 2.

E-ZPass comes to

Newport Bridge

After almost a year in the making, the first cars passed through new E-ZPass Lanes at the Claiborne Pell Newport Bridge on Dec. 16.

The Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority awarded the contract to install the electronic tolling system on the bridge in September 2007, but residents of both Conanicut and Aquidneck islands had questions on how the implementation of the E-ZPass system would affect them.

RITBA held a series of public forums designed to answer questions about the new system and installation officially began on the lanes in October.

Anticipation of the new system began when the authority began taking applications for the tolling system's transponders during the first week in November.

Lines were long at RITBA's Jamestown headquarters, as Rhode Island residents came out in droves to be among the first users of the new system.

Town nets $25K from

recycling efforts

The town of Jamestown's focus on decreasing the town's trash bill and increasing its recycling efforts in 2008 paid off in the form of a $24,800 check from the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation in August. The amount was triple the funds the town received for recycling in 2007.

Town Administrator Bruce Keiser said the increased recycling paid dividends beyond the RIRRC check. By recycling the materials and sharing the profits with the state, Keiser said that $79,204.56 was actually added to the town's bottom line because the premium for the tons over the town's trash cap did not have to be paid.

Jamestown recycling rates were the eleventh highest of the 37 cities and towns in the state, with a rate of 23.28 percent. Middletown had the highest percentage rate with 34.33 percent of the town's waste recycled, while the city of Providence was the lowest with a recycling rate of 10.51 percent.

Teen center opens,

gets new director

The island's teens got a new home when the Jamestown Teen Center officially opened for business at the Jamestown Recreation Center on Feb. 15.

The center took five years from conception to completion, at times being run out of founding coordinator Melissa Minto's car.

The project was a community effort, with everything from construction help to a television being donated from the local community.

Just six months after christening the new building, Minto handed over the reins of the budding center to Deb Tungett so she could pursue a graduate degree in international agriculture and rural development at Cornell University.

Tungett, along with Recreation Director Bill Piva, have continued to develop and add programs to benefit all island teens through the center.

Lifeguards fired from

Mackerel Cove

The beach at Mackerel Cove was closed temporarily on June 26 after three lifeguards were fired for consuming alcohol while on duty at the town beach.

Two female lifeguards left their post temporarily in a vehicle and were pulled over by Jamestown police and discovered to be under the influence of alcohol after the driver hit a curb and flattened a tire. The third lifeguard remained at the beach, but was also discovered by police to have consumed alcohol while on duty at the beach.

The beach did not remain closed for long, as the three remaining lifeguards were able to staff the beach until Recreation Director Bill Piva had hired and trained three new guards within a week.

Charges were filed against the lifeguard who drove a vehicle under the influence of alcohol, but no charges were filed against the minors involved in the case.

Island named Sole

Source Aquifer

Conanicut Island was designated as a Sole Source Aquifer by the Environmental Protection Agency on Aug. 14 after a resident group petitioned the federal agency in hopes of protecting the island's water supply.

Doug Heath, from the EPA's Boston office, held a workshop in Jamestown on Feb. 13 to answer residents' questions about the specifics of what the designation would mean to the island.

The SSA was a hotly debated topic, with residents and town officials weighing in on whether the town needed federal interference in island projects.

The Town Council voted 3 to 1 in favor of supporting the petition on March 17, a week after the Conservation Commission gave their stamp of approval.

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