Charlestown 2014 Year End Review

The Westerly Sun invited a leader from each local municipality to write a year-end summary of municipal government accomplishments. The following was submitted by George Tremblay, Vice President of the Charlestown Town Council.

George C. Tremblay
George Tremblay

It has been a good year for Charlestown, with significant accomplishments on environmental issues, resource development, and town governance.

Coastal Conservation: Funding from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM; $424,000) and a federal grant awarded through the RI Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC; $3.25 million) will pay for dredging and relocation of spoils to improve waterfront areas and salt marshes along our ocean beaches and salt water ponds. Hurricane Sandy relief funds ($335,000) paid for rock and sediment removal from the breachway providing ocean access to Ninigret Pond. Town employees Steve McCandless and Matt Dowling partnered with CRMC to define these projects, apply for federal funding, and coordinate the effort with government agencies. The work supports the erosion resistance and ecological functions of the salt marshes, as well as the economic vitality of recreational tourism associated with swimming, boating, and fishing along our coastal shores.

Housing: Hurricane Sandy Disaster-Relief Funding rescued financing for 24 Affordable Housing rental units for seniors (ChurchWoods) in the Charlestown Village District. Construction is well under way for 7 owner-occupied Affordable Housing units on Edwards Lane in Carolina Village.

Building Official Joe Warner led the drive to get Charlestown certified for a reduced rate on flood insurance, saving homeowners and businesses up to 15% on insurance premiums beginning May, 2015.

Protection of Shoreline Drinking Water: Contamination of groundwater and coastal ponds with nitrogen continues to threaten water quality. A pilot study, supervised by the Wastewater Commission and town employees Matt Dowling and Steve McCandless, indicates that shallow groundwater may be a lesser source of nitrogen entering the ponds than previously thought.  This invites speculation that wildlife sources may be of greater significance. Oiling of goose eggs to block reproduction this year is expected to eliminate discharge of over 60 tons of nitrogen-rich fecal matter from these birds. At year’s end, the Town Council constituted a “Working Group” to examine sources of contamination along the salt ponds, and options for remediation.

Parks and Recreation: Through the efforts of Director Jay Primiano and his staff, the town was awarded $180,000 by DEM for improvements to Ninigret Park. Additional awards from DEM totaling $193,869 funded transformation of the abandoned golfing range along U.S. Route 1 to Pawaget Park, a picnic area with a boardwalk leading to a scenic overlook on Ninigret Pond, and a mile of hiking trail through open meadow. The park includes fireplaces for cooking, and picnic tables.

Town Business:   Charlestown Treasurer Pat Anderson reports that the town’s pension system is funded at an enviable rate of 80% of obligations. Careful fiscal management keeps our tax rate among the lowest in the state.

Prompted by the tragic accidental death of Colin Foote, the town is about to activate Red Light Traffic Safety Cameras at the intersections of East and West Beach Roads with U.S. Route 1.

The long-standing dispute over termination of Councilor Di Bello was amicably settled through capable mediation by retired Chief Justice Frank Williams.

Review of policy and practices within the Charlestown Police Department are underway for prestigious certification by the RI Police Accreditation Commission.

State-mandated revision of the town’s Comprehensive Plan is underway, with progress posted on the town’s website.

Renovations of Council Chambers at Town Hall have met with enthusiastic approval by staff and the public.

Town staff is to be congratulated for its willing engagement to improve the quality of life for all residents of Charlestown.