NKTC Meeting Highlights – August 16, 2023
Following are my view of highlights from last night’s Town Council meeting. As always these are one person’s views – others will see things differently.
Most significantly, Council approved placing two questions on the ballot for a November referendum: a proposal for a new middle school and public safety complex, and one for an indoor recreation center/emergency shelter. There has been much discussion of all of these proposals over the past months. We know we need to provide lots more information to our citizens so they can make informed decisions, and appreciate the concerns that the process has moved along quickly, but we are mindful of both the overwhelming need for the first two projects, and the fact that the state has offered assistance that could amount to some $30 million (with stringent deadlines), that we do not want to miss out on for a new school. We plan to roll out meetings in the fall to share more information and address concerns as they will arise. Of course, we will not all agree on every detail, but town and school officials are working hard to identify the strongest possible proposals. I encourage interested citizens to attend meetings of not just Town Council, but also the School Committee and their Building Sub-Committee, which is refining the middle school proposal.
Multiple citizens spoke out last night over concerns about proposed changes to the animal shelter. There was much confusion and misinformation about what is happening. Essentially the town is recognizing the superb work that a number of volunteers have been doing at the shelter for over 10 years; they are organized as a charitable (501 [c]) trust. The trust will lease the shelter building for $1.00 per year and the volunteers will perform many of the support duties they have been performing as well as some new ones, such as transporting animals to veterinary appointments. Meanwhile the full and part-time Animal Control Officers (ACOs) will continue to bring in strays, deal with aggressive or wild animals, etc. The change will allow the ACOs to focus their efforts on dealing with the animals, rather than the support duties that are necessary to keep the shelter running. The well-qualified volunteer shelter workers demonstrated a passion for the animals and their care that was heart-warming and impressive.
Other highlights: the town has been awarded a grant of over $300,000 from the state to expand learning beyond the 180 day school year (one of the largest grants made under this program); we voted to install a Tide Gage near Brown Street to provide real time about how climate change is affecting Wickford; the Town Manager provided a Capital Improvement Priority list; and projects are advancing for a roundabout in Wickford Village (currently planned for summer of 2024 but we are seeking a change to either spring of 2024 or 2025) and a stoplight at Hamilton Elementary School which is scheduled to be completed prior to the start of school in September.
As always there was lots more, and the full recording of the meeting can be viewed on the town’s website.