2013-06-20 / Front Page

Paddleboards could be coming to Mackerel Cove this summer

Councilors mull whether rental business should be allowed at town beach
By Margo Sullivan

The Town Council may allow a paddleboard rental outfit to set up an umbrella at the western end of Mackerel Cove Town Beach on Saturday afternoons.

Jason and Beth Hatch, owners of Jamestown Outdoors, said they would like to start in July. If the business is successful, the Hatches said they would like to expand to a second day. The couple spoke at the council meeting Monday night. They also provided a letter that outlined the idea and gave assurances the town would be indemnified from any liability.

Council President Kristine Trocki recused herself from the discussion because she had drawn up business papers for Jamestown Outdoors in her law practice.

Recreation Director Bill Piva spoke in support of Jamestown Outdoors. He said the western end of the beach is already used for kayaking, and paddleboards would not pose a problem.

Councilor Mary Meagher asked if the paddleboards would distract the lifeguards.

“No more than they’re distracted already,” Piva said. He indicated the lifeguards have his full confidence.

Meagher said she had some concerns about bringing in a vendor. It is her understanding the paddleboards currently being used belong to individuals. Piva said she was correct, adding that renting paddleboards would be new.

Meagher also said Saturday is the most crowded day at the beach, and she wanted more discussion before making a decision.

Councilor Thomas Tighe said he wanted to wait until the study on the rec department was finished. Town Administrator Bruce Keiser said the study would not be applicable. However, Tighe said, he told a scuba-diving company earlier to come back after the study was done and wanted to be consistent.

However, Meagher said there was a difference with scuba diving because that operation would impact Fort Getty and the consultant’s findings would be relevant.

Piva added the scuba-diving company had not consulted the rec department in advance.

Tighe said he was not comfortable making a paddleboard decision after he had deferred a decision on the scuba proposal.

Town Solicitor Peter Ruggiero said Piva and Jamestown Outdoors should work out a proposed agreement, which the councilors could consider at an upcoming meeting.

Ruggiero said the paddleboards don’t pose any more risk than other businesses.

“The main thing is they have to have an agreement,” he said. Ruggiero suggested the councilors should impose some limitations on the scope of the rentals.

In other business, Fire Chief Jim Bryer has completed a six-page plan for the Fire Department’s expansion.

The councilors said they will schedule a work session to go over the options in July or August. Bryer, who attended the meeting but did not make a presentation, said either date would work and added he is ready to proceed.

The fire chief has offered three options to deal with the Fire Department’s space needs, according to the plan.

The first option calls for building a garage in the North End to cut response time to the heavily populated area. The proposed station would accommodate a new fire engine, which would otherwise have to be custom-made to fit into the Narragansett Avenue fire station.

The second option would expand the existing station on Narragansett Avenue and calls for tearing down an adjacent building at 4 Grinnell St. The proposal would make room to build a twostory addition with sleeping space for emergency medical workers and parking space for four bays. The Fire Department would move rescue vehicles to Narragansett Avenue, but some vehicles would still have to be parked outdoors, he indicated.

The third option would remodel the Narragansett Avenue station by raising the second floor. This work would be costly but would mean the new model trucks could fit inside the station and avoid the necessity of purchasing custommade trucks.

Among the reasons to support the first option, Bryer said most residents live north of Weeden Lane and so do most firefighters.

“Weeden Lane is also the northerly most location of the municipal fire hydrants in town,” he wrote.

Bryer’s report said tankers and fire trucks have to carry water to the North End location to fight fires. Locating a tanker and a truck in a North End station would substantially reduce response time, he indicated.

As for replacing the truck, he estimated the cost of a custom truck at $600,000, roughly double the price of an truck off the assembly line. If a North End garage became available, the town could purchase the less expensive vehicle and park it there. Bryer projected the $300,000 savings could be applied to construction of the new facility, which is expected to cost $430,000.

“Approximately $130,000 more than the savings for the truck,” he said.

Among the reasons to support the other two options, he listed the following benefits: moving the EMTs to the main station and providing new quarters for sleeping, since the technicians are on call 24 hours a day; returning 11 Knowles Court to the town for affordable housing, parking or other uses; making the fire station’s second floor handicap accessible; and reducing space congestion at the current station.

The councilors did not discuss the “preliminary expansion goal plan,” except to say they were impressed with the information Bryer provided.

The plan was inadvertently omitted from their packets, Keiser said, but the councilors did receive electronic copies of the plan prior to the meeting.

In other business, the councilors voted to advertise a public hearing to consider amending the zoning ordinance to depict the Shoreby Hill historic overlay district. Discussion was brief, and the councilors scheduled the hearing for the second meeting in August.

Finally, Keiser reported on developments impacting the rightsof way in Jamestown. “A major court decision on the long-contested High Street right-of-way was rendered on May 31 by Judge Brian Van Couyghen,” he said. “The judge ruled High Street was a right-of-way and the town is free to open the access point.”

Keiser said the case was on the R.I. Superior Court docket some 10 years and had been brought by a resident after an abutting property owner blocked public access.

The right-of-way also has a steep embankment, and the town will consider options. Keiser said town staff is currently classifying the rights-of-way by potential uses, such as viewshed only, in cases where the cost of installing and maintaining a staircase to the shore would be prohibitive.

Ruggiero said the town is not obligated to open the rights-ofway. The designation merely means public access cannot be denied.

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