Resident parking permits debated
The Jamestown Town Council approved police Chief Ed Mello’s amendments to the parking ordinance with the changes the chief made after listening to residents’ and councilors’ comments at the May 6 public hearing.
Mello did not attend Monday night’s meeting; in his absence, Town Administrator Bruce Keiser summarized the final revisions.
Specifically, Mello decided not to install a four-way stop sign at the corner of Watson and Pemberton avenues after residents argued the four-way sign was unnecessary at that location, Keiser said.
The chief also compromised on the plan to restrict parking on one side of Hamilton Avenue to residents only. After Councilor Thomas Tighe, a former police chief, pointed out Hamilton would become the first street where a resident parking permit was required and the council would be setting a precedent, Mello agreed to drop the concept of the resident sticker and require a recreation department parking sticker, instead.
Keiser explained the goal was to stop beach-goers who were parking on Hamilton to avoid paying at the Mackerel Cove Beach parking lot. However, issuing a resident parking permit could have unintended consequences, Tighe suggested, and Mello decided to use a recreation department sticker instead.
“Chief Tighe indicated this (resident permit) could open up a lot of demand from the public,” Keiser said and added “we’ll likely get requests from other streets in the village.”
Councilor Eugene Mihaly pointed out “this discussion clearly must be arcane to many people in the room,” and he summed up the council’s position, saying, “we don’t want resident permit parking anywhere because we figure it’s a Pandora’s box.”
The rec department sticker would also allow non-residents to use parking at Head’s Beach.
Mello asked the councilors to amend the parking ordinance to include the town’s specific parking and traffic regulations, including stop sign locations, so the traffic court could legally fine violators.
In a related matter, Jamestown will revive the traffic committee, but not as a panel of citizens to advise the councilors, as the original traffic committee existed in the past. Councilor Thomas Tighe had suggested re-establishing the committee, but Tighe and Dickinson voted against this new parking committee because of its composition. The original panel, Tighe said, consisted of citizens, including a member of the Harbor Management Commission, the business association and Jamestown Shores. “It worked well for 15 years,” Tighe said and added he does not see why the same formula would not work now.
However, the new committee, as proposed by Councilor Mary Meagher, will include the town administrator, the police chief, the town planner, and two councilors.
Dickinson called the new committee the same old familiar faces and questioned why a couple of members of the public should not be appointed.
Keiser said the reason was, in the staff’s experience, private citizens tended to “filter” the issues through their personal perspectives and did not add value to the committee.
Trocki said she would not want private citizens making traffic decisions for the town, but Tighe said the citizens on the old parking committee did not make any decisions. They merely brought the issue to the council with a recommendation based on a consultation with town staff.
Meagher said she intended to strike a compromise between the old parking committee and the police department’s ad hoc committee, which has been making the parking and traffic decisions. Ultimately, the council voted 3-2 to re-establish the parking committee with Dickinson and Tighe voting against.
Historic district plans
In other business, the town’s first Historic District Commission, which will be charged with adjudicating building issues in Shoreby Hill, will be an independent commission, the councilors indicated Monday. The council had considered a request from Michael Swistak, chairman of the Planning Commission, to give the authority to the planning board, instead of appointing a new and separate commission.
Town Solicitor Peter Ruggieri researched the legal issues and said Jamestown would need to petition the General Assembly for enabling legislation because Jamestown would be the only community in Rhode Island vesting its planning commission as the historic district commission, and the language of the state statute would have to be amended. As a compromise, the councilors said they may opt to appoint two sitting members of the Planning Commission to the new historic district commission, if the planning commission members still want to serve. The state statute also calls for the council president to make the historic district appointments. Ruggieri also researched whether that provision comes into conflict with the town charter. Although the charter typically calls for a majority on the town council to make most decisions, he said, it is silent on the matter of appointments. He concluded he can craft the language of the town’s historic district ordinance to fit the state statute without Jamestown’s petitioning the General Assembly for a special amendment. Bidding weighted toward locals
Jamestown will ask state lawmakers to change the rules about competitive bidding to allow the town to give local firms an advantage, the councilors decided Monday night.
Current state law requires the towns to award contracts to the lowest qualified bidder. The council is asking state lawmakers for the legal backing to award the jobs to local companies able to match the low bid.
Councilor Blake Dickinson called the measure a “slippery slope” but said he would back “shooting it up the flag pole” to see the General Assembly’s reaction.
Ruggieri, predicted the General Assembly would debate the issues vigorously because a change in the competitive bidding law would have statewide impact.
“Do you want to be creative?” Council President Kristine Trocki asked, and the council voted to go ahead and explore the General Assembly option.
Ruggieri said two Rhode Island communities have passed their own local preference ordinances but without enabling legislation from the state. He does not recommend that route, he said, because those communities could be sued by disappointed bidders.