Town Manager's Report
It’s been a while since I last reported to you on the activities of the Town and during that time our winter— that wasn’t — passed by.
I just scheduled the opening of the Hospitality Center and various other town facilities, but the clearest indicator of the time of year is that the budget came out this week. Delivering the budget on a day when the weather was so warm and it wasn’t snow, but fog, in the air was strange — but appreciated.
The newspaper carried the overall details in its edition last Friday and copies of the budget are available at Town Hall. The Town Council will review it again in detail on Monday, April 2, and again on Wednesday, April 4.
The current proposal has an increase of 2.1 percent over last year, which will increase the tax levy by 1.9 percent. There are the “wishes” and the “needs” that we try to balance as effectively as possible. This year all the wishes/needs — none of which were frivolous — left us with a gap between revenues and expenditures of between $350,000 and $400,000. Obviously, many of these items were left on the cutting room floor, as they say. But we were able to increase our capital budget items by 30 percent, level-fund all our community support items, and increase our funding for the school to some degree over last year’s number.
I urge all of you to come to the budget hearings and/or stop by and ask questions of either Finance Director Amy Land or myself so that you understand the choices proposed and can agree or disagree with them or suggest alternatives. Unlike some of our state’s cities and towns that seem to have fallen down a financial black hole, this town has always been open and transparent about our fiscal matters. But the tough financial choices that have been made the last few years have consequences, and the Town Council and I need to hear whether you agree with some/all/none; and what alternatives you might propose if your answer is “none.”
As to other activities in town this March:
With the Old Harbor dock town project finished for last season, the East Dock area was repaired by the Army Corps of Engineers over this past winter to complete the total reconstruction. We, the town, need to provide the electrical pedestals and water lines on the East Dock because they were not part of the Corps’ contracted work; we secured a grant to cover the bulk of this expense and hopefully we can do the much needed dredging along the dock next fall.
We’ll have a new member of our Police Department come summertime, to replace Ed Harrison who moved on to a position in Burrillville this past winter. Our new hire will have to attend the Police Academy in July so he or she won’t be an active member until graduation next fall.
On an issue that is on everyone’s mind as the summer season approaches, Chief Carlone and I have had some very fruitful meetings with the State Police and others regarding our plans to curtail the Fourth of July debacles of the past two years, and you will see and hear more as we get closer to the season.
Over the past many months, the Island Energy Committee completed and forwarded to the Planning Board our first energy component of the town’s Comprehensive Plan. The Planning Board has now reviewed it and scheduled it for public hearing and adoption. It will then go to the Town Council for another public hearing before becoming a part of the town’s Comprehensive Plan. Copies are available at Town Hall and online at the town’s website, new-shoreham.com.
I’m not sure I’ve ever prepared a summary of town activities that didn’t include some reference to the Champlin’s Marina case, and now is no exception. The matter is going back to the full Coastal Resources Management Committee for Attorney Robert Goldberg to put on the record the CRMC decision approving the Payne’s Dock expansion. The rationale for that is interesting, so stay tuned as the appeal of the denial winds its way yet again through the courts.
And the town is still a named defendant in the suit brought by WasteHaulers Inc. against it and Block Island Resources Management over the award of the transfer station contract last fall. That goes back to court in early April.
All of which brings us back to the original focus of this column: the budget. Our next critical activity is the Financial Town Meeting, scheduled for Monday, May 7, this year. Take the time to weigh in on your opinions at the budget hearings. We’re anxious to hear from you