Town budget moves on for voter approval
In line with provisions in the newly amended Town Charter, the Town Council held two hearings on the proposed town budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2021, to receive comments from the public.
With only one person commenting during the virtual hearings on Wednesday and Thursday, April 7 and 8, the council approved the latest draft budget without changes and authorized the town manager to move forward with a request to the state government to approve an increase in the property tax above the annual cap set by state law.
On April 7, Town Manager Maryanne Crawford summarized the work she and Finance Director Amy Land had done on the proposed budget. “Both of us are confident that this budget will provide expected town services and meet the needs of our growing school. It will afford us time to plan, source, and secure potential federal funding for additional long-term projects that will be needed to fund future growth and mitigate infrastructure stresses, while deploying technology to deliver efficiencies.”
The Town Council had approved only one change from the original draft – splitting about $27,000 in savings from health insurance premiums between the Block Island Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department and the Block Island Medical Center – at its last work session on the budget. The final version totals $16,560,130, an 8.1 percent increase over the current year, it includes a 5.9 percent increase in revenue from the property tax.
“State law caps that increase at four percent,” explained Land. “Approval of the 5.9 percent – that incremental 1.9 percent increase in the levy – requires a super majority vote of the Town Council, and we will do that after closing the public hearing tomorrow [Thursday, April 8] when you forward the budget to Financial Town Meeting. It requires an affirmative vote of the voters at the FTM, so there will be a separate warrant question ratifying that increase above the cap. It also requires an approval by the Department of Revenue, which we expect to be an administrative approval and will be submitting that documentation between the close of the public hearing and the FTM. All those things will come together to support the budget that is in front of everyone today,” said Land.
With little to no comment from the general public, Boudreau made a motion to close the Wednesday, April 7 public hearing. At the second hearing on Thursday, again without public input, Boudreau made a motion to open, and a motion to close the hearing as well. He made an additional motion “to present the budget as discussed to the voters of the FTM and to authorize the town manager to submit a request to the R.I. Department of Revenue to exceed the property tax cap as outlined in the proposed budget.”
Covid-19 update from Medical Center
Block Island Medical Center Director Dr. Tom Warcup provided the council with a brief Covid-19 update.
“As of today (April 7,) we have 825 total shots given. We have 392 total community members fully vaccinated, 41 members that have received their first vaccine only, and we have the second round for the teachers coming up soon,” said Warcup.
Warcup announced the Rhode Island Department of Health and the Rhode Island Disaster Medical Assistance Team’s Medical Reserve Corps would be holding weekly vaccination clinics on the island, which began on Thursday, April 8 at the Fire Barn. Twenty-five doses of Covid-19 vaccine will be available each week, with current state guidelines determining who is eligible, and when. One must schedule an appointment to receive a vaccine by signing up at portal.ri.gov, or by calling (844) 930-1779 to be added to the vaccine interest notification list.
“Many times we can get extra vaccines from the vials that are produced and manufactured. If there are extra doses that particular day, they will call people from that list, based on the oldest down to the youngest,” added Warcup.
Boudreau asked Warcup to explain why the island community was receiving so few doses each week.
“Why only 25 a week? Can you explain that?” asked Boudreau.
“I want to say that even though it may be disappointing to many of us, it’s still a pretty big win,” said Warcup. “This was part of the new leadership at the state level to centralize vaccinations. It has a lot of merit, unless you live in a geographic area like us. They agreed they were only going to do 20. We wanted 30, and settled on 25. I hope that as they see it is not as large of a list as they may be documenting as a work flow, that they start bringing 30 to 50 [doses]. I think that’s something we can work on as they gain more experience,” said Warcup.
A food truck changes hands
Sean and Rosalie Kivlehan of Block Island Gourmet, LLC, later joined the call, seeking a mobile food establishment license for the Pots and Kettles food truck, which they have bought from Cindy Kelly.
Second Warden Sven Risom read Kelly’s letter for a license relinquishment.
“I have sold this established food truck to Block Island Gourmet, LLC of Block Island, Rhode Island. On March 1, as I also relinquish my state license, [Sean and Rosalie Kivlehan] will be submitting their application for a new state MFE license/registration for this same vehicle, which has been recently approved by the R.I. fire marshal.”
“I appreciate your consideration of the imminent application from Block Island Gourmet, a longtime, respected business here on Block Island. They have the resources and talent to recreate a new, valuable island entity at the Mosquito Beach location. Appreciation for the offering of refreshments in this out-of-the-way spot has often been expressed by visitors and residents alike,” wrote Kelly.
Sean Kivlehan said: “Cindy Kelly approached us this year regarding the foodtruck service on Corn Neck Road. Myself and Rosalie thought about the opportunity last summer, and we discovered how aligned it was with the wedding business. We decided it was worthwhile pursuing. We went forward with this, and Cindy is a great lady, who built a great business there, and we hope to keep the standard going.”
Councilor Keith Stover said: “For the entire time Cindy Kelly was in the business, [she was an] incredible asset. I have the sense Cindy was an essential part of our
community’s resilience through the pandemic – providing good food and engagement. I think we should just take a second to thank Cindy.”
“I agree with Keith. I’m sure Sean and Rosalie will do a super job,” added Councilor Mark Emmanuelle.
Risom made a motion to approve the mobile food establishment license for Block Island Gourmet, LLC. Stover seconded the motion, passing 4-0, with one recusal from Boudreau, who also owns a food truck.
Police technology upgrades
Crawford made a recommendation to the council on the immediate technological needs for the New Shoreham Police Department: Mobile Data Terminals and an Automated Fingerprint Identification System.
Installing the terminals in all police cars will allow the officers to enter information into reports and databases in the field, Crawford explained, instead of calling the dispatcher, who now must type it in. “This is a long overdue need for our police vehicles. I would recommend the council approve this,” said Crawford.
“The second one is the AFIS. The current one we have in the police station does not work, and it has not worked for a while. We have the only law enforcement agency in the state of Rhode Island that does not have an electronic data interface with the Attorney General’s office and [Federal Bureau of Investigation]. Based on this, I would recommend the council approve this request this evening.”
Interim Chief of Police Matt Moynihan joined the call to support the town manager’s request.
“The MDT is really an essential tool for the officers, more efficient to do the job and to cut down on radio traffic and demand on dispatches. The AFIS machine is also used
for any type of civilian fingerprint background checks – any daycare, educational facilities. The process of sending it is much more secure and a quicker return on those
results. Both items are essential tools and would be a great advancement for the police department,” said Moynihan.
Boudreau made a motion to approve the police department requests, with Risom seconding the motion, which passed with a unanimous vote.