NARRAGANSETT, R.I. — It was a mostly routine and subdued final meeting Monday night for a Narragansett Town Council that had a rocky two years.
At the start, Council President Pro Tem Jill Lawler congratulated council members Jesse Pugh and Patrick Murray, who won re-election to the new council that will be seated next month. Pugh was the top vote-getter in the election.
“I wanted to go ahead and congratulate Jesse and Patrick for their victory,” Lawler said. “This was certainly won in the mail ballots, but they did a great job and won seats, so congratulations, and I’ll be watching you guys.”
Councilman Rick Lema also wished the pair congratulations, and good luck.
Pugh and Murray will be joined on the next council by Susan Cicilline Buonanno, Ewa Dzwierzynski and Deborah Kopech.
The plans to renovate the former Belmont market building had been a wedge issue for the entire term of the council, which voted 3-2 in January 2019 to sell the building. Pugh and Murray were against it, and the move sparked clashes between them and Council President Matthew Mannix, Lawler and Lema at most meetings.
The animosity was still present in the final minutes of Monday’s meeting. Mannix was speaking about the election and mentioned absentee ballot applications.
“Those applications were sent out to all the people on the registered voters list, and as we’ve learned more about that, it’s looking like it’s de-legitimizing and undermining a lot of the election, so nationwide, it’s something we need to look at,” he said.
Pugh attempted to say something back to him.
“Matt, stop, you don’t need to say that,” Pugh said. “Good way to go out Matt, good way to go out.”
Lema interrupted and said Mannix should be allowed to speak. Mannix, who ran for a state Senate seat but did not win, said he was commenting on why the town had an increased workload.
“I knew we couldn’t get through this meeting without some kind of confrontation,” Murray remarked at the very close of the meeting.
Also Monday, Town Manager Jim Tierney took time to thank town staff for its efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“They’re doing a great job,” he said. “They’ve got a great attitude about it. And make no mistake, the COVID numbers continue to climb.”
Seventy percent of cases in the past several weeks have been tied to the University of Rhode Island, he said.
Tierney also applauded staff for its work during the election, which saw record turnout and overwhelming mail-in voting.
“Our clerks do a fantastic job every day, and during the election a unique circumstance occurred which tasked Kathy Craig, our Board of Canvassers clerk, with an unbelievable amount of work to do with the election. I would like to recognize her for doing a fantastic job. Due to unforeseen circumstances, she was there by herself for a good portion of it.”
The Town Hall had closed to in-person business on Oct. 29 and the town said Nov. 2 it had recent cases of COVID at Town Hall, and some staff were quarantined.
COVID also has affected the police department.
On Monday, Police Chief Sean Corrigan announced that a member of the Narragansett Police Department has tested positive for COVID-19.
The member participated in weekly asymptomatic testing on Nov. 12, Corrigan said. The positive test result notification came on Sunday evening. The member is now self-isolating at home.
The Rhode Island Department of Health will conduct an independent contact tracing investigation, he said. The department has been practicing social distancing, using personal protective equipment and enhanced environmental cleaning, he added.
The council also held a moment of silence for the passing of Donald Goodrich, a member of Narragansett’s planning and zoning boards for many years.
“Mr. Goodrich donated a lot of his time and energy to the community,” Mannix said.