The final 2021 Town Council meeting was busy, with many items on the agenda. It was our annual Joint meeting with the School Committee. The Superintendent spoke of the NK School District's expected decrease in RIDE state funding, the 5% increase in expected healthcare costs, unprecedented inflation, and bargaining with the Teacher’s Union and the support staff.
Public comment was dominated by attacks on the school committee, especially regarding the Aaron Thomas matter. One orator spoke on the school curriculum and the books chosen for students. As she spoke, her husband held up library books she deemed reprehensible and poster boards showing large graphics taken from books she described as inappropriate.
Five public hearings followed. There was a second reading of the amended tax exemption status for homestead residents, as well as discussion of new stop signs in the Reynolds Farm development. The Harbor fees were increased because they had not seen any change since 2008 and were very low. The longest hearing was the request to approve a binding court-ordered judgment that came after all parties had willingly entered into binding arbitration to settle their dispute. However, not all agreed with the arbitrator’s order, despite having stated they would agree to be bound by it. The Council followed the judge’s order.
The Town Manager’s report recognized with sorrow the passing of NK Police Captain Paul Barry due to pneumonia. Mr. Mollis also reported that NK has once again won the state's best-tasting water award, an occasion marked by NK Water Director Tim Cranston's stating, “The history of North Kingstown receiving this award is attributed to the hard work and dedication of the entire Water Department Staff over the years. North Kingstown is not only the best water in Rhode Island but is delivered to our customers at the most affordable cost in the entire state." See photo and caption below.
There were appointments to the various town boards. The Planning Board appointment was the most contentious. Hannah Zangari, a real estate attorney, candidate for school committee, and initial signer of the Jen Lima recall petition, was again a candidate for this office; we received many emails supporting her appointment for the reasons that the board needs more women and she is experienced. (Tracey McCue is currently the only woman serving.) But of the six candidates, only Steven Borowick had prior experience as a member of a planning board, from when he lived in Providence. I felt this was significant because there is a steep learning curve for this tenancy. In addition, Mr. Borowick was present Monday night and introduced himself, while no other candidate announced his or her presence. I voted for Mr. Borowick, and he was approved, but I gave the caveat that in July when there is another vacancy for the planning board, I would consider Ms. Zangari.
The other item that took much discussion was Mary Brimer’s request to freeze the School Committee’s unrestricted fund balance pending resolution of the ongoing school investigation and Council review. Ms. Brimer failed to state a direct or indirect correlation on why the freezing of the fund balance would be an appropriate means bring a resolution to the investigation. She and Mr. McKay wanted to send a message to the Superintendent and school committee. Ms. Anderson & I stated we thought this would hurt the students more than help resolve any matters. The vote was 3-2 against freezing any school funds.
For the 7th time in 20 years, NK Water is a winner in Rhode Island's Annual Drinking Water Taste Test. Shown here holding the award is N.K. Water Quality Specialist Deb Knauss, along with (from left, front row) RIRWA President Jimmy Folco; Water Dept. employees Brian Garland, Matt Kwolek, (back row) Paul Appleton, Todd Taylor, and Robin Spears.