Teacher contracts, recycling efforts dominate Town Council concerns
Teacher contracts are due for renewal next year, and negotiations will soon begin between the teacher’s union and the school committee. The Town Council voted Monday to oppose legislation passed by the R.I. Senate, and pending House approval, that could undermine attempts to settle new contracts with teachers.
School Committee Chairwoman Kathy Kaiser said the bill eliminates the union’s incentives to negotiate with management because, if passed, it would allow current contracts to remain intact in the event of a bargaining impasse between the parties.
According to Town Administrator Bruce Keiser, “The economic climate that we are currently in has changed the dynamic between management and unions,” he said. “In a different economy this legislation would be more beneficial to management.”
However, due to these difficult economic times, teachers will have to make concessions as they negotiate new contracts, according to Keiser.
Many teachers will not be given raises, and will face higher co-pays and limited health benefi ts because communities are struggling financially. According to Keiser, there is no way communities can move forward with current teacher contracts without going “belly-up.”
School Committee Chairwoman Kaiser said many communities have already reached agreements, but since the legislation would favor union goals, “there will be more bargaining impasses if this bill goes through,” she said.
FAST sailing group
A lease has yet to be signed, but the FAST sailing group took steps Monday night to deal with the council’s concerns about the size of the building, and the organization of a sailing school, that the group wants to build at Fort Getty.
With a revised lease and downscaled plans for a building, the FAST group had hoped to cement the 20-year lease with the town, but will instead return to the council’s next regular meeting on Aug. 3 with more information for possible approval.
“I don’t think we’re far away from something we can agree to,” said Town Council President Julio DiGiando. He supported the idea of a sailing program, but was hesitant to approve the lease without more definitive designs for a structure and more information about how the town will organize its own sailing school. “You’re asking the council to commit to something vague, and I cannot in good [conscience] do that.”
Town Planner Lisa Bryer advocated for approval of the lease so that the FAST group can move forward with fundraising efforts. She reminded the council that the town would retain influence over the final design, location and signage for the new facility. “The lease is really just to set up the terms as to going forward and the terms for both sides.”
Both Councilman Robert Sutton and Councilman Bill Kelly said they had trouble visualizing town use of the facility. They asked the FAST group to provide an organizational structure for a town-operated program and to outline what type of equipment it might require.
Speaking with 10 years experience as the former director for the sailing program at the Conanicut Yacht Club, FAST group member Robert Salk said a sailing program would probably evolve into an economic asset for Jamestown. Salk said the program will develop slowly, as funding allows the town to acquire more boats, instructors, safety equipment and experience.
“A program will grow based upon the needs of the community,” Salk said, adding that the facility could be utilized for a number of water sports other than sailing, such as kayaking, rowing and canoeing and that most future costs of expansion will be covered by tuition to enter the program. “There are a number of water sports that are all very green and would be very wonderful for the community,” he said.
Council members expressed a desire to approve the lease, but all agreed that the FAST group needs to clarify its final design, plan for maintenance to the building and clarify organizational plans before entering into a contract with the town.
Although improving, James town’s recycling efforts still fall below state mandates, so the council decided to create a charge for the formation of a recycling committee that would increase public awareness and investigate ways to boost recycling performance by the town.
According to Town Administrator Keiser’s report, recycling tonnage for 2008-2009 amounted to 26.5 percent of the total solid waste generated. Even though this is a 3.5 percent increase over the previous year’s rate, the recycling rate must be 30 percent of all generated solid waste this year and by 2010-2011, it must reach 35 percent.
The Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation uses a tipping fee rate structure that will require financial penalties if Jamestown fails to meet the Senate’s mandates and exceeds the town’s solid waste cap of 2,200 tons per year. Anything over the cap will raise disposal costs from $32 to $60 per ton.
But there are also financial incentives to improving recycling efforts and producing less solid waste. Anything under the solid waste cap will decrease disposal rates to $29 per ton and save the town money.
In other business, DiGiando discussed the DEM-approved management plan for coyote populations on Aquidneck Island and Jamestown, and the council decided to invite Dr. Numi Mitchell to address the council in August for further explanation.
DiGiando attended several meetings regarding coyote management and co-existence, and said the committee wants local communities to control coyote populations by controlling their food sources. This can be done by creating carcass-composting facilities that keep coyotes from feeding freely on road kill and dead farm animals, as well as wild animals that are dumped in the woods.
The council continued its efforts to vacate the old highway facility at Fort Wetherill and move into the new barn at Taylor Point.
The Department of Public Works is trying to clean house and get rid of unused, unneeded and outdated equipment by auctioning off the items.
“This is a great way to clean up some sites and raise a little bit of cash,” said Councilman Kelly, who suggested the auction take place on Craig’s List.
Council members voted that all bids must be received by noon on Sept. 21, with all sales being final for the equipment.
DPW Director Steve Goslee said everything from tractors and plows to old police cars and pick-up trucks will be available for purchase. All sales will be “as is;” some of the old equipment isn’t operational, but can be salvaged for parts only.
In an effort to hold on to a $50,000 grant received by the town in 2005 for the development of a bicycle/walking trail along East Shore Road, the council voted to revise the original grant for a new trail plan that would connect the sanctuary on the North end to Weeden Lane via the Neale Farm.
Licenses and permits
Council members approved the Jamestown Teen Center’s application for Skatefest 2009, to be held Saturday, Aug. 1, from 1 to 5 p.m., with a rain date scheduled for Aug. 8.
Also approved was an application by the Jamestown Yacht Club to hold the annual Fool’s Rules Regatta at East Ferry Beach on Aug. 15, from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m.
The Bridge’s annual picnic at the pavilion at Fort Getty was approved for July 24 from 2 to 7 p.m.
The Jamestown Chamber of Commerce will also hold a summer fundraiser at the Fort Getty pavilion from noon until 10 p.m. on Aug. 15.