Town may hold FTM in mid-July

Thu, 05/28/2020 - 6:00pm

It looks like some form of a Financial Town Meeting is a go, and perhaps as early as mid-July.

Town Finance Director Amy Land informed the Town Council that state guidelines — although not yet put down on paper — were relaxing enough to have some kind of Financial Town Meeting with public participation. At the council’s Zoom meeting on Wednesday, May 27, Land recommended an upcoming schedule for the town budget work sessions, the public hearings, and the strategies for allowing public participation in the sessions and hearings.

“As we discussed last week, it is time to resume the work on the Fiscal Year 2021 budget. What I’m proposing here is to reserve Mondays in June for that purpose,” said Land.

Land suggested holding a budget review on June 8 “and then move into what some of the recommended changes are. After that first overview and department level review, I would come back to some of the community support items in our second meeting on June 15 — health services, fire and rescue, Early Learning Center, possibly back to the school if we need to... and those would be work sessions. If we needed to, we would carry the work session approach over to June 22, and then move into the public hearing.”

Land noted holding the public hearing for two dates was for public participation through the Zoom platform.

“The schedule in front of you is abbreviated, it does not have a Financial Town Meeting date on there yet... Ideally, we may be looking at early to mid July to hold that Financial Meeting,” added Land.

“adapt the budget review schedule as proposed by the Finance Director for budget work session meetings on Monday, June 8 and Monday, June 15, and then a budget public hearing for Monday, June 22 and a possible public hearing on Wednesday, June 24.” The motion was approved.

Plans for COVID positive employees

Lacoste addressed his recent conversation with the Nicole Verdi, Gov. Gina Raimondo’s Deputy Director, about the state’s concern with the island’s strategy for safely housing the island’s incoming international workers.

“Nicole Verdi reached out to me to find out from us what our plan was, and indicated they would like to see the island come up with a resolution of this problem on a local basis. The governor has supported our efforts up to now to be more restrictive than her ordinances because she realizes our situation. They would support the island having regulations in place to deal with potential problems with employee housing that aren’t necessarily pertinent to those on the mainland,” said Lacoste.

Dr. Tom Warcup, director of the Block Island Medical Center, added that Verdi had “reached out to me on Saturday, and since then we have had three productive meetings with the [Rhode Island Department of Health]... But it did get down to he crux of what is the isolation plan if a worker is COVID positive. We went through the process from the Town Council meeting and they were appreciative of the plans from the town thus far. As of today, I did have a nice meeting with one of our business owners who did have a phenomenal plan, and I think if the other plans looked anything close to they had it would be adequate.”

Lacoste asked Dr. Warcup if it would be helpful for him to review the plans submitted by the town’s businesses. Dr. Warcup said he would review the plans.

Lacoste made a motion to have [Town Solicitor Kathy] Merolla draw an amendment to the emergency ordinance to include a requirement that any businesses providing employee housing shall present a plan to the town for remediation for positive tested employees for coronavirus by June 6, for approval by the Medical Director [Tom Warcup] of the Block Island Health Center.” The motion was unanimously approved.

Honoring Class of 2020

Lacoste made a motion for the week of June 8 to be designated as Block Island School graduate week, and “invite [the students] to one of our meetings held that week,” to honor the graduating seniors. “If you see them, congratulate them — it’s a year to remember,” added Lacoste. 

Solar initiative

“We received a letter from [island resident] Chris Warfel concerning the solar projects at Cherry Hill Lane, and the nature of the projects,” said Lacoste.

Lacoste made “a motion to forward the letter to the Town Manager and to have him investigate the allegations of the letter and report back to the council.”

The Town Council’s next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, June 3. The Block Island Times will livestream on the meeting on its Facebook page.