Council Appoints School Committee Member - NOVEMBER 2nd 2021
TOWN COUNCIL MEETING
Council Appoints School Committee Member - NOVEMBER 2nd 2021
RICHMOND — The Town Council has appointed Karen Reynolds to the Chariho School Committee, filling the vacancy left by Sheila Grover, who passed away on Oct. 27.
Council members also considered grant applications for a community wellness center and the dog park.
With council President Nell Carpenter and member Lauren Cacciola casting dissenting votes, the council voted to appoint Reynolds to the School Committee for the remainder of Grover’s term, which ends in Nov., 2024.
A second candidate, Jessica Purcell, was backed by a letter of support from former council member, B. Joe Reddish III, however, a majority of council members felt that Reynolds’ experience and current work as a teacher in the Exeter-West Greenwich School District made her a better fit for the position.
Councilor Richard Nassaney said he wanted to hear public comments on the appointment, but although the support letter from Reddish was included on the council agenda, Carpenter said the council would not entertain comments from the public in this instance.
“This council, historically, has never afforded the public an opportunity to speak on appointments, not in the several years that I have been on council or been in the audience,” she said. “So, we will not be affording the public an opportunity to speak.”
With council Vice President James Palmisciano casting the third vote for Reynolds, her appointment was approved.
Council members considered approving applications for Outdoor Recreation Grants from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management - one for a wellness center and a second for the dog park.
The town is currently recruiting members for a new Wellness Committee, which the council approved at the Oct. 5 meeting. There have been six applicants to date for the new committee, which will have up to 11 members. The council had set a deadline of Dec. 15 for applications, however, Cacciola urged the council to begin interviewing candidates as soon as possible.
“We need to start this committee now, rather than later,” she said. “Some key factors stating, is that in recent months, that mental health is an issue.”
The role of the new committee, whose members will have expertise in areas such as physical health, law enforcement, education, domestic violence and law enforcement, will be to make recommendations to the council regarding the need for wellness services.
The council agreed to begin considering candidates at the Nov. 16 meeting.
Carpenter then asked the council to approve an application for a DEM Outdoor Recreation grant.
“Knowing that this cannot specifically be used for the construction of a community center, it can be used for the recreation grounds that that community center sits on,” she said. “It can also be used for lighting, for restrooms, for courts, for fields, playgrounds, you name it. The grant is the lower side, $100,000 with the match, upwards of $400,000 is the maximum potential for this grant.”
The grant has a Dec. 17 application deadline and requires a town match, which the town could pay using American Rescue Plan funds. The total pandemic recovery grant to the town is $2.4 million.
Finance Director Laura Kenyon raised the issue of whether a newly-constituted Wellness Committee would have sufficient time to prepare a complicated grant application by mid-December.
“I think it’s a quick task for a new Wellness Committee to take on, when the Wellness Committee is pretty much going to be tasked with what services are needed,” she said. “To then apply for a grant is … is going to be bringing that Wellness Committee to task rather quickly.”
Carpenter asked Kenyon whether she felt the town would be asking too much of the new committee, and Kenyon said she was bringing up the issue for the purpose of discussion.
Carpenter proposed that the matter be continued to the next council meeting, on Nov. 16, and Town Solicitor Karen Ellsworth suggested that staff members put together a proposal that the council could consider at that time.
Members of the Dog Park Committee asked the council to approve their application for a DEM Outdoor Recreation Grant to purchase fencing for the new dog park, which will be located near the Heritage Trail.
Town Administrator Karen Pinch said another project that would be considered for a DEM grant is the Beaver River playground, which needs major improvements. There are two potential funding sources, the DEM and a T - Mobile “Hometown Grant” which awards up to $50,000 to communities for special projects.
“In this case, there are competing interests for the funding,” she said. “We want to make sure we have your input as to which project.”
Carpenter said she would prefer to see grant money allocated to human-focused projects.
“I’m a dog person, I love dogs, but I would prefer spending grant money on humans,” she said. “Not that I have anything against dogs, because I don’t, but I think people need to be recipients of grants more so, so that’s my thought,” she said.
Dog park committee members disagreed with Carpenter during the public forum.
Dog Park Committee Secretary Samantha Wilcox said the committee was already working on several funding opportunities, including the DEM and T-Mobile grants. She also noted that dog parks benefitted people as well as dogs.
“Council President, I respect your opinion, and it’s a very common opinion that dog parks are for dogs, however, they help people,” she said. “They help the handicapped, elderly, people with health issues get out of their home and bring their dog to exercise. It’s not a place where you just bring your dog and you drop them and you go.”
Committee member Donna Gouveia told the council that Animal Control Officer Anne Fisher had reported that she had received fewer complaints when people began bringing their dogs to the dog park.
“It benefits people,” she said. “It’s not just for the dogs, because I think that you thought money would be better spent for people rather than dogs, but it does both.”
In other business, Police Chief Elwood Johnson recognized the Chariho girls’ field hockey team, which was undefeated in the regular season but lost their post season match on Nov. 1 with the Rocky Hill Mariners.
“They really made everybody proud,” he said. “Our guys had an opportunity, along with Hope Valley Fire Department, Charlestown Police Department and Hopkinton, to give them kind of a majestic escort from [Chariho] campus to the highway before the game.”
Before the meeting adjourned, Carpenter said she wanted to clarify her earlier statement about prioritizing human-focused projects over those involving dogs.
“I would just like to say one thing,” she said. “I am not anti-dog. I actually like dogs more than human beings.
Beaver River Valley Community Association
P.O. Box 10, Shannock, RI 02875