Town Council round-up

Tue, 11/23/2021 - 3:45pm
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Covid

At the meeting on November 17, Dr. Tom Warcup had good news for the New Shoreham Town Council regarding Covid-19. He reported that as a state, Rhode Island had 85 percent of eligible adults vaccinated, with Block Island near 100 percent. He told the council the eligible kids at Block Island School had received first doses
and will have their second round in a few weeks. “It’s really been terrific,” Warcup said of the vaccination participation on the island. Warcup reported no new cases on the island, with only 103 total cases since March of 2020. Just this week, however, the Rhode Island Department of Health reports two new cases, bringing the total to 105 for New Shoreham.

He said breakthrough cases remain low, at 1.57 percent. Even though the vaccine will not completely guarantee that a person does not contract Covid, Warcup said the severity of the illness is greatly reduced. “Vaccines equal good health and no hospitalization,” Warcup told the council.
Despite the good news, don’t expect any changes to the emergency town ordinance mandating masks be worn indoors, however.
Second Warden Sven Risom suggested that even though things are going so well, with the Holiday Stroll coming up and an influx of off-island visitors, “our current
practices are prudent.”
Dr. Warcup agreed, stating that once the stroll was over, and all the school kids had been fully vaccinated, “we could think people on the island are safe with each other.” He advised remaining careful for the time being.

Harbors

The council voted to approve the changes to the general ordinances governing Block Island’s harbors. Town Manager Maryanne Crawford said the ordinance had
been in the process of being updated since 2017. The changes had already been approved by the Harbors Committee, Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council, and Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management before landing in front of the Town Council. With approval, Crawford reported that the Harbor Management Plan would go through a similar approval process.

Harbormaster Kate McConville told the council that passing the revisions to the ordinances provides the enforcement arm of the Harbors Department. With the policies in a state of flux for the past four years, it has been difficult. Now, “I can refer to my book when writing violations.”
The complete changes are available on the home page of the town’s website.
Police Department initiatives

Town Manager Maryanne Crawford informed the council that the police department has initiated a “Lend-a-Vest for Safety” program. This program provides bright orange vests for hikers to wear while out on Block Island’s trails, in order to increase safety and awareness during hunting season.

Working with the Mary D. Fund, the police department has purchased orange vests and ten storage stations, shaped like mailboxes, to place on popular hiking trails around the island. Hikers can take an orange vest to wear on their walk, and then return it when they are done. Kim Gaffett of The Nature Conservancy and Barbara
MacMullan of the Land Trust identified some of the most popular trails, and included trails at Turnip Farm, Nathan Mott Park, Fresh Pond, Rodman’s Hollow, and
Clayhead Trail. Students from the Block Island School will help with the installation of the ten storage stations. The storage stations will be taken down at the end of the year and the vests and supplies will be used again next year.

The police department also participated in the Coats for Vets program at Gillette Stadium. Rhode Island and Massachusetts police departments picked up care packages containing winter coats and other supplies for veterans. The department is working with Charlie Weber of the Block Island American Legion Post 36 to get the supplies to veterans who need them.
New Zoning Official

The Town of New Shoreham appointed Jenn Brady as the new zoning official. The position has been vacant since Marc Tillson retired in 2020. Crawford told the council Brady has been with the town since 1995, and will continue in her current position as Land Use Administrative Officer in addition to her new duties as zoning official. Council Member Keith Stover congratulated Brady, saying the appointment was “fantastic” and that there was “no one with more experience.”

Council Member Mark Emmanuelle asked Brady if she was “comfortable” with being the “bad guy.” Brady answered confidently that she was. Emmanuelle pressed further, telling Brady he wanted “to make sure the blatant and perennial violators are addressed this year,” and suggested she might need more staff to address the issue of “the large number of violators we’ve let slide.” He then suggested businesses know they can violate ordinances and make it through the summer before any enforcement is enacted. “That’s what I want to put a stop to,” he said.
Council Member Martha Ball pointed out that Brady would not be dealing exclusively with businesses and their various potential violations. “There’s a lot of island out there,” she said.
Andy’s Way to get underway
Crawford reported that the town had accepted a bid from A. Transue Corp for construction of a wooden walkway along Andy’s Way. The cost is not to exceed $50,000, and is financed primarily through a DEM grant of $47,000. The project is expected to be completed by April 15, 2022. During construction, Andy’s Way will be closed temporarily, with Crawford saying the facilities director and the director of public works would coordinate letting the public know the closure dates.
Crawford also told the council that the town is working to apply for similar DEM grants to construct a walkway at Grace’s Cove and a restroom facility at Mansion Beach.