2013-09-05 / Front Page

Island to be locale for TV ad

Film crews are expected to shoot ad Friday afternoon
By Margo Sullivan

A film crew will arrive in Jamestown on Friday, Sept. 6, to shoot a commercial for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Rhode Island, according to Interim Town Administrator Tina Collins.

Collins told the Town Council on Tuesday she received a request to film scenes at several spots, including Mackerel Cove, East Ferry and in front of the water-treatment plant. The company is advertising a product for people age 65 and older with zero co-payments and other features. Blue Cross reps had scouted locations marked with three zeroes, Collins said. In front of the water-treatment plant, the scout found pipes that fit the bill.

When Town Councilor Mary Meagher asked who goes around looking for places marked with three zeroes, Collins quipped, “I guess there’s a job for everybody.”

The crew is also going to Chopmist Charlie’s, Jamestown Hardware and other private businesses for footage. They are expected to be on the island from 2 to 6 p.m., Collins said.

Collins revealed the film crew’s schedule at the end of her first town administrator’s report. She is filling in until the councilors choose a new chief executive to replace Bruce Keiser, who retired on Sept. 1. She also updated the council on the status of several projects, starting with the initiative to go paperless by replacing the meeting packets with electronic documents accessed by email.

The councilors have expressed their desire to save paper and receive the packets digitally. The packets include the agenda, correspondence and other documents. The council has discussed the paperless initiative with Michael Glier, the town’s consultant on information technology. Glier presented some options, and Town Clerk Cheryl Fernstrom conducted a survey of all 39 cities and towns in Rhode Island. She reported several councils have already turned to digital, while others have stayed with paper.

Council President Kristine Trocki said she had tried out the new paperless packet by clicking on the link sent via email. Collins said the staff was still working on the project to connect supporting documents digitally, but she added the effort was progressing.

In other news, Collins reported the University of Massachusetts consultants who were hired to study the Parks & Recreation Department continue to compile their report. Meanwhile, they have received 410 surveys from residents. The survey was available online and on paper. According to Collins, 224 people provided their opinions on the paper survey and 186 responded online.

Councilor Eugene Milhaly said the consultants expect to present their conclusions by the third week of September.

“They are being quite comprehensive,” he said.

According to Mihaly, the report will delve into future uses of the Fort Wetherill building and the new golf course building.

Finally, Collins updated the councilors on the progress with the golf course facility. She said the architects are inventorying equipment such as golf carts that will be stored inside the new building.

Several residents have asked to be notified about upcoming public meetings to decide future uses of the golf course building. In the correspondence, the councilors also accepted several letters about the facility from residents interested in using space there for community organizations, such as the theater, band and chorus.

Meagher said when the recreation study is completed, the councilors will be able to schedule those public meetings. Meagher asked Town Engineer Michael Gray’s opinion about the timing of those meetings. He couldn’t say for sure, but added the survey was just underway and that information was not yet finalized.

Gray said the top priority will be to satisfy the golf course’s requirements. Then residents can discuss possible uses for a second or third floor, if the council opts to build the upper levels.

However, he said the building “envelope” is relatively small and tight due to the issues about conservation land on the site. Gray said the space for the facility is roughly within 350 feet from the road. Everything else is conservation land or fairways.

During open forum, Dorothy Strang, Jamestown resident and member of the Jamestown Community Chorus, put the council on notice about growing interest in building a performing arts center. Strang said there had been some talk about including a flexible performance arts space inside the new facility. She asked the councilors to consider including the arts groups in the discussions before a decision was made.

Strang said no formal arrangement exists between the municipal government and the community arts organizations. However, the arts groups rely on the town for performance spaces and support. Meanwhile, the town benefits from the vibrant productions, which draw visitors and future residents to the island, she said.

“These performing arts groups attract members and audiences from across both bridges,” she wrote in a letter to Councilor Tom Tighe. “The quality of Jamestown’s performing arts groups, for both performers and audiences, needs to be supported by a flexible, functional and beautiful space.”

Trocki said she appreciated Strang’s comments. The councilors could not reply because the topic was not on the night’s agenda, but they did indicate there will be several public meetings held during the fall to discuss future uses for the building.

During unfinished business, the councilors denied a request by business owner Victor Bell to use 3.75 feet of town land for his parking lot.

Meagher recused herself from the discussion and vote because she had prior business dealings with Bell.

Bell had made the request during open forum in a previous meeting. The councilors asked for opinions from Gray and Zoning Official Fred Brown.

Brown said the Zoning Board of Review gave Bell parking variances that enabled him to build the lot, but the work was supposed to be completed in “strict accordance with the site and building plans.” If the town decided to allow Bell to use the municipal land, Bell would have to revise the parking plan and present it to the Zoning Board for approval.

Gray said he probably made a mistake when he did not install landscaping next to the sidewalk, as shown on the original plan.

“I decided at the time not to install the landscaping strip and just install the sidewalk within the limits of the parking lot,” he explained in a memo.

He could not say why he made the decision, except that it was a call he made “in the field.” He explained there was no intention to give away town land. However, an abutter later complained, and Gray acknowledged there was a problem with drivers occasionally taking a short cut to exit the lot by driving over the sidewalk and creating a safety hazard.

“I understand his point,” Gray said. Adding the 3-foot strip of landscaping, he said, would have created a barrier and prevented the motorists from driving over the concrete.

“How serious a safety issue is it?” Mihaly asked.

“I don’t want to see anyone get hurt,” Gray replied. He indicated he doubted the cars were traveling fast, but the sidewalk was installed to improve safety for children, who had been walking down the center of the street.

Gray also said there was a problem with the layout of the lot. Bell had originally presented a plan for seven parking spaces. The additional town land allowed him to create eight spaces, but the handicapped space did not comply with the requirements of the American Disabilities Act. That is because if the driver is handicapped, he or she would be exiting the vehicle onto the sidewalk, instead of stepping into a striped aisle. Also, the handicap ramp is not located properly relative to the parking space.

However, the downtown has few handicap spaces, and Bell does allow the public to use the entire lot after business hours, Gray also noted.

Town Solicitor Peter Ruggiero said the town could give Bell a license to use the land so the councilors would not be giving away any municipal property.

Councilor Blake Dickinson said he thought the councilors could find a way to accommodate Bell’s interests and help ease downtown parking. However, Trocki said she would prefer to see Bell return to the original plan, install the landscaping strip, and reconfigure the lot to include only the seven parking spaces as the Zoning Board approved in July 2008.

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