Update on Ninigret Lighting

As promised, we looked into the failure of the Charlestown Town Administrator to disclose important information about lighting at Ninigret Park. In addition, he also failed to disclose important information about possible wind turbines at Ninigret Park (we will cover that in a subsequent email). It is troubling that:

* the Town Administrator concealed important information
* he politicized issues
* his actions caused false expectations by hundreds of local youngsters and coaches who expected to get lighting at Ninigret
* his actions cost the Town a considerable amount of money and time spent by town employees for initiatives that were impossible to achieve
* he has risked a cordial relationship that the Town has with the National Park Service (NPS) and US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) regarding Ninigret Park

Lighting Ordinance Facts

* Town Administrator submits a grant to DEM for 70′ tall lights and a
new football field at Ninigret Park.
* The Administrator failed to consult the neighboring National Wildlife Refuge nor the Town Council before submitting
the grant claiming he needed to submit the grant immediately because of time constraints
* Yet the Administrator learned of the grant in OCTOBER, plenty of time to ask the Town Council for approval and to hold a required public hearing.

A lighting contractor makes a presentation to the Town Council on the proposed lighting in the already submitted grant. The Refuge Manager for the RI National Wildlife Refuge Complex, at the meeting for another matter, learns about the grant and says based on what he saw that night he was opposed.

*The Refuge Manager writes a letter to DEM, copied to the Town Manager (which he did not share with the Town Council), in opposition to the grant for lighted football fields.

* USFWS cites negative consequences to migratory birds, and the proposal is inconsistent with deed restrictions on Ninigret Park by the Interior Department. A link to that letter is here.


* The letter explains that continuing to ignore the requirements of the original land grant could jeopardize the Town’s title to Ninigret Park.

* Responding to USFWS concerns,the Planning Commission suggests at several meetings that lighting for recreation is an issue that should have a special process.

1/23/2012 The Charlestown Parks Department head sends an email, approved by the Town Administrator, to select individuals, organizations including the Democratic Town Committee, contractors, vendors, only Councilors Gregg Avedesian and Marge Frank, saying the lighting ordinance proposed by the Planning Commission “would
eliminate the possibility of providing sport lighting in the park” and would stop the opportunity for the current grant for football lighting-total misinformation. No mention is made in the letter of USFWS objections to the grant or the likelihood the grant will be turned down. Instead recipients of the letter are urged to attend the Town Council meeting and lobby against the lighting ordinance.

2/13/2012 The Town Council reprimands the Town Administrator in public for the letter. The TC had Personnel Matters in the Executive Session, but the TA requested it be held in public