Special Financial Town Meeting date set

Thu, 01/09/2020 - 5:00pm

A Special Financial Town Meeting to vote on a proposed $2.3 million water main project that will be undertaken by the Water Company has been scheduled for March 23, 2020. The Town Council set the date at its meeting on Monday, Jan. 6.

The members of the Water Commission had asked the Council to set a separate date from the regular annual Financial Town Meeting, which is always held on the first Monday in May, because some of the financing of the project may come from a federal grant program that has a time-sensitive application date. The project is to install a new section of pipe on High Street and Payne Road, and has been described by Water Company Supt. John Breunig as the most expensive project the department has ever undertaken.

Water Commission Chair Brad Marthens had also been pushing for the funding of the project to be shared among town taxpayers, rather than simply among the water company customers, because the line feeds the downtown area and is therefor a benefit to the entire community.

The members of the Town Council also hoped that someone would be interested in being the Moderator for the Special Financial Town Meeting because the current moderator, Molly O’Neill, has resigned due to the fact that she has taken a job at the Block Island School. Town Clerk Molly Fitzpatrick is eligible to perform those duties, but given that she is preparing for the town Financial Town Meeting, which occurs just six weeks after the special meeting, she said “In my dreams you’d find an experienced moderator.”

First Warden Ken Lacoste said that feelers had gone out to some qualified individuals.

As the Council sifted through various vacancies and applications to the town’s boards and commissions, it was noted, as the members considered an application, that the Harbors Committee was having an especially difficult time reaching a quorum, particularly in the winter.

Councilor Chris Willi had an immediate suggestion: reducing the size of the board from seven members to five, with one alternate, which means that only three people were needed to reach a quorum. There was no action taken on the suggestion.

At the beginning of the meeting, Lacoste said that Interim Town Manager Jim Kern has “arrived and hit the ground running. He did manage to make the rounds, met everyone at Town Hall, checked out the facilities and introduced himself.” Kern was away on a pre-planned vacation and will be back at the next regular meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 15 at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.