Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Middletown Council Meets

It was a long one, preceeded by a workshop on the new assessment, & followed by a closed session meeting on Union negotiations. How do they stand it?

One reason making this meeting so long is loose control. This results in endless yak-yak and confusion. Sometimes, it's difficult to know who is in charge. At one point Councilor Silveira referred to the Town Admin. (Sean Brown) as "Mr. Chairman." Too often everyone's gaze is directed at the Town Solicitor (Mike Miller), "The Great Arbiter", or "The Quiet Man" Brown.

This has to do with an inexperienced chair, & a table shape that denies members from actually seeing/hearing each other, and members not speaking directly into their mic's (or lousy mic's). All easy fixes, but...

I'll cover major points & post video up ?Wed.

To receive the same income from last year, your tax rates would need to increase 1.54%. That's NOT good news. Commercial is 2.39%. Detailed assessment info by name/location will soon be posted on the town website.

When Councilor VonVillas asked Tax Assessor for a really simple answer as to why your home value will decrease but not your taxes, she didn't get it. Oh, you silly girl. She is concerned that it may well be a "big surprise" when locals receive their tax bill in August. Yup.

Three memorandums from the Planning Board rec'd too much conversation. You vote to receive these or not. Not this time. Two members recused themselves accidentally (Bozyan & Prez Semonelli). I think. They did, then they didn't, but who knows. Even the Prez, supposedly running the meeting, was confused. They really wanted to recuse themselves later in the agenda.

Recusals. I am assured by Councilor Bozyan that he did confer with the Ethic Board and was told that it was a necessary action on his part. I believe him. I don't know when the line is drawn that you should go before the Ethics Commission for a decision; e.g., Councilor Santos as Treasurer for the local historical group. So I asked. If you have nothing in writing from them, it counts for butkus. It's your opinion based on how you interpreted what you were told & the facts that you revealed privately. You may well not want your business laid out for the public to read, but that's how it goes. It takes nothing but filing a form & an appearance to receive a written opinion.

Sen. DiPalma gave a lege update. Sorry, I found it long & confusing. The bad news is- the State is in an ever-deepening hole- almost $600 mil. And "the worst is yet to come" when Stimulus funds end in 2011. Good news- sorry, little. The lege will likely approve recent Charter changes. Prostitution, school funding formulas, holding harmless, tax structure, library funding- it all blurred by iffiness & a confusing ramble. KISS Forget the details, stick with the bullets. Nice try, though & your effort is appreciated.

Much discussion ensued with a request from the Substance & Abuse Task Force to impose training sessions on liquor store employees. The concern was that this is an "unfunded mandate" (VonVillas) with the Prez also expressing concern. Right now, it's covered through fed grants, but that could always end. This was the first hearing & it will be on the agenda again before it's voted on. Councilman Silveira wanted more into from police (stats) that this ordinance would actually address and solve a problem- underage drinking.

The wind turbine ordinance is still being worked on and Solicitor "The Great Arbiter" Miller is instructed to draw up a moratorium ordinance until one is actually in effect.

There was some lively discussion once again on the School Committee's request for $30,000 to move the Kennedy School playground equipment to the Gaudet School field area. Councilor Santos voted against it just when the topic was brought up & Councilor VonVillas wanted to know what the vote was on. Again, confusion.

Upshot, Councilor Santos is NOT fond of the school committee, thought that they should fund this, & wanted these monies from somewhere besides Parks & Rec. Something to do with the "kids"? having to replace railings & a "band-aid" approach to Second Beach. You've got me.

Councilor VonVillas tried to keep the discussion on track with the playground being a "community resource .... We're not doing this for the school."

Mr. Hawes ("Open Space" chair) spoke that he supported having a "really good site at Gaudet [to include playground equipment]" and "Get it done! I don't care where the money comes from." The discussion continued with Mr. Viveiros from the audience speaking to the need for proper budgets to be prepared, eliminating requests like these- especially from the School Dept. School Dept. -65% of the town's budget. That's where this pointed anger is coming from. Thank you, State of Rhode Island & fed'l gov't from so little $ and so many mandates.

Councilor Silveira again tried to draw the discussion down to the topic at hand with, "It's all ours. We're all in this together. I take offense at "us" against "them." "Them" being the school department and "us" being the town. One more audience speaker- Manny Mello, "Let them move it themselves." You get the drift.

Bottom line- playground goes to Gaudet. Councilor Mello is "for" playgrounds but voted against because of the funding source. "Them" should fund it, I guess.

And totally off topic, I asked the school facilities director if a backboard was ever returning to the Gaudet tennis courts. YES!! Sometime!! But I had to agree to use it. Okay and that's likely the only way you'll get me to those courts for awhile. Read this as: out of practice and lousy at serves.
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