NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — The final meeting of the current North Kingstown Town Council was a relatively routine one Monday night, with the council members approving a series of routine purchases and licenses as well as taking care of business tabled from the previous Oct. 19 meeting, which ended after less than 20 minutes when Councilor Kerry McKay’s dissatisfaction with Town Council President Greg Mancini boiled over into him calling for and receiving an early adjournment to the evening.
The meeting, however, was less routine in appearance as it was held entirely over Zoom for the first time since June over rising COVID concerns rather than utilizing the Municipal Courtroom as the last few meetings had done for council members.
On the consent agenda, the council approved a variety of purchases, including a new rescue for the North Kingstown Fire Department that will replace the current Rescue 3, which will become a department reserve, in about 10 months time and cost $257,716.
Councilor Richard Welch raised concerns about the price tag and pondered if Asset Management should be given an opportunity to compare and contrast the costs of other similar rescues in area towns and explore if it would be more cost efficient to purchase a larger rescue as cities such as Warwick have.
However, Fire Chief Scott Kettelle disagreed with the councilor’s statement, saying he took offense to the notion that Asset Management should taking control of evaluating the cost of fire apparatus and complained that it made him feel as though the council doesn’t respect his judgment as fire chief to work in both the best interest of his firefighters and the taxpayers.
Kettelle said most area departments employing similarly sized rescues and added that he explored other options from other automakers but that the Ford model they chose, an updated version of the current Rescue 3, was the most reliable option and the easiest to maintain with the town already having the diagnostic equipment for Ford vehicles, and that this model was still quality while being more affordable to the town than other options.
“I feel that we have a good quality product,” Kettelle said.
Kettelle also said the current Rescue 3 has 138,000 miles and by the time the new rescue arrives, he expects that total to be closer to 160,000.
The council voted unanimously to approve the purchase.
The rescue was not the only vehicle purchase approved on the night, as the council also voted 5-0 to approve the purchase of two used school buses for the Recreation Department to use for its summer camp programs at a cost of $109,950, replacing their older current buses which Recreation Director Chelsey Dumas-Gibbs said only generated a resale value of $500 and were in need of being replaced.
Welch raised concerns about the price tag for two used buses that are five years old and have about 50,000 miles on them, but McKay told Welch he had previously had similar concerns but after calling around to bus dealers and other people familiar with pricing, he learned it would be significantly cheaper to purchase these buses, which he said should be in their prime, than purchase a new bus, leading him to support the measure.
Councilor Mary Brimer asked if this was a deal that the council could hold off on with the uncertainties surrounding the town budget in the face of COVID and not knowing what the situation will look like in the coming months, a point which Town Manager A. Ralph Mollis said he saw, but that if things were able to move back to normal by the spring or summer the town would absolutely need them, with Dumas-Gibbs adding that the summer camp was held this past summer with COVID restrictions in place and that the buses will definitely be utilized by the camp again this summer.
She also mentioned that $5,000 of the total cost is being covered by Al’s Kids, a charity set up in memory of the late longtime Recreation Director Al Southwick.
The purchase, like the rescue, passed unanimously, as did most items on the consent agenda, with the exception of a measure to accept a $10,007.50 grant from the Center for Tech and Civic Life to offset the cost of early voting, which passed 4-1 with McKay opposing it, saying he didn’t want an out of town organization attempting to influence their local elections, and an item pertaining to recreation equipment at the Town Beach, which also passed 4-1 but with Councilor Kevin Maloney in opposition, who expressed concern with the galvanized equipment lacking color and design.
“It’s going to be a very high profile piece and I think it’s just lacking in color,” Maloney said.
Dumas-Gibbs said that the color of the equipment could be easily changed through hot dipped galvanization and that further conversation about its appearance will happen in December.
In other business, the council also unanimously approved and renewed Alcoholic Beverage, Victualling, Amusement, Dance, Jukebox and Entertainment licenses for nearly 40 businesses as well as voted to move on updated fees for the municipal golf course, though McKay said he wanted them to further address their situation regarding some seniors paying more than the regular adult price, something he said was both unfair and “bad optics” for the town as a whole. The council also approved an assessment of charges for sanitation sewers unanimously after some discussion.
Spurred by Kettelle earlier in the evening, Mancini called for and received a unanimous vote to award a citation to a 14-year-old girl whose quick thinking helped save two kayakers in distress near the Jamestown Bridge this summer, with more details to come.
Two item agendas, both pertaining to the approval of appointments to town boards, were tabled until the next meeting in order to be voted on by the new council members.
The next Town Council meeting is slated for Dec. 7 and will see Kim Page and Katie Anderson sworn in as councilors, joining incumbents Mancini, Brimer and McKay for the next two years.