NARRAGANSETT, R.I. — The Narragansett Town Council on Monday voted in changes to Narragansett Town Beach admission charges that will double the weekday parking fees and raise the daily entrance price by 50 percent.
Among the fee changes will be hikes to the daily admission fee from $10 to $15, and the daily parking fee from $10 on weekdays and $15 on weekends to $20 seven days per week.
Transferable resident beach passes would go from $75 to $100, and be limited to five per household.
For parking, the town would use its paved lots exclusively for residents and taxpayers only in 2021. The West lot would be opened to non-residents.
A motion by Council member Patrick Murray to amend the proposed admission fee from $15 to $12, backed by Jesse Pugh, failed on a 3-2 vote.
Pugh was the only member, however, to vote against the changes. Murray said he would vote for them based on the explanation for the hikes by Parks and Recreation Director Steven Wright.
“I cannot support the increases that are going to affect residents and hurt our businesses,” Pugh said.
Council members Jill Lawler and Rick Lema, along with President Matthew Mannix, said the increases and the reasoning from Wright behind them would ensure that the town beach would continue to be “resident-friendly.”
“These are in line with that philosophy,” Mannix said.
Murray called the issue a “political football” when he tried to speak about it during the final vote, and Mannix told him to “just vote.”
Pugh thought the issue should be tabled until the next council is seated.
Some criticized the move, saying it would hurt the local economy.
Steve Brophy, owner of Brickley’s Ice Cream, said that prior policy changes resulted in a reduction in his business in 2018 and feared the new increases would also.
“By increasing the parking fees, an increase of $5 or 50 percent is going to have a negative effect on businesses, because of less traffic on Boston Neck Road,” Brophy said. “That traffic that otherwise would pass our shop will not. They’ll go to the state beaches.”
Supporters, though, said the move would reduce crowding and things that come with it such as litter and strained resources.
The Recreation Advisory Board approved the changes in August. The admission fee hasn’t changed in two years and the parking fee has remained the same since 2011, Wright said.
The town beach is designed to be self-sustaining – that is, able to operate without any additional burden on taxpayers. Fees are designed to not only cover annual operating expenses, but also pay for long-term projects such as building renovations, parking lot repairs and replacements, sand replenishment and addressing storm damage and erosion.
COVID expenses have also put a dent into beach revenues, Wright said, and the state just recently hiked its minimum wage by $1 per hour.
Also late on Monday, the council voted to appoint two of three new members to seats on the Library Board of Trustees.
The move drew scorn from library advocates, who said that Mannix, Lawler and Lema had voted to “fire” three hard-working incumbent board members seeking reappointment and replace them with hand-picked anti-library surrogates.
The Library Board of Trustees is composed of seven members, each serving three-year terms. Gail S. Shields, Ann S. Sullivan and Gloria M. Roman had requested reappointment. They have each served five terms.
Five new applications came from Gina M. Giramma, Jeff L. Dentler, Mary Ann Grintchenko, Dennis F. Lynch, Catherine A. Moss and Douglas E. McLaughlin. Lynch had withdrawn his application.
The council appointed McLaughlin, a former council member, and Dentler, but held off on a last-minute application from Pat Brady to avoid any possibility of an Open Meetings Act violation.