NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — The North Kingstown Town Council meeting on June 24 resulted in the approval of a request for proposal for Wickford Elementary and a new lease for renewable energy projects.
The RFP for Wickford Elementary was discussed by the councilors and some residents who made public comments. Residents who spoke believed that the new draft was much improved from the original draft discussed at the June 10 meeting. There were still some suggested edits to wording and specific items within the proposal.
Councilor Stacey Elliott reminded residents that it’s a proposal, not an agreement.
“We still have that purview to agree to or not agree to something,” she said. She also proposed adding to the background section of the RFP that the Wickford Elementary site abuts a historical neighborhood, which was brought up in public comments.
A motion was approved to have the RFP finalized on or before July 15 and have it out for eight weeks.
The RFP is seeking proposals to develop the property as an “economic anchor” to Wickford Village.
During the June 10 meeting there was a presentation by the Providence Company Clean Economy Development on proposed renewable energy projects in the town. Town Manager Ralph Mollis said that the two properties for the proposed projects would produce enough energy for the North Kingstown town administration buildings along with the school buildings. The electric bill for North Kingstown High School is over $360,000 a year.
The contract for the lease is a nine-year, 364-day term with three five-year renewable options. A question will also be put on the ballot in November for a 25-year agreement, which if voted for by the town, would take precedence over the town council approved lease.
“It’s going to provide significant savings, it’s going to provide us with a land lease…this is a win-win-win across the board and hopefully we can get this off the ground,” Mollis said. There will be no upfront money from the town.
Councilors Richard Welch and Mary Brimer each opposed one item on the consent agenda. Welch opposed a request by Wickford on the Water to increase the number of seats on their deck. He believed the action was premature and that it was best for the owner to wait a full season before expanding.
A neighbor offered his personal approval for the expansion and said Wickford on the Water’s owner had been very cooperative and alleviated concerns about parking and amplifiers on the deck. The item was unanimously approved.
Brimer opposed the abatement of uncollectable taxes that totaled $44,970.23 because she wanted a walkthrough by the town’s financial director for the council and the public to explain why there’s such a long list of people who haven’t paid old taxes. James Lathrop, North Kingstown’s financial director, said that most of the unpaid taxes are for motor vehicle and personal property that belong to people who’ve moved out of state. Once people move, it becomes more difficult to track them down.
Brimer said she recognized many people on the list and believed the names should be published publicly to motivate people to pay what they owe.
“I think we need to do a little public shaming,” she said.
She said she thinks a lot of them are unintended because people may move. Mollis said he will work with Lathrop to get the list of people who owe uncollectable taxes three months earlier than this year so they can discuss advertising the list.
During the councilors’ reports on the committees they serve on, Welch expressed disapproval that the planning commission, an appointed body, would make policy changes without presenting them before the elected town council. He said the commission requested that all documentation required for an agenda be to the planning department two weeks prior to it being an agenda item, which is a policy change Welch agrees with but he feels is something that the town council should be aware of and give its blessing to.
Of the few items on the agenda for public hearing, the only one that received some discussion was the abandonment of a portion of town rights-of-way for unnamed paper streets (roads that appear on maps but have no been built). The item passed four to one in favor after members of the neighborhood where the paper streets run through vouched for its approval.
The public comments at the start of the meeting were briefly turned into a public chastisement when North Kingstown resident David Fogg told councilor Kerry McKay some people felt he “lit into” a resident while talking about the draft for an RFP for Wickford Elementary. Fogg also shared concerns about parking in Wickford and asked that the council find a way to include citizens in the town before signing an agreement for Wickford Elementary. His request echoed the sentiment of a number of residents who spoke at the June 10 and June 24 town council meetings.
The town manager’s report was brief but Mollis explained that there would be an event on July 9 in honor of Al Southwick. The event could potentially have a fireworks display, though not on the scale of the annual Independence Day celebrations.
He said there has also been “significant improvement” at the playground at Ryan Park after the town’s Department of Public Works found an efficient way to eliminate bamboo that was overrunning the playground. The DPW is also working with National Grid to install LED lights in town buildings, and their work was recognized by the Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources.
Mollis also reported that a parking study in the town is still ongoing and will likely be completed in August.