Town Council sworn in
Posted on a wall in the northeast corner of the Town Hall’s council chambers, a plain, no-nonsense sign declares that, for safety’s sake, the state fire marshal wants no more than 114 people to congregate in that space at any one time.
On Monday night, Jamestowners didn’t conform, as a raucous, overcrowded room of residents were on hand for the swearing in and inaugural meeting of the newly elected Town Council.
A festive, standing-room-only crowd saw Democrat Kristine Trocki elected president of the new council by her peers. Fellow Democrat
Mary Meagher was chosen to be the board’s vice president. The votes were unanimous, with “yeas” coming from Democrats Thomas Tighe and Eugene Mihaly, as well as from the board’s lone Republican, Blake Dickinson.
Three members of the School Committee – Catherine Kaiser, Julia Held and Ryan Conlon – also were sworn in, along with John Murphy for the post of town moderator.
From the outset, it was clear that the majority of the packed house had come mainly to congratulate and celebrate the elevation of Jamestown’s newly elected leaders. Handshakes, hugs and kisses abounded, as family and friends snapped pictures of themselves with the winning politicians.
The swearing-in duties fell to Jamestown resident and retired Superior Court Judge Francis J. Darigan Jr., who began by noting that, as he offered his best wishes to the winners of the recent elections, he also lauded the opponents who ran but fell short. In either case, he said, the office seekers were to be commended.
“Nothing is more satisfying and strengthening of a community than participatory democracy,” Darigan told the crowd, which included U.S. Sen. Jack Reed and state Rep. Deb Ruggiero.
Once installed, the new council members assumed their seats and went about selecting their own leaders. Meagher began by nominating Trocki to be the council’s president. She described Trocki, an attorney with a Jamestownbased practice, as “not only gracious, but smart,” and noted that while Trocki, 42, was the youngest among them, she was also “wise beyond her years.” (Meagher is 58, Tighe and Mihaly are both in their 70s, and Dickinson is 45.)
Meagher then invoked the wisdom that “the young shall lead,” as she made a motion to nominate Trocki. Mihaly seconded the motion, and the subsequent assent was unanimous.
Trocki followed by nominating
Meagher as the council’s vice president, pointing out that Meagher had many years of experience in various aspects of local government and called her “a great leader.”
Meagher is, in fact, the only member with previous experience on the council, having served one term from 1991-93. She also was a member of the 1990 community plan committee, spent nine years on the library’s building panel, and was chairwoman of the Fort Getty Master Plan Committee from 2004 to 2009. She also has been a member of the Building and Facilities Committee since 2010.
After a break for refreshments and the departure of many of the well-wishers in the audience, the council turned to deal with a light agenda that included annual license renewals for many of Jamestown’s businesses, particularly those serving food and alcoholic beverages.
Prominent among the transactions was the proposed transfer of the food, beverage and entertainment licenses from the former Trattoria Simpatico, owned by Phyllis Bedard, to a company called ESJ Inc., owned by Newport resident Ben Brayton. Brayton recently purchased the operation from Bedard.
The most noteworthy detail of the proposal, which was approved by the council, was that the restaurant and bar, which is currently closed for renovations, will be renamed Simpatico Jamestown when it reopens.
In other business, the council awarded two contracts totaling more than $20,000 to the Bostonbased ATS Equipment company. Town Engineer Michael Gray told the council that the larger of the two expenditures, nearly $11,000, would allow the town to install a new generator to power the highway garage during electrical emergencies. Gray said the rest of the money would pay for a mobile light tower to illuminate afterhours emergency work on roads and other town facilities.
Police Chief Edward Mello delivered a slide show to the council that detailed the town’s day-byday response to the emergencies spawned by Hurricane Sandy late last month. His presentation included dramatic photographs of the damaging effects of the storm, including the debris swath – “mountains of sand,” said Mello – that temporarily closed the road behind Mackerel Cove.
The pictures also showed heavy damage to the access road to the pier at Fort Getty, as well as damage to the town-owned wood pier at East Ferry, which Mello said had half of its decking torn off by the storm surge. He said the town would soon inspect the pier for structural damage, and added that the town would need to monitor areas along Bay View Drive, Freebody Drive and a number of other places that were left “susceptible to future erosion.”
The good news, Mello reported, was that officials of the Federal Emergency Management Agency had been in town earlier in the day, and, after inspecting damaged areas, agreed that the town would be eligible to apply for federal reimbursement of up to 75 percent of the cost of making repairs and restoration as a result of storm damage. Those costs have yet to be determined.
Town Administrator Bruce Keiser praised the combined efforts of town employees and volunteers in dealing with the hurricane, citing the “absolutely astonishing” amount of work they performed, putting in long hours on short sleep during and after the hurricane.
The council’s final order of business was to schedule a public work session for Monday, Nov. 26, at 7 p.m. to discuss the mechanics – “rules, procedures and meeting schedules” – of how it would conduct itself over its coming two-year term.
The council also put off until its December meeting discussion of the appointments of a town solicitor, probate judge, town sergeant and council liaisons to the various town boards. In the meantime, the council, at the urging of Blake Dickinson, agreed to encourage anyone interested in filling those positions to submit their names and qualifications to the council.