Town aligning with statewide restrictions

Thu, 05/07/2020 - 5:30pm
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Recognizing that he has been a calm and steady voice during the COVID-19 crisis, and the director of the Block Island Medical Center for more than five years, First Warden Ken Lacoste took a moment to thank Dr. Mark Clark for all his time and contributions he has made to the community during the Town Council’s meeting Wednesday, May 6.

Clark, who announced his departure months ago, will be succeeded by Dr. Tom Warcup. Nurse Practitioner Laurie Anderson has already begun her job at the Medical Center. Dr. Clark and his husband Michael will be returning to New York to be closer to their families.

“Since his arrival to the island, Dr. Clark has provided our community with the highest level of healthcare, and has a been a strong component of the Medical Center. Those who know him best describe him as an award-winning educator, inspiration to his staff and students, a visionary… and a caring physician. We’ve appreciated and benefitted from his council and wisdom, especially during the weeks of this pandemic. We know he would not leave without knowing we were in good hands,” said Lacoste. “With the world being what it is at the moment, the opportunity for a farewell party is not to be. I would like to take the opportunity, on behalf of the town, to wish Mark, Michael, and their family the best luck in new endeavors and at the very least, good health and happiness in life. Mark, thank you for all that you have done for us,” said Lacoste.

The council then moved on to the business at hand, which were revisions to the existing emergency ordinance that was enacted in late March.

Councilor Sven Risom recently put together a COVID-19 Economic Planning Framework (which is available at new-shoreham.com), which lays out phases and steps in re-opening the island economy. The council, appearing drained at the end of the three hour discussion, took no action but scheduled another meeting for Friday, May 8 at 9 a.m. (The Block Island Times will update information on blockislandtimes.com.)

“The concept of the planning framework was giving us some light to the end of the tunnel and trying to deal with things in phases. Today we are focusing on… increasing worker activity, [including] adding office workers onto this… and then it also talks about off-island service providers. Lastly, it talks about allowing some trades to come out to the island, for providing assistance to the businesses,” said Risom.

Council members reviewed the ordinance, and mentioned having the framework align with the state’s orders and guidelines, to create less confusion to the public on certain restrictions.

“We’ve been asked repeatedly to have some type of a scheduled plan as soon as possible, and this just goes in line with establishing that plan so that we can start moving forward in a solidified manner. Where we can be consistent in the state in the ordinance, we need to be,” said councilor Chris Willi.

Offering options to taxi drivers

“I’m in favor of allowing taxi operators to not operate if they don’t want to, considering the circumstance. All of the taxi drivers are over the age of 60… if they are not comfortable, I don’t think we make them do this if they’re not comfortable,” said Lacoste. Lacoste suggested extending the motor vehicle for hire licenses expirations from May 15 to June 30, “to have a longer decision to open or not.”

A motion was made to extend the expiration date of May 15 to June 30 for taxi drivers.

A second motion was also made, in regards to being in favor of allowing abeyance to taxi drivers, “for those to decide their season”, said Lacoste.

“Just to be clear, the motion is to allow the licenses to be held at abeyance and not without loss of license this year,” said Lacoste.

The motion was moved, with one recusal from councilor Martha Ball.

Issuing special events permits and licenses

“In my personal opinion, assuming we are aligning with the state, 50 [people in a gathering] is [far] away, and I am not very excited to issue any event permits or licenses. I don’t know if we can have a parade or fireworks… I would be comfortable in not having any licenses or permits,” said Risom.

“Lars Trodson on the [Double Ender] committee said they are not going to have the fireworks on the third [of July]… he asked me to convey to the rest of the council of not doing the fireworks,” said councilor Martha Ball.

Town Clerk Molly Fitzpatrick noted the “special event licenses are only for groups over 250 in the commercial zone, and over 75 in the residential zone. You’re missing a lot of gatherings that need a license.”

“The indication is we do not need to include special event permits limitations in this ordinance: it’s going to be controlled by the state,” said Lacoste, ending the conversation to have the licenses be aligned with the state’s orders.

Meeting to be continued on Friday, May 8

Merrolla presented a summary of the council’s meeting, to reiterate the motions and plans in moving forward.

“We are making this new ordinance, the third amendment, effective as of the time when the second amendment expires. We are keeping everything in full force and effect until midnight on June 1, 2020. We are deleting paragraphs… to basically bring us in line with the state law: the restaurants and the bars, the gatherings of public people, and the non-essential town meetings,” said Merolla, adding that “We are postponing the discussion on bicycles, motorized bicycles, tricycles, motor scooter licenses, and rental of vehicles.”

The effective dates for the new ordinance will be in place at midnight on May 8 to June 1.

“There are two items left on the agenda… I motion to have the meeting be moved to Friday,” said Lacoste.

The Town Council will meet on Friday, May 8 at 9a.m. to continue it’s unfinished discussion.