Town Manager's Report: a roundup of community news
Every year it seems like Memorial Day weekend arrives unexpectedly — a Friday afternoon turn by the Surf Hotel displays a busy street, pedestrians, and parking places at a premium where only days earlier emptiness was the rule. And this year the weather certainly hasn’t helped to remind us that it is late May. But here we are again… the start of another summer season with all its promise.
For those of you arriving this weekend after a winter elsewhere, the obvious changes are in full view as the boat pulls in. The Old Harbor dock project is just about complete — the bulkhead was replaced, the docks were all reconstructed and the new harbormaster office and facilities are close to completion. Kudos to Reagan Construction Company, which did the work over the winter. Between that repair and the bulkhead and dock work done by Interstate Nav, we had three large cranes in the Old Harbor over the winter and the resulting repair work is worth celebrating.
Fiscal concerns upstate have dominated the news cycle this winter, although not much has changed since last year. On island we are appreciative of our employees accepting a wage freeze for the upcoming year, and that freeze was mirrored by the Police Department as we pieced together and approved our budget for next fiscal year. We are holding our own as a town although we are closely watching all expenses all the time.
The Town’s Municipal Alarm system is in full operation and a townwide Alarm Ordinance which includes a yearly monitoring fee for our municipal customers is about to be adopted by the Council. The Fire Marshalls at the state level have been very helpful in all aspects of this transition and we’ve come a long way from the lightning strike two summers ago that decimated our alarm system.
We held a general informational session late winter to discuss the potential development, or non-development, of Lots 146 and 147 in front of the National Hotel. The general consensus at the time was that less was better and the council agreed to clean up the area and seek more input after a summer of full ownership. The town is placing two benches this month on Lot 147 in memory of Bill and Harriet Phelan, from whose family the town purchased that parcel. The family had requested this and we’re happy to have a reminder of two gracious people who were such a part of this community. The past year has seen several losses amongst familiar faces and we have celebrated their lives as we mourned their loss.
The exciting news of the past winter was the decision by CRMC rejecting the expansion of Champlin’s Marina. Twenty three public hearings and endless courtroom go-rounds later, the CRMC’s full committee again decided the matter on January 11. That decision has been appealed by the applicant to Superior Court and the process begins anew eight years after the initial application.
We’re still awaiting a decision from the Rhode Island Supreme Court as to whether it will uphold or reverse the Public Utilities Commission decision involving the Power Purchase Agreement between National Grid and Deepwater. The case was argued in early May but no date has been announced for a decision.
If you find yourself wondering why there are large boulders sitting in the Town Beach parking lot, and more importantly, when they will be removed, here are your answers. The boulders came out of the Old Harbor bulkhead replacement project and are being “stored” in the parking lot until we get our final clearance from CRMC to place them as a “temporary” revetment measure along Corn Neck Road on the southerly end. The erosion from the winter storms has taken its toll on our previous repairs along this stretch. They will be gone in time for the beach opening in June.
I’m sure there are other things you may notice or wonder about as the season begins and you either get out of the house to observe more, or arrive on island from a winter spent elsewhere. Don’t hesitate to call or stop in. As Memorial Day weekend kicks off, I know you join me in hoping for a summer that has beautiful weather, busy days for our businesses, and pleasant and safe activities for all.