Summer officer jobs getting harder to fill

Thu, 02/14/2019 - 5:45pm
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New Shoreham Police Chief Vincent Carlone said that he will likely be three officers down for the upcoming summer season, and that may cause him to get creative with his staffing process.

The Police Department has a year-round full-time staff of five officers, including the Chief, but typically adds two more full-time officers to the department during the summer. Carlone also said he would like two full-time State Troopers here for June, July, and August.

One issue is that retired officers, who would normally fill two staff positions on the island during the summer, “can make $50 per hour doing traffic detail work on the mainland. The other reason is the lack of retirements due to the change in the retirement system that was instituted several years ago.”

Making matters worse, Carlone said one of his officers, Corporal Chris Rich, suffered “a serious on-duty injury and is unlikely to return to duty by this summer, leaving the department three positions short for the season.”

“They’re getting pretty tough to replace, so we’re looking into things that we can possibly do,” said Carlone. He said one solution would be to seek a waiver to bring out-of-state officers to Block Island. Carlone said the governor-appointed five-member Police Officers Commission of Standards and Training can grant waivers for “different situations.”

“What I’d like to try do is get them to allow officers from other states” to work here, said Carlone. “There’s a lot of interest, for instance, in the state of Connecticut with connections to people here on the island. So if we could get that going we would have a bigger pool of people to choose from, and that would probably solve the problem.”

Carlone also asked the Town Council at its Feb. 6 work session, at which he presented his summer police plan for 2019, to request two officers from the Rhode Island State Police. “There really should be a full-time presence here for June, July, and August, seven days a week, with two state troopers,” said Carlone, “It always went to Columbus Day in the past, but they cut that in the last few years.”

“Is there any action the council needs to take to encourage the State Police to be here?” asked Councilor Chris Willi.

Carlone said the Town Council could write a letter to the new Rhode Island State Police Colonel, Jim Manni, who is the former Narragansett town manager. Carlone said that Manni, a former State Police major, has a fondness for Block Island.

“Jim Manni — that’s a plus,” said Willi.

“It sure is,” said Carlone.

Former Police Chief Bill McCombe agreed with Carlone, stating that this is “an opportune time with the State Police, since Manni has worked as a town manager. He has a perspective from inside” town government. “So this might be an opportune time for the chief and the town manager to push for more staffing.”

“These considerations will be brought up during the budget process,” said First Warden Ken Lacoste. “Also we certainly wish Corporal Rich a speedy recovery.”

Food truck regulations

In other news, the council is concerned about the local impact of draft regulations issued by the State of Rhode Island for the food truck law passed last year. According to Town Clerk Molly Fitzpatrick, who sent a memo to the council on Jan. 28, the law would remove the burden of registering food trucks within the towns they operate and allow “operators to cross town lines without encountering new licensing requirements from each municipality.”

Fitzpatrick’s memo notes that, “Each town may issue municipal food truck permits to a state-registered Mobile Food Establishment,” and the town might have to rewrite its “local ordinance to separate food trucks from hawkers and peddlers, because they have been separated under state law.” The state was scheduled to hold a public hearing on the regulations on Feb. 14. Under the new law a Del’s Lemonade cart is classified as a food truck.

In her memo, which is attached to the council’s Feb. 6 agenda on the town’s website, Fitzpatrick alleges that, “State law regulations seem to assume food truck locations are regulated by zoning. We choose locations without regard to zoning.” She also noted that: “Del’s Lemonade carts are MFE’s under the new law. There are a few here and we do not regulate them.”

Lacoste noted that the state’s “legislation says the town can limit the number of food trucks. We were concerned that the law would clear the way for food trucks to come to the island.”

“Right. It’s clear that we can limit them,” said Fitzpatrick. She told The Times after the meeting that the town has a cap of three food truck licenses, and those have been issued to Cindy Kelly (Pots and Kettles), Carole Payne (Killer Donuts), and André Boudreau (Southeast Light Delights). Boudreau was recused from the discussion.

“My question is,” said Fitzpatrick, “do you want to do anything proactively about the cap, because we have some active Del’s Lemonade carts here on the island? This pretty clearly says that they’re food trucks.”

“I think your better action is to say those things are illegal,” said resident Molly O’Neill, noting that allowing those types of carts could open the door to hot dog stands and other operations.

Town Manager Ed Roberge said he would suggest seeking the opinion of the town’s Zoning Administrator and Building Official. He then asked, “Do we have a problem with (carts) now? What’s our count?”

“There are two carts that I’m aware of,” said Willi. “One at Old Harbor Takeout and one at Aldo’s. There are none at New Harbor.”

Roberge said the Del’s carts “could have been licensed as a subsidiary, or accessory, to the establishment’s license.” In response, Fitzpatrick said, “They weren’t licensed locally.”

Fitzpatrick said the Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation is accepting comments until Feb. 22 regarding the draft legislation associated with the new MFE law.

Lacoste was expected to attend the public hearing on Feb. 14 at 1 p.m. at the Public Utilities Commission in Warwick to express the town’s concerns about the licensing and limitations of its regulations.