2016-12-01 / Opinion


More Yet to Accomplish

[Editor's note: The following is an abbreviated version of Middletown Council President Robert Sylvia’s presentation at the swearing-in ceremony held Nov. 21. The speech has been edited due to space constraints.]

To say that I’m excited about this team would be an understatement; I am anxiously looking forward to continue working with each one of you, for the betterment of our town.

We congratulate Dennis Turano on his first election and we welcome back six incumbents to the council. I know that I speak for us all when I say that we will miss the outgoing Council Vice President Robert “Rocky” Kempenaar, who has physically relocated to Newport, but I know that his heart will always remain in Middletown.

With direct input from our residents, we developed and adopted a detailed Comprehensive Land Use Plan; that will serve as our roadmap. This plan is a future vision of where our residents, through surveys, would like Middletown to be. We will continue to fine tune this process by developing and adopting the zoning changes that are necessary to implement the plan. This plan encourages commercial and residential growth and is complemented with open space, in a village style venue.

We completed the construction and renovation of our fire station and public works complex within budget and on time. We now have a state-of-the-art facility that will service our town for many years to come.

Our joint construction effort with RIDOT to reconstruct the two-mile corner and Coddington Highway intersections is going on as we speak. This project after years of planning will provide us with an updated infrastructure that will address today's and tomorrow's issues for many years to come.

After conducting several public hearings and public tours of our youth athletic fields, we decided on a financially sound path, supported by many generous volunteers which allowed us to upgrade our youth athletic fields, without any tax increase being passed on to our residents. Our children will now be playing on safe athletic fields for many years to come.

This council was committed to seeing that our residents were protected and environmentally free of secondhand smoke and the health hazards associated with it, adopting a town ordinance that prohibited smoking on all town property, which included our beaches and parks. This ordinance will enhance our quality of life, and protect our residents and wildlife from the health hazards of secondhand smoke and the litter associated with smoking.

We adopted an ordinance that ends the future development of so-called big box stores, which will complement our new comprehensive plan and protect our environment and infrastructure from being overburdened.

We are actively participating in, and contributing to, the establishment of a regional economic development entity to support the East Bay communities and to assist our local businesses, which are our true economic engines.

We conducted an extensive evaluation of the possibility of expanding our public water supply to the east side of the town due to some identified levels of nitrates in a few private wells. We listened to the public who was polled and encouraged to participate in the process and they overwhelmingly rejected the offer, indicating that property owners on that side of town should maintain and be responsible for their own wells.

We proactively continue to identify and rectify potential stormwater management issues which included a detailed upgrade to our stormwater connector and we did this with a taxpayer friendly mechanism that funded the program. We have not had a stormwater blockage or backflow issue for years and hopefully we will not have one for many years to come.

We have continued to support Naval Station Newport and we will continue to lead the reconciliation of ownership and the responsibilities related to the utility infrastructure that was orphaned due to the 2006 BRAC.

We continue to evaluate the potential positive impact associated with consolidating the pump stations on the west side of the town and redirecting wastewater flows from the Wave Avenue pump station to the Coddington pump station.

We worked with our School Committee and our school administration to identify an educational facilities plan that supports modern teaching, one which will prepare our students to be productive adults, one that will provide businesses with a dynamic workforce, and one that is affordable to all our residents. Our residents responded overwhelmingly with the passing of the $10 million School Bond, which will not affect our tax rate. This is an incredible accomplishment, saving hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars, and affording our students with a much needed upgraded environment.

As we go into this New Year, we will take what we’ve learned over the last couple of years. We will continue moving forward and capitalizing on new opportunities.

Robert Sylvia
Middletown Council President

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