2009-11-19 / Front Page

Mike Schnack takes the helm of new council

By Phil Zahodiakin

The first order of business at Monday’s meeting of the Town Council was the swearing-in of all newly elected town officials. In the top picture are, from left, Town Council members Ellen Winsor, Mike Schnack, Bob Bowen, Bill Murphy and Mike White. Right photo, the Honorable Justice Francis J. Darigan of R.I. Superior Court, a Jamestown resident, was on hand to conduct the swearing-in. At bottom left are School Committee members Cathy Kaiser and Julia Held. Dana Long was absent. At bottom right, Town Moderator Jim Donnelly takes the oath of office. Photos by Jeff McDonough The first order of business at Monday’s meeting of the Town Council was the swearing-in of all newly elected town officials. In the top picture are, from left, Town Council members Ellen Winsor, Mike Schnack, Bob Bowen, Bill Murphy and Mike White. Right photo, the Honorable Justice Francis J. Darigan of R.I. Superior Court, a Jamestown resident, was on hand to conduct the swearing-in. At bottom left are School Committee members Cathy Kaiser and Julia Held. Dana Long was absent. At bottom right, Town Moderator Jim Donnelly takes the oath of office. Photos by Jeff McDonough In the first official act of their inaugural meeting, the new Town Council members elected Michael Schnack as their president. After his Nov. 16 acceptance of the gavel from Town Clerk Arlene Petit, Schnack directed the councilors to nominate and vote on a vice president, and the unanimous winner – and only nominee – was Robert Bowen.

Before the first vote, Ellen Winsor had nominated returning council member Michael White to serve as president. Schnack, who was nominated by Bowen, also had a vote from council member William Murphy. The two votes for White – his own and Winsor’s – were one short of the three-vote total for Schnack.

Despite the festive atmosphere in the packed house, Schnack immediately turned to business. He requested procedural votes on the schedules for council, and sewer and water commission meetings – both of which were adopted as they stand. He also requested procedural votes on the appointments for town solicitor, town prosecutor, probate judge and town sergeant.

The votes on those appointments were held in abeyance because Winsor said that the council should have an opportunity to review the contracts for the solicitor and prosecutor. Despite the delay, or perhaps to avoid one, Town Administrator Bruce Keiser offered some information about those contracts, including the amount of the retainers for the solicitor and prosecutor.

Keiser also offered strong endorsements of the individuals providing those services to the town.

“Based on value alone,” Keiser said of Solicitor Peter Ruggiero and Prosecutor Carolyn Mannis, “[they] have done wonderful work for Jamestown, and their retainers are lower than the others that were submitted to us” in response to the town’s solicitation in 2006.

Turning to the selection of council representatives on town commissions, Bowen was cleared to remain on the Harbor Management Commission and Michael White was given a green light to keep serving as the School Committee liaison. Murphy will serve on the Town Buildings and Facilities Committee, and Schnack will represent the council on the Conservation Commission.

A break was taken for state Rep. Deborah Ruggiero, accompanied by state Sen. Teresa Paiva Weed, to distribute citations to outgoing council members. One of the commendations went to former Council President Julio DiGiando, while others went to former council members Barbara Szepatowski, Bill Kelly and Bob Sutton, who did not attend the meeting.

Returning to business, the council heard its first report from Keiser, who singled out three issues for front-burner status. The first is the proposed sale of the highway barn property at Ft. Wetherill. Now that soil testing at the site has been finished and no problems have been detected, the town should start deciding on a response to purchase proposals from the Department of Environmental Management, Conanicut Marine Services and the Jamestown Aquaculture Movement, Keiser said. He also advised the council that, as directed by the previous council, the town has reopened discussions with DEM.

The second issue Keiser identifi ed was the June 2010 expiration of three labor contracts. “Negotiations on those contracts may start in January, and I would suggest that the council hold an executive session to discuss potential negotiating strategies,” he said.

The third of the issues Keiser singled out was the date of a special meeting for the council to start discussing its long-term goals.

It was decided that a workshop on council goals – to be attended by the heads of the town departments – would be held on Dec. 3, from 5 to 7:30 p.m. It was also decided that, on the following day, the council would tour town facilities. Otherwise, Keiser said, “I would just like to assure that my door is always open to you.”

The last significant item of business involved a town planning department proposal to award a contract – not to exceed $44,755 – for design, engineering and archeological consultation in support of the School Use Land Plan. The plan recommends comprehensive improvements to fitness trails, athletic fields, sidewalks and bike routes to, from and around Jamestown schools. The consulting study, Keiser said, will enable the town to refine its cost estimates for the improvements.a

The council approved the request to award the contract, which will go to Crossman Engineering.

In business, the council discussed a proposal to amend the charge of the bike path committee in such a way that the requirement for a council member to serve on the Bike Path Planning Committee would be eliminated, thereby allowing an additional member of the public to serve on the panel. The committee was formed in 2008 for the purpose of designing one or more bike paths on the island. The proposal to create a public vacancy was offered by the committee, which wants to keep former council member Sutton, who had led the panel since its inception, engaged in its work. The proposal was adopted.

Because of the five Mondays in November, the council will not meet again for three weeks. The Council’s next meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 7.

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