Giving credit where credit is due

The following letter is shared with us by the author George Tremblay. This was written in response to a letter that appeared in the Westerly Sun that falsely asserted that construction of senior housing was a misuse of disaster relief funding, that senior citizen housing does not belong in a village district, and that the town should have spent the housing money on the Breachway. As the letter below explains, the disaster relief funding exists only because of the housing. One might ask why the Westerly Sun prints such nonsense, but George set the record straight.

I was dumbstruck by the arrogant disregard for reality in the letter from Brandon Cleary on the use of Hurricane Sandy Disaster Relief Funds (Westerly Sun, July 15). Cleary is a former member of the Charlestown Planning Commission, and a recent candidate for Town Council. We can expect better from him.

Contrary to Mr. Cleary’s assertions, the hazardous breachway to which he refers has, in fact, been repaired. Through the determined effort of town employees Matt Dowling and Steve McCandless, and $335,000 in Hurricane Sandy Disaster Relief money, the breachway was cleared of rocks and sediment shortly after the storm. Text and photos of this fascinating process appeared in several local newspapers. A total of $4 million in funding has been granted through Hurricane Sandy Disaster Relief, RIDEM, and a Hurricane Sandy Resiliency Fund awarded through the RI Coastal Resources Management Council to pay for periodic dredging and relocation of spoils on a five-year schedule. The next dredging is scheduled for 2017. Mr. Cleary’s assertions do not square with the record for attentive town maintenance of the breachway and its surroundings.

As a past member of the Charlestown Planning Commission, we can expect Mr. Cleary to be better informed about the history of the ChurchWoods affordable housing project, and about the trail of funding that finally came together to build it. This is a $6.3 million senior-housing project approved during his tenure in office. I expect that Mr. Cleary knows Charlestown to be the only municipality in the state to approve a bond to support affordable housing, and that he knows the town’s analysis of the performance of the affordable-housing law indicated senior housing to be a most promising effort to meet affordable-housing needs for Charlestown.

After getting the green light from RI Housing, and spending about a third of its bond money on the project, funding for ChurchWoods hit a snag that threatened to waste invested treasure and years of effort. The ever-resourceful Geoff Marchant of the Washington County Community Development Corporation and the ever-vigilant Tom Gentz of the Charlestown Town Council saw a window of opportunity in the state’s eligibility for Hurricane Sandy Disaster Relief money. Rhode Island was eligible for $19.2 million, but only if a portion of that money was budgeted to benefit residents of low to moderate income. Charlestown had a qualifying project shovel-ready, and ChurchWoods was incorporated into the grant application. The grant award provided ChurchWoods with $4.4 million in federal dollars, and an additional $12 million to spread over Washington and Newport counties for disaster relief. Mr. Cleary’s cavalier dismissal of funding for ChurchWoods as “a misappropriation of funds” is most short-sighted. The Council’s success with ChurchWoods brought over $19 million of federal money into the state that wouldn’t be here otherwise. Call the action of the Charlestown Town Council what you will, but you can’t call it irresponsible.

As for the location of the project, where else but the village district offers senior citizens easier access to most amenities?


George C. Tremblay
George Tremblay

The writer is a former member of the Charlestown Planning Commission and a current member of the Charlestown Town Council.