2014-12-31 / Front Page

Happy New Year: Saying goodbye to 2014

By Tim Riel

Nationally and statewide, the 2014 mid-term elections shook Capitol Hill and Smith Hill. In Washington, D.C., Republicans took control of the Senate, giving the GOP the majority of both congressional chambers. In Providence, Rhode Island voters elected Gina Raimondo, who will become the state’s first female governor when she is sworn in on Jan. 6.

Locally, however, the status quo reigned: only one local politician was ousted.

Worldwide, two new threats emerged: ISIS and Ebola. Although the terrorist group can be traced back to the 1990s, it was in June that it renamed itself the Islamic State and the militants declared themselves a worldwide caliphate. Ebola, which began in Western Africa, reached the United States in September. Since the outbreak 12 months ago, there have been more than 20,000 suspected cases and 8,000 deaths.

Locally, however, actions were taken to quash two old threats: Lyme disease and crossover crashes.

Also, 2014 was a special year for the Jamestown Press; we celebrated 25 years of business in April. In honor of our anniversary, here are the top 25 stories of 2014, in no particular order of significance or chronology.

1. Administrative adjustments: The tenure of Kevin Paicos didn’t last long. Four months after being unanimously chosen by the Town Council to replace Bruce Keiser, the councilors in February decided to part ways with him following an executive session. What was actually said during the closed-door meeting is still an area of contention. Town Administrator Andy Nota was hired to replace Paicos and began work on March 31.

2. PAC for sale: After the Portuguese American Citizens Club failed to gain any momentum as a restaurant in 2014, the Holy Ghost Society listed the 86-year-old property for sale on July 14. The town agreed in November to buy it for $800,000, pending voter approval.

3. School changes: Kathy Almanzor and Marcia Lukon both retired in 2014, and their jobs were consolidated and resumed by Carol Blanchette. Also, Nate Edmunds was named Deb DiBiase’s replacement as Lawn School principal, and Narragansett High joined North Kingstown as Jamestown’s co-high schools of record.

4. Bridge work: Bright yellow lane delineators were installed in January as a stopgap safety precaution while the bridge authority finished engineering studies for a permanent median barrier. The concrete barricade was approved by the bridge authority in June and contractors were hired in Novem- ber to begin work.

5. Election year: Either Jamestowners were happy with their representation during the last couple of years, or they were unhappy with the challengers. In November, voters re-elected four of the five councilors, both school board members, its two state delegates, and both congressional reps.

6. Skipper success: Although the North Kingstown boys’ basketball and football teams fell short of their goals in 2014, there was no shortage of championship teams. Winning state varsity titles were the boys’ soccer team, boys’ volleyball team, boys’ track team, girls’ basketball team, and girls’ softball team.

7. Lawsuits and liability: Three lawsuits, all still pending, were filed against Jamestown in 2014. The most notable was Kevin Paicos’ grievance; the former town administrator says he is owed more money in severance pay. Also, the town continues to have problems with Jamestown Vineyards on Beavertail Road, and is part of a class action stemming from the state’s pension overhaul of 2011.

8. Gas leak: Thanks to an unfortunate coincidence, there was no gasoline on the island for the month in September. With only two gas stations in town, Jamestown motorists had to leave the island to refuel after the Mobil station went out of business and Cumberland Farms closed for renovations.

9. Deer hunter: Because killing Bambi is such a touchy subject, Jamestown for years has been trying to deal with its Lyme “epidemic.” This year, however, town officials finally agreed on a hunting program to reduce the deer population by 75 percent. There are currently between 400 and 500 deer on the island, experts say.

10. Historic hiatus: The Town Council in January killed Shoreby Hill residents’ plan to make the lower neighborhood an historic district. The reason, said the councilors, is that they couldn’t justify using public resources to protect a private neighborhood that doesn’t have public access.

11. The housing list: The Planning Commission in June released a list of 96 private properties that it deemed to be historically significant. Although the buildings-ofvalue argument has been ongoing, it wasn’t until the addresses were published that homeowners took notice. The planning board decided not to regulate, but educate.

12. Web presence: The town’s municipal website got a complete facelift and new address in 2014, but another popular destination, Sav Rebecchi’s Jamestown Record, called it quits after five years of recording public meetings.

13. Grass roots: Thanks to the generosity of a relatively new Jamestown couple, the conservation board was able plant dune grass at Mackerel Cove. Hurricane Sandy decimated the beach and left no natural barrier to protect it from the next hurricane. Volunteers planted in June and again in October to make the beach more resilient.

14. Sail away: Like every year, sailing is a large part of Jamestown. 2014 was no different. Local sailors were named to Volvo Ocean Race teams, Dave Rearick completed his solo circumnavigation of the world aboard Bodacious Dreams, and Tim Healy won the J/70 World Championship.

15. Weather warning: Although there were no devastating snowstorms or hurricanes in 2014, more than 5 inches of rain fell on Jamestown in April. Firefighters were dispatched to dozens of homes to pump out flooded basements.

16. Path problems: The town councilors refused to earmark any funding in fiscal year 2015 for the bicycle path that has been in the works for more than a decade. Moreover, Town Administrator Andy Note in November suggested a simplified project that would nix most of the previous proposal.

17. Restaurant review: No new eateries opened in 2014 – although they do serve prepared meals at the new Jamestown Mercantile – but two restaurants ceased operations. Both the Portuguese American Citizens Club and Plantation at the Bay closed their kitchens this year. One restaurant, however, welcomed a big change. Spinnakers this year began serving beer and wine.

18. Hollywood East: Following the success of “Moonrise Kingdom” in 2011, which was filmed in part at Fort Wetherill, Woody Allen took his cast and cameras to Jamestown this year. The renowned filmmaker, along with co-stars Emma Stone and Joaquin Phoenix, were seen filming at Beavertail in July.

19. Market place: Although 2013 was successful, the founders of the Fort Getty farmers market, all small business owners, decided in March that organizing the popular Monday destination was too much work. Fortunately for vendors and shoppers, two young women took over the operation in 2014. The market under the pavilion was a hit again for the second year in a row.

20. Expensive aqua: Because of declining use and conservation practices, water rates in Jamestown were increased by 8 percent in September. Moreover, sewer rates jumped 7 percent. Even bleaker, Nota said utility customers should expect to see annual rate increases for the next 20 years.

21. School spirit: Thanks to cooperation from school officials, taxpayers this year saw another budget passed with no tax increases. The school board in April agreed to cut more than $300,000 from its proposed spending plan after councilors pleaded with them. The $22.66 million budget was passed in less than a half hour at June’s financial town meeting. The school board used money from its surplus to fund money owed to retirees.

22. Past pastor: The Rev. Kathryn Palen in August announced her resignation from Central Baptist Church after seven years heading the congregation. She accepted a ministry job in Des Moines, Iowa. The Jamestown church is still searching for its replacement.

23. Root of the problem: Nearly 50 white pine trees that acted as a windbreak for the North Road reservoir were removed by town workers earlier this year. They were cut down following advice from arborists who said the trees were damaged from severe weather. A landscape professional is currently developing a schematic drawing for a new windbreak.

24. Reading renovations: The library board of trustees in June approached the council with a $2.5 million proposal to renovate the North Road library. The plan, which included work both inside and outdoors, called for the front door to be accessible. Nothing has been approved, and the town is still in talks with the Narragansett Tribe because the renovations may encroach on a possible burial ground.

25. Fire safety: The all-volunteer fire department was given the OK to go forward with advanced life support and expansion of the Narragansett Avenue fire station. Although no work has started, the department plans to rid itself of the Knowles Court ambulance barn and consolidate the fire and EMS division under one roof.

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