2010-06-24 / Front Page

Controversy over LNG threat panel

By Phil Zahodiakin

The proposal to site a liquefied natural gas terminal in Mt. Hope Bay raised some controversy during this week’s Town Council meeting. The council, which met June 21, also addressed some fi- nancial issues – and made a signifi cant donation in support of a Jamestown landmark.

The Jamestown LNG Threat Committee, which was established to keep tabs on the Weaver’s Cove LNG proposal, met at the same time as the council. The meeting featured a presentation from the LNG Working Group – a panel of local experts that has been tracking the LNG proposal since last fall.

During the council meeting, council member Ellen Winsor noted a Weaver’s Cove request for a video of – and any printed materials distributed during – the May 17 council meeting, which included a presentation by the LNG Working Group.

The town has informed Weaver’s Cove that the town of Jamestown does not film its meetings, and noted that any filming is “performed by the Jamestown Record, a private website not affiliated with the town.”

So informed, Weaver’s Cove attended the LNG Threat Com- mittee meeting with its own video gear. Although anyone has the right to film or record public meetings, Winsor warned that a Weaver’s Cove presence at future Threat Committee meetings could potentially affect “strategy discussions.”

Winsor, who said she noted the taping “to express concern on behalf of our community,” also tried to re-introduce for council acceptance a Working Group resolution against the Weaver’s Cove proposal. The resolution has been adopted by the Fall River, Portsmouth and Warren Town Councils – with votes by other coastal communities, including Bristol, Tiverton and a Native American tribe, said to be imminent.

The council has previously voted down the resolution – and refused to discuss it.

Council member Bob Bowen said that an upcoming “Congress of Councils” is intended to bring together voting quorums of Narragansett Bay-area councilors for the purpose of building a coalition against the LNG facility, adding that this gathering – which will be held in late July – will provide Jamestown with a venue in which to work together with other towns on the issue.

Bowen also said that the Threat Committee has been charged with providing recommendations to the council; however, committee members who briefly addressed the councilors after their meeting didn’t mention the resolution. Committee vice chairman Dick Lynn offered to “quarterback” preparations for the Congress of Councils, adding that the congress “is an extremely important measure.”

But the videotaping issue reemerged unexpectedly when, during council discussions on a different issue, Winsor said that the individual who had taped the Threat Committee meeting was still present in Town Hall – nearly two hours after the committee meeting had concluded.

Despite the alarm expressed by Winsor, the council, which was burdened by a massive agenda for its meeting, continued with its scheduled work.

Asked if there was any particular reason that the videographer lingered in Town Hall after the Threat Committee meeting, Weaver’s Cove public affairs director Marcia MacClary told the Press that the individual was waiting to see if the Threat Committee would address the council – but ultimately decided that the process of setting up video equipment would be too intrusive and distracting while the meeting was in progress.

MacClary also said that Weaver’s Cove was present at the Threat Committee meeting of its own accord, and that its only contact with the committee occurred when the company inquired about the meeting schedule.

In other business, the Town Council:

• Reviewed the verbiage for signage that the town will post to reduce public safety risks posed by fishermen casting their lines from the wood-pile pier at East Ferry. The signs are intended to discourage, among other things, casting “when a boat is approaching or leaving the harbor or touchand go [dock].” The signage was discussed against the backdrop of an incident report sent to Police Chief Thomas Tighe – and the council – by Conanicut Marine Services president Bill Munger. Town Administrator Bruce Keiser noted that an individual assigned to monitor parking infractions will be tasked with watching for violations of the signage, and contacting the police department if violations are observed.

• Agreed to donate $10,000 to the Beavertail Lighthouse Museum Association – and to consider an additional $15,000 grant before the 2011-12 fiscal year. BLMA Board members Varoujan Karentz and Tony Antine told the council that town donations will help immeasurably with securing matching grants from philanthropic groups – while also spurring local residents to pitch in. The BLMA is poised to start extensive renovations inside the keeper’s quarters, which will house the planned museum expansion.

• Learned from Keiser that the General Assembly, as expected, has eliminated motor vehicle excise tax refunds to municipalities. The Assembly has also enacted legislation enabling municipalities to tax all but $500 of vehicle value; however, Keiser noted that Jamestown, having anticipated the loss of this revenue, will stick with the 17-cent property tax increase intended to offset the loss – and not propose any vehicle taxation.

• Considered the possibility of selling a limited number of nonresident passes for access to Ft. Getty, where a day-pass costs $15. Bowen noted that for non-residents who would like to fish at the park frequently, the daily fee is prohibitively expensive, and suggested a charge of $100 for a seasonal pass. He added that luring fishermen to the park would “offload some of the fishing demand at East Ferry” – thereby reducing the public safety risks from soaring fishhooks.

• Voted down a Winsor proposal – during the preceding Board of Water and Sewer meeting – for an ad hoc “think tank” to explore new technologies and financing opportunities for future infrastructure repairs. The council felt that the technological inquiries pursued by the group would duplicate some of the major – and publicly available – Dept. of Transportation investigations into the same subjects.

The next meeting of the Town Council will be Tuesday, July 6, at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.

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