2017-12-28 / Front Page

2017: A LOOK BACK

YEAR FILLED WITH PLETHORA OF CHANGES


Chris Powell in August during his final Fools’ Rules Regatta after nearly 40 years at the helm. He passed the torch — and blue blazer — to Greg Hunter, a summer resident who has a home on Plymouth Road. 
PHOTO BY ANDREAVON HOHENLEITEN Chris Powell in August during his final Fools’ Rules Regatta after nearly 40 years at the helm. He passed the torch — and blue blazer — to Greg Hunter, a summer resident who has a home on Plymouth Road. PHOTO BY ANDREAVON HOHENLEITEN Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part series on the biggest stories of 2017. This week takes a look at some of the non-controversial happenings in town.

There were plenty of joyous new beginnings and some sad endings this past year as institutions known for at least a generation said goodbye and new ones stepped in to fill the voids.

Political winds shift

For the first time in a quartercentury, a new face in the state Senate represented Jamestown in 2017.

Newport lawyer Dawn Euer blew past both her fellow Democrats and the general election field in July and August, respectively, to replace Teresa Paiva Weed as the local senator on Smith Hill.


EUER EUER Euer, 38, won four-person races each time, earning 49 percent of the vote in the primary and an impressive 59 percent in the general to earn the right to represent Jamestown and Newport.

The freshman has big shoes to fill as Paiva Weed served as the upper chamber’s president for five terms, commanding a great deal of influence. She shocked many by resigning in March to accept an administrator’s position at a nonprofit hospital agency in Providence.

Under one roof

Almost 2.5 years after taxpayers gave the go-ahead, the town’s new fire station opened Nov. 18.

The $2.2 million expansion consolidated the firefighters and emergency medical workers at the Narragansett Avenue site. In renovating the 1928 building, contractors added an equipment garage with office space above for the fire department’s officers. That allowed for the upstairs of the current building to become the new headquarters for the rescue personnel. The building now also has a day room, kitchen, training office and sleeping quarters.


Town officials during the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the expanded fire station in November. 
PHOTO BY ANDREA VON HOHENLEITEN Town officials during the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the expanded fire station in November. PHOTO BY ANDREA VON HOHENLEITEN Because the original estimates for the project were more than the approved $2.2 million, some of the work was completed as capital improvement projects by the town’s public works department and the firefighters themselves.

Playful new start

The past was razed just a few weeks ago so the future can be built on North Road.

The playground, built by town volunteers in 1990, was torn down so workers could prepare the site for the updated equipment expected to arrive in February.

The town council approved the design in September, six months after a committee was formed to plan the new facility. The park will feature two main structures, a ship for toddlers and a 28-foot-tall lighthouse for elementary children. That structure will have three 12- foot slides attached.

The update also will include swings for every age group, including an ADA-accessible seat and a standalone Oodle Swing designed to accommodate groups of children. There also will be a pyramid structure with cargo climbing nets attached to the lighthouse in the northwest corner at the intersection of Valley Street and North Road.

The first phase of the playground is expected to cost $257,000 and be finished by Memorial Day, depending on weather.

Farewell to a fool

For 37 years, he stood like a pillar on the sand — mismatched socks, blue blazer, yachting cap and armed with his ever-present bullhorn.

Chris Powell and the Fools’ Rules Regatta were synonymous, and no one ever took the silly race more seriously, championing it in every corner of the state to help grow its popularity during those four decades.

Powell passed on the blue blazer this past summer, giving up stewardship of the East Ferry beach event he’d overseen since 1981 as its designated “chief fool.”

The regatta challenges participants to build seaworthy vessels from objects not traditionally used for boatbuilding. It’s combination of hilarity and ingenuity is at the heart of its uniqueness, and it is one of the island’s most popular events.

“You always feel a little bit melancholic in those situations, but you want to quit while you’re ahead,” said Powell, 71, about his last regatta at the helm. “It’s been a great trip and I don’t regret a second of it. It’s one of the more gratifying things you can do.”

In his final act, Powell named Greg Hunter, a 55-year-old summer resident, as his successor.

Comings and goings

After several years of limited change, 2017 saw the town’s business face altered dramatically.

The once mostly vacant Bomes Theatre on Narragansett Avenue is now filled after its 18-month renovation. Conanicut Brewing, a supply store for home brewers and winemakers, occupied the final spot of the Roaring Twenties landmark in November. Earlier in the year, Live & Learn, an incubator for startup companies, Onsite Techs, an information technology firm, architect Lisa Carlisle, insurance agent Dan Dwyer and lawyer Kristen Maccini opened offices.

A few doors away, Kerry Sheehan opened a storefront for his Rum Runner Silk Screening & Embroidery business. Prior to his move in July, Sheehan operated the embroidery company from his house on Columbia Avenue.

On the other side of the avenue, Christopher Arnold opened Miss Lacquer Nails in the summer as the island’s only dedicated nail salon.

Another salon, Ocean Essence, moved to a larger space in Wickford Village to better serve its clientele after nine years in town, said owner Kimberly Gregorzek. Jan Trousilek introduced a line of European yachting ropes at his Narragansett Avenue shop, Sensible Yachting Cordage, while Ernie Savastano brought olive oils from around the world to the island at Vin Oliva on Conanicus Avenue.

Two eateries also changed hands this year.

Alyson Johnson and Julie Fauxbel purchased the East Ferry Deli at the corner of Conanicus and Narragansett avenues from Stacy Feight, the daughter of Diane and Bob Umbenhauer, the late owners who purchased the deli in the mid-1990s.

And after 26 years, Freddie Bingell shut the doors to House of Pizza this past Memorial Day weekend, ending an era in town of one of the industry’s most recognizable faces. The new owners have been renovating the site with plans on opening a spot with casual comfort food at lunch — sandwiches, burgers and salads — and a rotating “blackboard menu” of dinner entrees.

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