NARRAGANSETT, R.I. — Four local questions are before voters in Narragansett in this year’s election, and two deal with efforts to relocate the town’s library.
Question 3 would limit $5.8 million in bond spending that voters approved in 2016 to renovating the former Belmont/IGA building at the pier into a new location for the Maury Loontjens Memorial Library. It also would allow the town to apply for matching or grant funds from the state “for the acquisition and renovation of a new library.”
Former Town Council President Susan Cicilline Buonanno, who is running for reelection to the council after dropping out of the 2018 race, initiated the petition drive to get the question on the ballot.
In March 2019, the Town Council voted to mark the initiative petition as invalid, preventing it from being placed on the ballot. A Superior Court judge ruled in June, however, that the initiative could proceed.
Likewise, if passed, Question 5 would prevent the sale, lease or transfer of ownership of the Belmont building, which is owned by the town, unless approved through a voter initiative or strictly for use as a town library.
Love Your Library, a grassroots group that favors moving the Maury Loontjens Memorial Library to the former Belmont/IGA market at the pier, has come out in favor of ballot questions 3 and 5.
The other local questions, Question 2 and Question 4, are proposed amendments to the town’s home rule charter.
They were placed on the ballot through an initiative by Town Council candidate and Democratic Town Committee Chairman Win Hames.
If approved, Question 2 would establish a recall procedure for elected officials.
The recall petition charter amendment would allow voters to remove an official in elected office for at least six months by recall petition.
At least 25 percent of voters who cast ballots in the most recent general election before the petition is circulated would need to sign it and file it with the town clerk within 60 days.
The Board of Canvassers would then need to certify the petition and submit it to the council, which would set an election for a Tuesday not more than 75 days after canvassers certified it.
An exception to that deadline would be if any other town election was scheduled within 120 days, in which case the recall would be scheduled for that date.
Question 4 would change the charter to add a provision that Narragansett may only sell property after receiving approval from the town’s voters at the next scheduled election.
This question has come under criticism from some, including current council members Rick Lema and Patrick Murray, for being too broad and restrictive.
They argue it could tie the hands of the council when the town wants to sell any property, such as vehicles and other small equipment.
Questions 2 and 4 also originated from battles about the library, but aren’t directly tied to it.
When he introduced them, Hames charged that the current council majority of President Matthew Mannix, Lema and President Pro Tem Jill Lawler refused to follow “the will of the people” regarding the library project.
A third initiative by Hames would have tried to restore partisan-based elections of Town Council and School Committee members in Narragansett.
But the council in late April voted 4-1 to mark the petition as invalid, after questions surfaced about the process and the validity of the petition request.