2015-03-19 / News

Council mulls important meeting dates

By Margo Sullivan

Over the coming weeks, residents will have a chance to learn more about the plans for the fire station expansion and the purchase of the Portuguese American Citizens Club, the Town Council decided at its meeting Monday night.

The two projects and the annual budget talks will require the councilors to pack their calendar and hold multiple meetings for several weeks.

According to Town Administrator Andy Nota, the fire chief is meeting this week with the architect about the status of the expansion plans. Nota suggested the councilors might keep Wednesday, March 25, open as a “placeholder” and possible date to schedule the architect’s formal presentation.

This meeting would be a “council driven session formally reviewing the architectural plans being presented to you and the community,” Nota said. However, the presentation could be pushed back if Fire Chief Jim Bryer learns that the architect needs additional time.

Nota suggested Monday, March 30, and Wednesday, April 1, could be the back-up dates. The presentation also will help establish the project cost, expressed as a “notto exceed” number that voters will be presented at the financial town meeting.

He predicted the presentation could “be very involved,” and indicated a follow-up meeting could be necessary.

“It’s a big project,” he said.

Nota anticipates the voters will want to have a say about many of the features.

Council President Kristine Trocki asked Nota about the best time to hold the meeting. Perhaps the session could be at 7 p.m., so “more people can come,” she said, but there were some questions about when all the councilors could be available.

Nota said the time will be posted prior to the meeting.

Turning to the Holy Ghost hall, based on input from various interested groups, Nota said people favor scheduling two informational sessions about the plans to convert the building to a recreation center. The meetings will be held prior to the all-day referendum on April 28 that will determine if the voters want the town to acquire the property.

Nota said the presentations will follow a question-and-answer format.

“I’ll take as much time as the people would like,” he said.

There will be some preliminary drawings, showing possible floor plans, which would help people visualize the project, he said. However, Nota continued, these sessions did not need to be official council meetings.

The council agreed to hold the first meeting on Tuesday, April 7, and the second meeting on Wednesday, April 22. Nota indicated the follow-up meeting will be “identical” to the first session and is designed for people who could not attend the earlier meeting. Both sessions will be scheduled for 6 p.m., but the location is still to be decided. Nota said the location will be either Town Hall or the library.

In other business, the town will make a second effort to adopt the comprehensive community plan now that the statewide planning office is ready to approve the document, the councilors agreed.

Both the Planning Commission and Town Council previously voted on June 18 last year to approve the plan. However, the state, which wanted to see additional information about natural hazards to meet the new guidelines it recently ad- opted, sent the plan back for revisions.

After the planning department made the changes and the planning board reviewed and approved them, the new draft went back to the state. Subsequently, Kevin Flynn, the associate director of the state’s planning office, notified the town that he was prepared to grant approval.

Another public hearing is required in town, however. On Monday, councilors voted to advertise the hearing for three weeks in the Jamestown Press, per the legal notice requirements, and set the joint session with the planning board for Wednesday, April 6, at 5 p.m.

Town Planner Lisa Bryer indicated the date would be the earliest possible opportunity to schedule the required hearing given the three-week advertising requirement. The town has until May 1 to resubmit the comprehensive plan to the state, according to Flynn’s letter on Feb. 3.

At the same hearing, the councilors will have to discuss amending the town’s zoning and planning regulations for consistency with the new comprehensive plan.

In the coming weeks, much of the council’s time will be preoccupied with budget hearings, Nota indicated. The schedule calls for a first review on Monday, March 23, at 6 p.m. The councilors will go over the proposed operating budget for the new fiscal year that starts July 1.

Then at 4 p.m. on Thursday, March 27, the council and school board will hold a joint session on the school budget. The council will continue the budget review at another meeting on Tuesday, April 2, at 6 p.m.

“I’d like to invite local organizations that request funding,” he advised the councilors. Also, Nota said, the meeting could include a follow-up on the capital budget if necessary.

In other business, the councilors adopted a resolution opposing three bills in the state legislature. House Bill 5044 and 5173 and Senate Bill 559 would give developers a break by exempting their singlefamily homes and condominiums from local taxes until the property is sold, the councilors said.

“We did this last year as well,” Trocki said.

According to the resolution, the lost revenues statewide could amount to $2 million annually, starting in 2016, if these bills ever became law. “The end result would be that existing taxpayers would subsidize developers of new homes and commercial developments,” she said.

The council also agreed to ask other cities and towns to support the resolution, which will be forwarded to the House and Senate leadership.

A second resolution also was on the agenda. The council voted unanimously to proclaim April 24 as Arbor Day.

Under acknowledgements, the councilors mentioned an award that the public works department received. The safety enhancement grant will pay for headphone sets to be used during tree trimming. Specifically, the headphones will allow the ground crew to communicate with the bucket operator, according to the Rhode Island Interlocal Risk Management Trust, which awarded the grant.

Under correspondence, the council received a letter from Jamestown resident Patrick Bolger and his wife, who has notified Police Chief Ed Mello that they will no longer tend to the gardens at the police station.

“Time does pass, and we must find help to assist us with our own gardens, and so taking on extra work is becoming impossible,” he wrote.

Trocki said the town appreciated Bolger’s contribution, and she directed Nota to send a thank-you note.

Bolger said the couple will help with the transition. The town will seek new volunteers to continue the gardening, Nota said.

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