Council adopts coyote guidelines
Jamestown this week adopted a package of guidelines and recommendations as a source of “offi cial” information that the town could use to reduce threats from Conanicut island coyotes.
The Town Council voted for adoption by a 4-to-1 margin during its April 5 meeting. The “best management practices” were developed by local biologist Numi Mitchell, who has researched coyote behavior on Aquidneck and Conanicut islands since 2005.
Mitchell last fall asked the council to consider an enforceable ordinance that would have regulated wild animal feeding. The draft ordinance was unanimously defeated because, as one councilor complained, it would have been a drastic intrusion into islanders’ lives.
Mitchell, who has warned that coyote intrusions could become much more drastic without a unifi ed response to their behavior, reproposed her recommendations without the regulatory language – although the document says an ordinance may be necessary if coyote abundance and aggression increases.
Other recommendations include the following:
• Islanders should be educated about the consequences of inten- tionally or inadvertently feeding coyotes, which adapt their behaviors to the availability of food sources.
• Islanders who provide outdoor food to feral or domestic cats should be advised against serving the food at ground level.
• Island towns should consider allowing some deer hunting if they don’t already do so.
• Farmers should adopt a “dead livestock disposal strategy” if they are unable to bury carcasses below three feet of earth.
A recommendation to provide pick-up services and composting facilities for farm animal carcasses led to some council discussion on the possibility of composting carcasses at the transfer station.
At this point, it’s unclear if the Dept. of Environmental Management permit allowing the town to compost grass and yard waste at the transfer station would apply to carcasses. However, council member Ellen Winsor argued that the transfer station would be an inappropriate site for carcass composting.
“I completely support the recommendations against feeding coyotes, but we are a sole source aquifer,” Winsor said, “and I am opposed to adopting a document that even implies that we would support building a [animal carcass] composting facility at the transfer station, as Numi has discussed in an email to me.”
Jamestown’s landfill still hasn’t been properly closed, Winsor said, adding, “I won’t support these recommendations en masse unless we add a caveat saying we’re not endorsing a [animal carcass] composting facility at the transfer station.”
Earlier, Mitchell had said that the animal composting facility would not lead to ground water contamination because the carcasses would be held in a sealed and impermeable bin. She also said that DEM “told me that there wouldn’t be any more odor than you would have from leaf mulch.”
Town Administrator Bruce Keiser said that any proposal for a carcass composting facility “would require further research to determine if it would be beneficial without doing harm” because “we would have to resolve the leachate question and whether the transfer station is the best location.”
Council President Mike Schnack said that “we could spend 20 years arguing about the best location for a composting facility,” adding that the BMP document doesn’t lock Jamestown into a composting facility or specify a location for it.
Council member Bob Bowen observed that the motion before the councilors only proposes “adoption of the document as guidance” – and the motion passed with the support of every councilor except Winsor.
In contrast to the BMP adoption, a consensus on the future of town land at Ft. Wetherill proved to be much more elusive. DEM is keenly interested in acquiring the waterfront parcel in a trade for state land at Beavertail State Park or Dutch Island.
During a recent workshop, DEM Director Michael Sullivan said the department is particularly interested in the waterfront parcel, which includes the old highway barn, but said they’d be willing to acquire the adjacent parcel of vacant land as well.
Council members Bowen, Schnack and Mike White said they favor holding on to the waterfront property – even though Sullivan has said that DEM would not be willing to lease the waterfront property because state regulations preclude capital investment in rented property.
During the discussions, there was an emergence of support for a Dutch Island acquisition by Jamestown, even though it looks as if the town would have to relinquish the waterfront property – and its $28,000 in annual revenue from the local boat owners association – in order to acquire the island.
Winsor said the time might be ripe for a second workshop, which – unlike the DEM focus of the previous workshop – would be held to evaluate all the options on the table.
Additionally, there was support for hiring a real estate appraiser to ascertain the value of all the properties involved – including Dutch Island.
Turning to Ft. Getty, whose future also remains elusive, Schnack expressed his determination to move the town “off the dime.”
Specifically, he asked Keiser to direct the town planner and Parks and Recreation Dept. directors to prepare a package of recommendations for Ft. Getty Master Plan implementation in time for the first May meeting of the council.
In a related development, Parks and Recreation Dept. Director Bill Piva said that he would have the estimate for restroom renovations at the campground by the April 19 meeting. If the council signs off on the estimate, the work would have to start almost immediately for the job to be finished by May 20, when the campground reopens for the season.
As part of the Ft. Getty discussion, the council dissolved the Ft. Getty Master Plan Committee – although its previous mission may re-emerge under the umbrellas of other committees. The council also discharged the Wind Energy Committee, although it, too, may be reconstituted to look at the full range of renewable energy options available to the town.
In other business, the council:
• Adopted a resolution opposing state legislation that would allow expired teachers’ contracts to continue under their original terms if contract negotiations have reached an impasse.
• Adopted a resolution opposing any state legislation that would require binding arbitration to resolve an impasse in contract negotiations with teachers.
• Adopted a resolution in support of a “Blue Alert” program to quickly disseminate information about the suspects in crimes involving injuries or death among police officers.
• Adopted a resolution supporting state legislation that would prohibit “exceedingly large vessels” – such as liquefied natural gas tankers – from passing below Narragansett and Mt. Hope Bay bridges.
• Agreed to invite to Jamestown the town councils of Newport County communities for a meeting intended to craft a joint resolution against the LNG berthing and offloading facility proposed for Mt. Hope Bay.