2015-04-09 / Front Page

Town Plans Improved E-Services

By James Merolla

Town Administrator Shawn M. Brown outlined a Capital Improvement Plan for the Middletown Town Council on Monday, April 6 that covered everything from road improvements to customer service to quality of life and even a new electronic way for taxpayers to get licenses and monitor town expenditures.

Brown said he was excited that the new online self-service system for residents to obtain licenses, permits and other necessary municipal information will be available soon.

“We anticipate going [fully] live in the first quarter of next fiscal year,” said Brown. The new electronic document system will allow departments and residents to better “share documents and make it easier to retrieve them. Most documents are currently boxed in a basement or a trailer,” Brown said.

The new E-government website is a nod to open government, he added. It will contain the town’s financial data for the last five years. “This is for increased transparency. Residents can do their own research on town finances and purchases,” said Brown. “It will allow residents to go online and run their own reports.”

The first section of the site will go live by April 20, said Brown. “We see this as an important tool to give people the opportunity to interact with the government.”

Brown conducted a slide show that highlighted priorities for the upcoming fiscal year.

.Follow up on the survey conducted by the senior center, identifying needs of people age 55 and up, including better housing and transportation. “This is one of the most important things we will be working on,” Brown said.

.Improved customer service and communications. Brown said the public works department moving into the new fire department building will add new conference rooms, creating new meeting spaces for volunteer groups.

.Long-term projects for economic development such as the acquisition of the Navy Lodge parcel property and Midway Pier at West Main Road/Coddington Highway that will be purchased at the end of the calendar year. The redevelopment of that land will increase tourism and be a boon to hotels, Brown said, adding that “acquiring the shoreline property will open up Middletown's shoreline on Narragansett Bay for the first time since World War II.

.Working with various chambers of commerce to create an East Bay community organization within the region, including Warren, Bristol, Portsmouth, Middletown, Newport, and Tiverton, in an effort to attract business and people to the region.

.Working with the School Committee to expand space for elementary school education, a potential referendum item in the 2016 election.

.Stewardship of the environment through an improved stormwater program to meet new EPA regulations regarding management of stormwater.

.Improving public safety equipment that needs to be replaced.

.Improving sidewalk travel and safety in winter.

.The possible expansion of the drinking water supply to the east side of town (in response to high nitrate content found in ground water there).

.Promoting community policing and fire prevention programs.

.Moving the DPW into the renovated fire station.

.Moving the IT office from Middletown Town Hall to the police station to improve network traffic and provide more resiliency during major storm events.

Brown also asked the council to consider passing a $5 million road repair bond to bring all town roads up to an acceptable level.

In other matters:

.The council approved Ferenc Karoly as the new deputy chief of police, with council members Theresa Santos and Antone C. Viveiros opposed to the promotion. They opposed the terms of his new contract as well, which was not made public Monday evening following an executive session where it was discussed. No one from the police department was on hand to discuss the issue.

.Tom Welch, 536 Mitchell’s Lane, requested the council jumpstart an analysis of the need for additional fields in town. With the council's rejection of a proposed plan to develop 62 acres off East Main Road at Tibbett’s Farm for a sports complex last month, Welch felt the need would no longer be addressed officially.

He asked that the council “harness energies” of locals eager to find additional sports fields in town. “We have a great deal of residents ready and willing to help” with this work.

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