2013-09-05 / News Briefs


Council Supports USS Kennedy Concept
By Jonathan Clancy

On Sept. 3, at its regular Tuesday meeting, the Middletown Town Council voted 6-1 in favor of bringing the retired aircraft carrier, USS John F. Kennedy, to Newport County. Council President Christopher T. Semonelli cast the sole oppositional vote.

Semonelli stated before the vote that his concerns were the aggressive projections from the Rhode Island Aviation Hall of Fame, the current condition of Pier 1, and how the floating museum and tourist attraction might impact the services required by the town. Additionally, Semonelli expressed concern about what would be done in the event that the ship was brought up and the project folded. Councilor Barbara Von Villas mentioned her concern about the impact the ship’s presence would have on vehicular traffic in the area.

“With respect to liability, this project will be sited totally on federal property,” said Frank Lennon, president of the Rhode Island Aviation Hall of Fame (RIHOF), which is spearheading the Kennedy Project. Lennon assured the council that no funding would be required from the town and that the organization would pay for any town services rendered. With regard to traffic concerns, Lennon said they plan on working with Bob Andrews, owner of the Newport Dinner Train, who also owns two self-propelled commuter rail cars. “Our plan is to use them as a regular shuttle from the gateway center in downtown Newport right to the head of the pier,” Lennon said.

The council heard complaints from residents of Wyatt Road regarding the use of the old Starlight Drive-In. According to residents Carolyn Weber and William Flowers, the town has been using the space as a staging area to store equipment and heavy supplies. The residents said that during the past spring and summer they have been inconvenienced by loud noises from the loading and unloading of equipment, which has carried over into the middle of the night. “I would jump in surprise when [the noises] happened as I was standing in my yard,” Weber said. “But that was nothing compared to the disruption to my sleep,” she added.

Each neighbor pointed to large amounts of dust and dirt that have been kicked up by the activity.

Weber stated that she put a call into the town regarding the issue on August 8 and heard back from Town Administrator Shawn Brown, who told her that the storage was an appropriate use of the parcel and that it would continue to be used during the Aquidneck Avenue sewer project. Weber said she would like to see the parcel cleared of all equipment, and that another staging area be set up in a more appropriate place. Flowers mentioned that there was another possible staging area less than a mile away from the current location.

A public information meeting at Town Hall is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 5, at 6 p.m., regarding the Aquidneck Avenue sewer project. Town officials said they encourage residents to come out and voice their concerns and requests.

Town Administrator Shawn Brown reviewed the response from Robert A. Smith P.E., Deputy Chief Engineer for the Rhode Island Department of Transportation Engineering Division, regarding the Two Mile Corner Project. Smith’s communication was in response to a number of concerns raised by the town council and sent to him in a letter from Council President Christopher Semonelli. The town requested that the intersection remained unchanged because alterations would have a negative impact on the traffic flow for the Smythe Street neighborhood and Bank Newport properties.

Also at the meeting, the council recognized the heroic efforts of Middletown lifeguard David Buckley. On July 8, 2013, at Second Beach, Buckley responded to calls for help that a boy was choking. Buckley alerted other lifeguards to keep watch at Tower 4 as he used the Heimlich maneuver to dislodge a lollipop from the boy’s throat. The boy’s church camp had just held a lollipop-eating contest.

“This is an excellent example of competent actions and decisiveness under pressure, that underscores the value of first aid training,” said Council President Christopher Semonelli.

Buckley is currently a junior at the Prout School and hopes to one day study architecture.

“I’d like to thank all my teachers at the YMCA, especially Mr. Jim Farrell who instructed me in first aid,” said Buckley, about his commendation.

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