Charlestown 2015 Accomplishments and 2016 Plans

Each year at this time The Westerly Sun invites local leaders to share highlights of the past year and goals for the coming year. The following response to this request appeared in The Sun and is reprinted here with permission of the author Tom Gentz. Mr. Gentz is President of the Charlestown Town Council.

Tom Gentz

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

2015 Accomplishments:

  • Copar fugitive dust Legislation passes, giving RIDEM authority to enforce regulations, thanks to Charlestown’s legislators Representative Blake Filippi, Senators Dennis Algiere and Elaine Morgan
  • Appointed a full-time Town Planner through promotion of Jane Weidman from part-time Planner and promoted Vicky Hilton as the new Director of the Parks and Recreation Department
  • Town of Charlestown successfully negotiated 3-year collective bargaining agreements with each of four labor units
  • Potable Water Working Group was convened in 2015 to work on reducing nitrogen/nitrates in well water south of Rt. 1. The group is working on citizen education on improving septic system care and less use of fertilizer
  • CRMC and Town of Charlestown received a $3.25 M grant for dredging of Ninigret Pond for salt marsh resiliency and eel grass maintenance. The excess material will be placed on Charlestown Beach
  • Authorized referendum for $2 million in bond funds for acquisition of open space was approved by voters
  • Town Council and Parks and Recreation Commission agreed upon improvements to Ninigret Park authorized by voters through a citizen petition for $1M in bond funds. Improvements include reconstructing the tennis and basketball courts, re-establish walking trails that have become overgrown, new and themed signage for the Ninigret Park entrance and throughout the interior of the park
  • In response to citizens’ complaints concerning the rumble strips on Rt. 112 through Carolina and Rt. 91, RI DOT removed them and rumble strips were deleted from RI DOT plans for repaving Rt. 1
  • ChurchWoods, 24 units of senior affordable housing, is successfully funded and Shannock Village Cottages property with 11 rental units of workforce housing will have been purchased by the end of 2015
  • The Quonnie Grange will remain a community venue for meetings, gatherings and other events, and will be managed by a community group with support from the Dunns Corner Fire District.
  • CRMC and Town of Charlestown approved an MOU to work together on aquaculture, GIS and Harbor Management
  • Saved taxpayers over $1 million by re-amortizing unfunded liabilities regarding pensions and transferring money management to higher earning vehicles, saving $30,000 annually in management fees for OBEB
  • Town of Charlestown joins 22 other RI municipalities by agreeing to purchase streetlights from NGRID and upgrade to LED streetlights with intelligent controllers to reduce operating costs to taxpayers, As president of PRISM, the Partnership for Rhode Island Streetlight Management, I am pleased to announce that to date PRISM has over 50,000 streetlights in various phases of upgrading out of the 100,000 in RI for an annual savings to Rhode Island municipalities of over $8 M
  • Approved a resolution for an $80,000 loan guarantee for the purchase of property to construct 11 units of workforce rental housing in Shannock Village
  • Approved a resolution in support of the Quonset Air Museum
  • To make it easier to do business in Charlestown, the Town Council reduced the cost of a business license and approved a resolution that will exempt half of Charlestown’s 320 registered businesses from taxes on equipment (tangible property taxes)
  • Morale in Town Hall is exceptionally high with thanks to Mark Stankiewicz our Town Administrator

2016 Plans:

  • Complete Town Comprehensive Plan with citizen input
  • Break ground on ChurchWoods and occupy by the Fall of 2017
  • Install PRISM LED streetlights with intelligent controllers to transform Charlestown by providing more cost effective, clearer and better lighting
  • Tangible tax reduction once State enabling Legislation passes