2014-01-30 / News

Communities balk at bridge safety

By Margo Sullivan

Municipal leaders in a few Rhode Island communities have opted to table the Town Council’s call for safety measures on the Newport Pell Bridge, Town Administrator Kevin Paicos said at Monday’s council meeting.

A few others, however, have joined the campaign supporting the families of accident victims Kenneth Prior, of Jamestown, and Kathy Meunier, of Warwick.

Prior was killed in a head-on collision on the bridge in October 2011. He was a passenger in a car driven by Meunier, who also died in the crash caused by a Middletown teen driver who sped across the median.

The councilors earlier contacted all 38 other Rhode Island cities and towns to ask them to join the safety campaign by adopting resolutions calling on state officials to install median barriers on the bridge.

Attorney John Murphy proposed the resolution that also urges state officials to enforce laws against speeding and distracted driving. The Town Council unanimously agreed to adopt the resolution at its Nov. 17 meeting. Councilor Thomas Tighe suggested asking other municipalities to show support.

Since then, another person, Elijah Swift, of North Kingstown, has been killed in a head-on collision on the bridge.

The Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority is considering median barriers pending a final engineering study. Last week, the authority began installing yellow lane delineators as an interim measure.

Paicos said he followed up the council’s resolution by contacting chief executives in all 38 state municipalities. He has received numerous responses.

“A few confirmatory resolutions, and a few decided not to take action,” he said.

Some reluctance was understandable, Paicos added, due to caution over legal issues. In his view, the responses reflected geographical location. Communities close to Jamestown, like Newport and Middletown, adopted a similar resolution, while leaders in distant cities and towns decided not to take action.

In other business, Paicos called attention to a trade magazine article about the wastewater treatment facility. The publication, Treatment Plant Operator, profiled the operation. It has received recognition from the Environmental Protection


Council President Kristine Trocki said the three employees have received congratulatory letters from the councilors.

“This is really quite a thing,” Paicos said.

The councilors also filled vacancies on four boards: the Library Board of Trustees, the Planning Commission, the Zoning Board and the Traffic Committee.

The councilors appointed Paul Housberg as a library trustee to serve a three-year term ending Dec. 31, 2016. One three-yearterm remains vacant. Liz Brian has sent a letter of interest for the spot, but the councilors postponed making an appointment because she has not yet returned to Jamestown and has not been interviewed. The councilors indicated they might appoint her in the future.

On the Planning Commission, incumbents Michael Smith and Michael Cochran were reappointed to new four-year terms ending Dec. 31, 2017. Meagher complimented them for their past efforts on the board. One vacancy remained, and the councilors appointed Bernd Pfeiffer over Abigail Campbell King. Meagher said the reason was Pfeiffer has engineering expertise, a skill no one on the current commission offers. Campbell King is an architect.

Also, Terrence Livingston was chosen over Pfeiffer as a member of the Zoning Board of Review to complete the vacant third alternate term ending on Dec. 31, 2014.

Finally, the councilors appointed four new members of the traffic panel: Timothy Yentsch will represent Jamestown Shores, Bill Munger will represent the Chamber of Commerce, David Cain will represent the Harbor Commission, and Vincent Moretti was seated as one citizen-at-large.

One vacancy for an at-large citizen remains to be filled.

In other business, the council took a step toward disbanding the Recycling Committee. Tighe suggested Paicos should contact the committee members and poll them on their opinions about whether their mission has been completed. If so, the council could then act, he said.

Finally, the councilors voted to change their agenda procedures. According to Councilor Mary Meagher, the council changed its rules of operation when it took office in November 2012. The new procedure, however, proved cumbersome.

“We didn’t really follow it,” she said.

To streamline the system, Meagher suggested the clerk should compile a list of possible meeting topics 10 days before a council meeting. At the second monthly meeting, the council could determine the items that should make the agenda.

Meagher said the plan had been to use the first monthly meeting for business, and reserve the second for workshops. She also suggested memos from boards and commissions should be considered under the new or unfinished business meeting, rather than correspondence. Correspondence also should be reorganized so that letters from constituents come first followed by “calls for action,” she said.

Trocki concurred, and the council voted unanimously to adopt the changes, pending some minor edits.

The councilors also set the dates for upcoming budget workshops in March.

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