Collins named interim town administrator
The meeting was scheduled to deal with the immediate fallout due to the resignation of Town Administrator Kevin Paicos three days earlier. The council also met in executive session on Monday to discuss the search for a new chief executive. According to Council President Kristine Trocki, no votes resulted and the councilors will continue the meeting Thursday.
Paicos left Town Hall on Feb. 21 after meeting with the councilors behind closed doors over his performance evaluation. The councilors stayed in chambers for over an hour after Paicos’ departure.
After returning to open session, Trocki read a statement saying the decision to end their association was due to the residency requirement. Specifically, the council wanted Paicos to live in Jamestown, as stated in the contract, but he decided to return to Massachusetts.
Both parties had agreed to the statement wording, she said.
Trocki read the statement again at the start of the regular meeting.
On Friday, the council went into a closed-door session but did not take any votes until they returned to open session when they unanimously appointed Collins. She will be compensated with the town administrator’s base pay. (Paicos’ annual salary was $105,407, an hourly wage of $50.68.)
Collins served as interim administrator last year after Bruce Keiser retired. She continued in that role until Kevin Paicos took over full time in November.
Trocki also announced that the council had not yet ratified a severance package for Paicos. A discussion about his benefits would be continued on March 3 when a vote was possible, she said.
In other business during the Feb. 18 meeting, based on Ellen Winsor’s comments during open forum, the council unanimously passed a resolution supporting a jobs creation initiative. Commerce RI, formerly the state’s Economic Development Corporation, is applying for a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, she said.
She thought the application, which could result in funding between $400,000 and $1 million, would offer an opportunity for local governments to foster economic growth. The grant would come from the National Incubator Initiative for Clean Energy.
Rhode Island currently has the highest unemployment rate in the United States, Winsor said, but she believes local communities can attract new jobs if they are willing to “host” innovators with new technologies.
It would work like this, she indicated in an accompanying letter: The municipalities would develop a list of assets they will agree to allow entrepreneurs to use to test their products. For one example, she said, the wastewater treatment plant at Taylor Point could serve as a test site for a vertical access wind turbine invented by professor John Dabiri from the California Institute of Technology.
“Perhaps Dr. Dabiri’s vertical access wind turbine could be placed on the front lawn at the wastewater treatment plant, with a goal that the plant’s electricity be offset while the turbine is being tested,” Winsor said.
But the long-term benefit would come from bringing new jobs to Rhode Island because the “entrepreneurs will be more likely to package or manufacture their products in our state.”
Therefore, she added, hosting these companies will create “skilled and semi-skilled jobs.”
Every Rhode Island municipality, Winsor wrote in a follow-up email, should be open to hosting an entrepreneur.
“I am here to advocate that every municipality in Rhode Island increasingly has a role in incubating any innovation, green or not green, towards job creation, but if it helps the grant application, green can be the primary focus,” she said.
Winsor heard about the grant at a conference and forwarded the information to Commerce RI. She has since discussed the opportunity for local communities with Christine Smith and others who are writing the grant application and the accompanying concept paper.
Smith is the executive director of the state’s advisory council on science and technology.
Although the concept paper was due on Feb. 21, Winsor noted there is a possibility of Rhode Island being invited by the federal government for a full grant application within a month.
If so, she said, “What will be the grant text so that Rhode Island’s application stands out from applications forwarded by other states?”
Rhode Island’s compact size gives the state potential to unite all 39 cities and towns in an economic growth initiative, she said. Winsor cited Brad Field, “an expert at building entrepreneurial cities,” who maintains “seeding economic growth is easier to do locally than statewide or on a national level.”
Given projections of slow growth nationwide, she said, “all the more reason for the 39 Rhode Island municipalities to band together.”
The councilors agreed to formally support the grant application.
According to the Jamestown resolution, the councilors back “innovation, entrepreneurship, emerging technologies, and the DOE’s goal of scaling innovations from prototype to domestically based production for job creation.”
Thus, the council supports Commerce RI’s grant application “to strengthen our nation’s innovation capacity for sustained economic growth on the state and municipal level.”