WYOMING - Protection of trees and how the town responded to the historic blizzard were the main focuses at Tuesday night’s Richmond Town Council meeting.
Resident James Carnegis requested the tree ordinance, which did not receive a second and therefore did not go to vote at the town council’s last meeting, be reconsidered.
Carnegis questioned why time and possibly money were invested into drafting the ordinance if the town council wanted a policy.
Town Council President B. Joseph Reddish responded that he found a memo they had received from the Richmond Conservation Commission “very highly insulting,” but said he respected Carnegis’ letter.
What frustrated Reddish was that the memo “implied I was going to vote no.”
The night the ordinance was on the agenda, there were only three council members present and while Council Vice President Henry Oppenheimer made a motion to approve the item, there was no second.
Councilor Paul Michaud was the only other member present that evening.
Reddish did reiterate his concern, however, whether a change should be made “for one incident,” referring to the removal of a specimen tree in September that upset some residents.
Councilor Erick Davis asked Carnegis if he would like the item tabled until the next time all five council members are present, saying that both Carnegis’ letter and the memo from the Conservation Commission indicated they wanted “a full council review” of the ordinance. Councilor Peter Fangiullo was not present Tuesday night.
Michaud told Carnegis, “I understand what you’re saying,” and told him, “We are studying the situation further and we will come up with something.”
Oppenheimer told Carnegis he did favor the item being an ordinance, saying that he didn’t “want to worry about it being forgotten.”
Ultimately, the item was tabled until all five council members could be present.
The town council praised town staff for their work during the Feb. 8 blizzard
Oppenheimer said the public works department moved trees “out of harms way in a prompt and efficient fashion.” In his mind, the recent storm downed more trees than hurricanes Sandy and Irene combined, he said.
Reddish said he took a ride with Public Works Director Scott Barber and said, “It is pretty scary when you see what visibility is,” noting that they have to maneuver around mailboxes and trees.
Reddish encouraged residents to be “proactive” about changing weather patterns and the possibility of seeing “bigger events” and to consider getting trees on their property trimmed or cut down if they might be a problem or letting National Grid or the town know if they see issues near power lines or near the road.
Davis noted how clear even the back roads were.
Reddish also encouraged people to register their cell phone numbers into the town’s Code Red system, which can notify residents through phone calls and text messages of information needed during an emergency. With cell phone numbers, residents can still be reached despite phone lines being down, he said. Residents can put their information into the Code Red system at www.richmondri.com .
Barber did comment on “very poor communication and very poor cooperation” from National Grid, though he said he had defended them in the past.
Town Administrator Steve Sette said one of his recommendations to National Grid would be to “assign a tree truck to us,” which he said would make “early parts of storms a lot easier.”
Because “main transmission lines went down,” Sette also recommended that Washington County Regional Planning Council meet with National Grid.
Oppenheimer, the vice president of the council’s board, said it was put on the agenda to invite National Grid.
Also discussed Tuesday was a transfer station revenue shortage. The amount of trash being taken in is down, but Sette said that is resulting in fewer trips to the landfill and less being paid on tipping fees.
He also said their recycling numbers have doubled and they will receive a check from Rhode Island Resource Recovery in June.
Despite positives, Oppenheimer said his biggest concern was “running a deficit.”
They recycling plan from haulers is also due with hope for a May 1 start, Sette said. Recreation Director Charlotte Markey gave a report on this week’s roller skating event that only cost the department $95 to entertain more than 100 people, she said. Attendees were also able to bring a canned good to receive a dollar off the event—resulting in 66 canned goods being collected for The Rhode Island Center Assisting Those in Need, located at 805 Alton Carolina Road in Charlestown.
The council voted to “accept with regret” the resignation of Brian P. Smith as the deputy director of the Richmond Emergency Management Agency. Interested individuals were encouraged to submit their applications to the town clerk.
Town Planner Denise Stetson told the council that Statewide Planning had sent back the town’s Comprehensive Plan with comments. She had made “minor changes” and the council would need to set a public hearing to re-adopt the amended plan. The public hearing was set for March 19. The council first approved the required five-year update to the Comprehensive Plan in June 2012, according to Stetson.
The town council approved a request from Northeast Masters Cycling Association to hold the New England Time Trial Championship in Richmond and a request from Maggie’s Pet Pantry for use of town property to hold a yard sale.
They also voted in support of a request from Hopkinton about the funds won in a settlement for the Chariho Career and Technical Center and the need for the governor to put the funds into his budget.
Citations of recognition for the Hope Valley Ambulance Squad were approved as well.
A number of house and senate bills were also either supported or opposed by the council at Tuesday’s meeting.
Amendments to section 3.50.010 “Tax exemption for the elderly and disabled” from the town’s Code of Ordinances was tabled and residents will be able to speak on the matter at a public hearing at Richmond’s next town council meeting. The changes were “not as much a wholesale rewrite” as they appeared to be, Town Solicitor Karen Ellsworth told the council.
Oppenheimer said that changes were initiated when the council asked Ellsworth to increase the income limit in the ordinance by four percent.
The Richmond Town Council’s next regularly scheduled meeting is on March 5 at 7 p.m. at town hall, 5 Richmond Townhouse Road, Wyoming.