NARRAGANSETT, R.I. — The town of Narragansett’s plans for a new library at the former Belmont/IGA market building at the Pier have been hotly debated and dominated for most of the current town council’s time in office.
Judging by the early results of Tuesday’s primary election, the issue will not be forgotten by voters anytime soon.
While the final results are still to be determined as the state counts mail-in and absentee ballots, four of the top five vote-getters in the non-partisan council race are supporters of the proposal to occupy the Belmont building.
Current Town Council member Jesse Pugh, former council president Susan Cicilline Buonanno and incumbent Patrick Murray — all outspoken proponents of the Belmont proposal — finished first, second and third, respectively, in Tuesday’s election.
Pugh led all candidates in the 16-person field with a total of 710 votes. Cicilline Buonanno tallied 653 votes and Lema had 563.
The trio finished ahead of current Council members Richard Lema and Jill Lawler, who supported outgoing council president Matthew Mannix in selling the Belmont building site despite a 2016 referendum by voters that approved a $5.8 million bond for the project.
They finished fourth and sixth, respectively, with 424 and 412 votes, with library supporter Ewa Dzwierzynski coming in fifth overall with 420 votes.
Should the results hold, all six will advance to November’s general election and compete for one of the five council seats with fellow top-10 finishers Joseph Robenhymer (381), Steven J. Ferrandi (359), Michael J. Millen, Jr. (346) and Laurie A. Kelly (308).
Millen, for one, believes that while the library issue may get the most attention in town, the results Tuesday show voters may be considering other factors when choosing their candidates.
“Seeing multiple candidates who are in open opposition to the library moving to Belmont finish in the Top 10 tells us that there is a significant segment of voters who are worried about more than just the library,” he said. “This election is not just about one issue, but the library has dominated the headlines because of the actions of the current council.”
For Millen, Tuesday’s election was just the start of what promises to be a busy campaign season for all the candidates. He says he looks forward to the next part of the process.
“While there are still some mail-in votes that need to be counted, it’s incredibly exciting to be in this position,” Millen said. “It’s rewarding to see the support I’ve gotten so far. Getting onto the November ballot is just the first step.”
Messages left for other candidates in Tuesday’s race were not returned by press time. A full report on the council primary, including final mail-in and absentee ballot totals, will run in next week’s Independent.