Council approves Home Rule Charter revisions, sets new goals

Thu, 01/14/2021 - 5:45pm

After a 16-month process with the Charter Review Commission tackling the Town of New Shoreham’s Home Rule Charter, the proposed amendments for the Charter – revised every 10 years – are now complete.

The Town Council continued discussions on the proposed revisions for the Charter on Wednesday, Jan 6. On Monday, Jan. 4, the council had looked at the revised language for the amendments developed by Town Solicitor Kathy Merolla and town staff. The revised amendments have been sent to the Rhode Island Secretary of State’s office. The council’s revisions will be turned into local ballot questions to be put to the voters of the town in March.

“On Monday night [Jan. 4], we went through a number of resolutions and we voted on many of them. Some of them were continued for tonight [Jan. 6] for minor edits,” said Second Warden Sven Risom.

Proposed amendments on the March ballot

The following proposed amendments to the Charter from the Jan. 4 and Jan. 6 council meetings – a total of 20 items – will be turned into questions for electors of the town on the March ballot: broadcasting and recording of town meetings (amends Charter Section 104); posting of documents prior to town meetings (amends Charter Section 104); responsibility of electors to attend Financial Town Meeting (amends Charter Section 301); appointment of temporary Town Moderator for Financial Town Meeting (amends Charter Section 302); publication of Financial Town Meeting warrant (amends Charter Section 304); limiting circumstances when Town Council members may serve on the Land Trust, School Committee, or appointed to a board by the Town Council (amends Charter Section 402); adding public comment to council agendas (amends Charter Section 405); adding health insurance to compensation of Town Council members (amends Charter Section 407); removing council obligation to review personnel policies annually (amends Charter Section 408); requiring posting of proposed Charter amendments on the town’s website (amends Charter Section 409); eliminating Town Manager residency requirement (amends Charter Section 502); adding Town Manager duty to include seasonal fluctuations assessment (amends Charter Section 506); prohibiting Town Manager from serving as Head of Department of Public Works (amends Charter Section 507); adding budget process goal (amends Charter Section 605); adding budget notice requirements (amends Charter Section 605); adding requirement regarding disposal of town intangible personal property (amends Charter Section 605); Police Advisory Commission (amends Charter Section 907); responsibilities of Director of Public Works (amends Charter Section 801); adding requirement that Director of Public Works and Harbormaster report to Town Manager (amends Charter Section 801); and removing Office of Inspections from Department of Public Works (amends Charter Section 801).

Chair of the Charter Review Commission Keith Stover thanked everyone involved in the long process.

“l thank you for allocating so much time,” said Stover. “I emerged from that process not only encouraged about the Charter, but with some really deep and abiding friendships. I want to thank [the Charter Review Commission] and the council.”

First Warden André Boudreau agreed with Stover’s comments. “I thought we had a great substantive conversation. I was excited we sat there for a long time and got through all of this with mutual respect,” said Boudreau.

Town Council sets goals for 2021/2022

With a new year in place, the council went to work on formulating its goals as a council for 2021 and 2022.

Town Manager Maryanne Crawford opened up the dialogue on the procedure for setting the goals.

“When a new council starts, they meet with the town manager to set goals. You probably want to do six to seven goals, and you may want to set up a timeline for that goal to be achieved,” said Crawford. “It’s the goals that the council would like to put forth for the next two years as your tenure as council members.”

The council members discussed a broad range of goals, with the intent for the goals to be discussed and refined at a future meeting. The following goals were listed by council members:

First Warden André Boudreau

Strong and cohesive Town Council
Shopping strolls for seasonal events
Increase community events
Safe and structured community

Second Warden Sven Risom

Eradicate deer
Improve traffic flow and safety
Sustainable economic development
Manage development on the island 

Councilor Martha Ball

Cohesive community
Future of land use
Cooperation with businesses
Traffic and rental industry
Future of finances

Councilor Mark Emmanuelle

Address Old Harbor triangle dilemma
Eradicate deer
Resurrect bike lanes or widening of roads
Address Weldon’s Way

Councilor Keith Stover

Traffic and congestion issues
Manage development on the island
Future of harbors and harbor facilities
Hear from young population on their concerns and needs

Council discusses work session plan for next six months

The council also exchanged similar and new ideas to discuss at future work sessions: traffic congestion and mopeds; schedule meetings with Block Island Land Trust, Island Light and Power for updates and future direction; pay tribute to the North Lighthouse and Southeast Lighthouse restoration projects; facility tour of the island and its departments; Old Harbor triangle dilemma; legal updates for council; and the town’s IT infrastructure and public access. 

Boudreau added more ideas and discussions “will pop up” as the council moves into 2021.