Greg Mancini opened the meeting by reading a proclamation recognizing the 80th anniversary of the Seabees. He also asked for a moment of silence to remember the people fighting inUkraine.
The initial items on the agenda were public hearings. Hearings are prior to public comments, and there were many people who wanted to speak about the second reading of the ordinance on groundwater recharge and wellhead protection overlay districts.
This proposed amended ordinance was initiated in 2020 to update the existing groundwater ordinance. The theme of many emails and speakers received by the Town Council Members was, “Don’t relax standards for our water supply."
As all the Town Councilors live in North Kingstown and drink the water, the head of the Water Department, Tim Cranston lives in town and has a long history of research and reporting on issues regarding the North Kingstown, and Nicole LaFontaine, the head of the Planning Department, also lives in North Kingstown with her minor aged children, there is no benefit to anyone to relax the standards for high quality and safe drinking water.
Unfortunately, misinformation on social media reported the new groundwater ordinance was not going to protect our reservoirs and aquifers. Prior to the meeting, the proposed ordinance was discussed for two years with the Conservation Commission, the Planning Commission, and the Ground Water Committee, on how to address the impact of runoff of 21st century businesses such as nail salons, dog grooming, biowaste, and other manufacturing. The current 1990’s ordinance discussed outdated technology that town leaders felt needed to be updated.
University of Rhode Island’s Lorraine Joubert, who is head of the Nonpoint Education of Municipal Officials (NEMO), advocated for the proposed amended ordinance by stating no other RI community provided a higher level of protection for groundwater than North Kingstown. In fact, NEMO uses the NK proposed ordinance as a model for other communities to demonstrate what are best practices in groundwater protections, and septic system management. A letter from Ernest Panciera, supervising environmental scientist for the RI Department of Environmental Management, supported Cranston’s proposed ordinance because it protected ground water.
Many people spoke on this issue. All three of the volunteer commissions (Planning, Conservation, and Groundwater) had members who endorsed the proposed local ordinance. Mr. Cranston emphasize that the proposed ordinance was not reducing any protections on wellhead areas, but the proposal increased protections. The Council did not vote on the proposed changes but took the comments under advisement for a vote at the next meeting.
During the public comment period, many people advocated for spending part of the $7.8 million from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), on a new recreation center. Most of the proponents endorsed a recreation center so North Kingstown could have indoor pickleball courts. The Council members received more emails advocating for an indoor recreation center with pickle ball courts than any other topic on the agenda. However, a vote on spending of the ARPA funds had to be pushed off as the meeting ended after 11:00pm and not all the items on the agenda could be addressed.
In the consent agenda the Council approved for the Wickford Arts Festival to be held at Wilson Park for the second year. The Council also endorsed putting in an electric charging station in Wickford Village, as was recommended by the Wickford Advisory Committee. The Council appreciates the New England spirit of advocacy and all those who made their views known.
(Cover image is members of the NK Water Department accepting an award for the best drinking water in the state last December.)