Richmond Town Council Update for May 31, 2022
Council Approves Resolution Supporting Roundabout – with Conditions
By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA
May 31, 2022
RICHMOND – At a special Town Council meeting on May 31, council members approved a resolution supporting the construction of a new roundabout at the intersection of Kingstown Road (Route 138), Richmond Townhouse Road (Route 112), and Carolina Nooseneck Road.
However, the town’s support is conditional on the Rhode Island Department of Transportation devising a solution to traffic issues created by a long line of parents waiting at Richmond Elementary School during morning drop-off. The line of vehicles spills into the breakdown lane of Route 138 and would also enter the new roundabout.
Passed by a unanimous vote, the resolution states, in part,
“…Richmond Town Council hereby endorses RIDOT’s plans for construction of the roundabout at Routes 138 and 112, provided that RIDOT continues to consult with the Town to develop a design that will resolve the traffic queueing problem at the Richmond Elementary School. “
Council Vice President James Palmisciano, who chaired the meeting in the absence of Council President Nell Carpenter, said he had visited the school during parent drop-off to observe the traffic situation, said it would be important to find a solution to a hazardous situation that would be exacerbated by the roundabout.
“The last thing we need is traffic impacting the safety of our children,” he said.
Municipal officials, including Department of Public Works Director Scott Barber and Police Chief Elwood Johnson, joined DOT representatives at a May 24 site visit during the busy morning drop-off.
Johnson described the current configuration of the roadway as “difficult” because of how Route 138 becomes a hill that descends to the school zone.
“Vehicles traveling at higher speeds, and then approaching a blind corner where the parents drop off, … where it creates sightline difficulties and blind spots that make it difficult to navigate as you’re pulling out of there, particularly a left hand turn to cross the westbound lane and get into the eastbound lane,” he said.
Johnson said in the morning, at student drop-off time, the line of cars is very long.
“It can go as far back as Carolina Nooseneck (Road), not actually, usually, on the other side of Carolina Nooseneck, but it gets close to where that flashing sign is on the eastern side of the [school] campus,” he said.
Parents have been directed to wait in the breakdown lane, which has been made safer by the presence of a police cruiser.
Johnson said after seeing the traffic issues for themselves, DOT representatives agreed that the roundabout design would have to be modified.
“After watching it, they saw the same thing, that the roundabout, as I understand it, will take about 120 feet of that breakdown lane and they thought that they could address that by widening the breakdown lane from Carolina Nooseneck, going toward the first entrance, the East entrance of the school, and they thought that they could address that by widening the breakdown lane, taking away some of the lawn but affording more space for vehicles to get off of the travel portion and out of the current breakdown lane, so they’re going to work on something like that and they were very agreeable,” he said.
Chariho Superintendent of Schools Gina Picard, who attended the council meeting with Richmond School Principal, Sharon Martin, said she was pleased with DOT’s responsiveness to the safety concerns.
“They have the means to be able to support us, thinking about morning arrival and dismissal, so it doesn’t back up into that roundabout,” she said. “They talked about a potential access lane for morning arrivals that they could work on…We’re thrilled that they’re talking with us, keeping us in the loop and they want to help us.”
Construction of the roundabout is expected to begin next Spring.
In other business, the council continued discussions of two matters: the allocation of the town’s American Rescue Plan funds and amendments to the Home Rule charter.
The town will receive more than $2.3 million in ARPA funds and the council has already approved the allocation of $249,000 of that federal money for a list of projects.
However, Palmisciano said that in light of the recent calls to review and possibly tighten security at Rhode Island schools, those allocations, which include a community center director proposed by the town’s Wellness Committee, might have to change.
“Not to discredit the work that was done by the Wellness Committee, but frankly, looking at our schools, looking at how we might be able to use the ARPA money to reinforce training, security and things for our police department to be able to react at a time of need,” he said.
The council continued the discussion to the June 7 meeting.
The council also continued its consideration of proposed amendments to the Home Rule Charter submitted by the Charter Review Commission. In a memorandum sent to Town Solicitor Karen Ellsworth on May 17, the commission suggested several changes to the charter some of which, Ellsworth said, would involve policy decisions.
“I probably spent between 10 and 12 hours on this,” she said. “Amending the charter is a major undertaking and every word is important, so I think that, at the very least, it deserves more discussion and some policy decisions and possibly, a discussion with members of the Charter [Review] Commission.”
One of the recommendations involves replacing the town’s annual Financial Town Meeting with an all-day referendum.
Commission Chair B. Joseph Reddish said the referendum would make it possible for more residents to participate in the budget process, because so few people currently attend the town meetings.
“Right now, less than 100 people decide the fate of the budget for the Town of Richmond,” he said. “We feel it’s more important to get more people engaged in this process by having an all-day referendum.”
Ellsworth said she would work on clarifying the language in the commission’s memorandum.
In a public hearing that took place earlier in the evening, the council approved an application by the Wawaloam Reservation Inc. for an outdoor entertainment license for summer music and a drive - through holiday light display in November and December at the campground.
Wawaloam owners are organizing this year’s light display themselves, after an unsuccessful collaboration in 2020 with an outside company, BOLD Media.
The council approved the license for the event, which will take place in November and December and is expected to draw about 1,500 people.
Beaver River Valley Community Association
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