Editor's Note: This story has been updated and revised to reflect that comments from the North Kingstown Police Department were delivered by Deputy Chief Steven St. Onge, not Police Chief Jeffrey St. Onge as previously reported.
NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — The North Kingstown Town Council held its first meeting of 2021 Monday night via Zoom and talked about budget, COVID vaccinations and made several appointments to town boards in a meeting that lasted a little over an hour.
After a quick consent agenda, in which all items were passed unanimously, and all but one passed in one motion, Town Manager Ralph Mollis mentioned in his Town Manager’s report that all public safety personnel in town “had been given the opportunity” to be given the COVID-19 vaccination, with North Kingstown Fire Chief Scott Kettelle saying 70 percent of his department had chosen to receive their first dose of the vaccine, with the second batch administration slated for between Jan. 25 and 30, while North Kingstown Police Deputy Chief Steven St. Onge said 53 percent of his department had done the same.
Town Council President Greg Mancini asked Kettelle about the members of his department who had chosen not to take the vaccine, which Kettelle said there had been a variety of reasons, including several who wanted to wait it out a few weeks to see how the vaccine worked and pointed out that the vaccination numbers among both departments were on the higher side compared to others in Rhode Island.
Mancini expressed his concerns regarding the number of personnel who had been given the opportunity to take the vaccine but had chosen against it and asked both departments if there was something that could be done to further encourage those who had chosen not to be vaccinated to change their minds. Councilor Kerry McKay chimed in, saying he was concerned where this language could lead to and that those who chose not to get the vaccine should have their individual rights respected.
On the budget, Mollis said the deadline on getting their budget to the state could be affected by the appointment by President-elect Joe Biden of Gov. Gina Raimondo to be Secretary of Commerce in his administration and the subsequent transition of power as Lt. Gov. Dan McKee takes over the governorship.
Overall, while COVID-19 has provided a myriad of financial hurdles for municipalities across the world to overcome, Finance Director Jim Lathrop said that the budget adjustments, cuts and realignments that the Town of North Kingstown had made in 2020 have left the town in relatively good standing.
“Overall I think we’re in a good place (financially),” Lathrop said, in particular thanking the town government and North Kingstown School Department for the work they’ve done since the start of the pandemic.
The meeting ended with a series of appointments to town boards, including the reappointment of seven of the eight members of the Charter Review Commission, as well as the appointment of former School Committee Vice Chairman Bob Jones to fill the spot left by now Councilor Kim Page.
Without enough interest expressed, the town decided to re-advertise the positions of member of the Assessment Board of Review, At-Large Representative to the Asset Management Commission and both the First Alternate Member and member of the Historic District Commission.
The Town Council will next meet on Jan. 25 via Zoom.