Recap of the January 10, 2022 North Kingstown Town Council Meeting
To protect the health and well being of our citizens during this COVID-19 pandemic, in accordance with the Governor’s executive orders, public in-person attendance at this meeting was not permitted and the Council meeting was held online. Notwithstanding, public comment and participation is still very much allowed and encouraged.
The meeting began with the council going into executive session to discuss possible settlement of a nationwide class action suit on the adverse impact that the opioid epidemic has had on individual municipalities across the nation.
At the outset of public comment, local resident and physician Dr. Howard Silversmith explained that, although he generally believes that we should continue as much of our daily lives in person as possible, including in-person schooling, activities that can be held virtually (like town council meetings) should be held virtually, particularly when some of the participants are high risk. He noted that since one of the councilors is nine months pregnant, she is high risk; therefore, he strongly recommends holding our meetings virtually for the near future.
Public hearings for an alcoholic beverage license for the Thirsty Beaver, 80 Frenchtown Road-- and second readings on changes to our code of ordinances that would amend town public bidding laws, as well as also amend our parks and recreational provisions--were continued to our next meeting because they were not advertised as meetings that would be held virtually.
The Town Council approved the following expenditures of taxpayer monies:
Class A Pumper Fire Apparatus: $678,109 from the Rescue Billing Account
New Police Vehicle with an Add-on Package that replaced a vehicle totaled in an accident: $35,196 ($30,389 from Insurance proceeds, $4,807 from Police repair budget)
Building Renovation project at the Golf Course maintenance facility: $443,875 from previously approved bond referendum
The town also received $4,631 in donations for our holiday giving program. They are from:
$3,000 – Dave’s Marketplace
$1,081 –ASC Engineered Solutions
$250 – Edward Polom
$250 – North Kingstown Senior Assn
$50 – Dick and Judy Tysmans
A first reading of amending the code of ordinance Wickford Junction District and scheduling a public hearing on these proposed amendments was approved.
Town Manager Report
The town manager reported that even though there has been a significant increase in COVID-19 cases, all town facilities will remain open. However, masks are now REQUIRED in all town public buildings, and effective January 12th, all public meetings will be held virtually. The town will be hosting a Booster Clinic for Moderna and Pfizer booster shots for the public on Friday, January 14, 2022 at the Community Center from 1:30-5:30 PM for our citizens.
The Town Manager also reported that the Wickford Elementary and Theater Project continues to move forward. The town continues to work on a resolution to the challenges of maintaining the privately owned Elm Grove Cemetery. It is also in the process of setting up a relationship with Boom Local, a platform that assists consumers in finding small local businesses. Lastly, the manager informed us that citizens can now apply for tax relief under our new homestead exemption at http://www.northkingstown.org/851/HOMESTEAD-APPLICATION. The DEADLINE to apply is MARCH 15TH.
Presentation on the federal American Rescue Plan Funds
The federal government allocated $7,868,124 to the town under this program. We received $3,934,063 in July of this year and are scheduled to receive $3,934,063 in July of 2022. The funds have to be obligated by December 31, 2024 and spent by December 31, 2026.
The town manager made a presentation about what these funds can and cannot be used for. He outlined reporting requirements, monitoring of implementation by the federal government, and discussed best practices for maintaining transparency and accountability to the citizens of our community.
The town manager then proposed possible spending priorities. They included limited tax relief for businesses; a new recreation/emergency shelter; health and safety improvements to our recreational facilities; municipal office building improvements; the West Main Street sidewalk project; and several other ideas.
Members of the council discussed the overall impact of COVID to our citizens and in particular our police and fire departments. They wanted to hear from these departments about what their potential needs are. Members of the council also agreed that there should be further public dialogue and asked that this matter be put on the agenda for our January 24th meeting.
Discussion of the Governor’s Executive Order No. 22-01 relating to public bodies conducting open meetings virtually
The council discussed whether to continue having their meetings virtually for the term of the executive order. Given the fact that the COVID numbers are rising sharply, the fact that the executive order only goes to February 4th (which is one more council meeting), and the fact that there is someone on the council who is high risk, the council unanimously voted to conduct their meetings virtually until the end of the governor’s executive order.
The council’s next meeting is Monday, January 24, 2022.