2018-02-22 / Front Page

Council Takes on School, Sidewalk Safety, Ways to Save

By Andy Long

Safety and savings dominated the docket at the Feb. 14 Newport City Council meeting: safety, for the Rogers High School community and for pedestrians and cyclists on Newport’s streets, and savings for the city, as well as ways to address environmental concerns.

In unanimous votes, the council approved two contracts to address safety issues at Rogers. A contract for $30,000 was awarded to Providence’s ATG Group for installing surveillance cameras at two entry and exit points, along with remote locks for all doors, to prevent anyone inside from opening a side door to allow unmonitored access to the school. A second contract for $28,000 was awarded to a Johnston company, United Fencing, to install two tubular gates and bollards around the campus to prevent cars from accessing certain areas and to divert them away from buildings.

Pedestrian and cyclist safety was also a focus of the meeting.

Council member Lynn Ceglie read an amendment to reduce the age limit for riding on any city sidewalk from the current 13 years old to 9 years old. However, she realized that under the proposed new rule, Thompson Middle School students would have to ride in the street to get to school, so she withdrew the amendment.

She then raised her concern that another restriction on biking in town isn’t expansive enough. Currently, no one can ride on the sidewalks lining Memorial Drive and Bellevue Ave. from the Hotel Viking out to Bowery St. or on Thames St. out to Morton Ave.

She offered a substitute amendment to extend the prohibition to the sidewalks on the west side of Broadway, which is the side with the police station, from Equality Park to Washington Square, as well as the sidewalk on the water side of America’s Cup Ave. for its entire length. This modified amendment passed.

The meeting then moved on to savings, and developing a plan for better management of the trash stream out of Pell Elementary by redirecting waste away from the mass headed for the landfill. Second and third-graders from Pell Elementary briefed the council on how their school no longer used plastic straws and that they were considering no further use of disposable plastic utensils.

Later, Council member Susan Taylor proposed that city and school facilities staff develop a plan to do even more to refine the waste flow from the schools. One possible change suggested was to no longer throw away unopened packages of non-perishable food items. Also, food scraps could be separated into what is and isn't appropriate for composting.

The advantages of the program would be environmental and financial. Using what is now discarded saves resources and teaches young people lifelong habits to benefit the environment. Also, every pound of trash that goes off to the landfill costs the city tipping fees, so the savings would also go to Newport’s bottom line.

The council voted to refer the matter to staff and asked them to coordinate with the school board.

The council also heard from Providence attorney Eva Marie Mancuso. Mancuso’s firm is the Rhode Island representative of a national network of law firms who have banded together to sue corporate distributors of opioids over the costs communities have borne in coping with the new wave of addictions and mortalities from opioid misuse.

Mancuso stressed that this was not a class action lawsuit. Rather, in a coordinated way, each community sues in the Federal District Court in Ohio. The council asked city staff to further evaluate her proposal before any decision to proceed is considered.

In Other Matters

. The council accepted two financial reports, one from the Newport Housing Authority and another from the finance department, detailing the city’s Capital Improvement Program for the years 2019 to 2023.

. Received and approved was the annual report from the Biking and Pedestrian Advisory Commission, and accepted was a notice from the Federal Highway Administration and Federal Transit Administration about a public meeting to be held at the State Capitol building later in February.

. The board also congratulated the Edward King House for receiving a Certificate of Special Recognition from Gov. Raimondo as well as for receiving a grant of $250,000 from the state for necessary repairs and renovations.

. Unanimously approved were consents for several events to be held in Newport, among them the Winter Festival, including the use of horses for polo matches on Easton’s Beach, performances by the Swanhurst Chorus at Fenner Hall, and other annual events held by the Preservation Society, from March’s Easter Egg Hunt to December’s Holiday Dinner Dance at the Breakers.

. Victualing Licenses came before the commission. Thames St.’s Via Via Pizza’s renewal was declined unanimously, but the Colonial Restaurant, which operates in the Easton’s Beach Rotunda, had its license renewed.

. Councilors accepted with regret the resignation of Rebecca McSweeny as both member and chair of the Zoning Board of Review. Current member Christopher Kerwin will be the new chairperson.

The members also reappointed Timothy Brown, Lisa Perrault, Stephanie Szneke and Adrienne Haylor to the Tree and Open Space Commission, and Bill Bagwill was reappointed to the Hospitality Commission.

. Two contacts were approved, one to fix broken decorative features and the crosswalks on Broadway, a contract not to exceed $77,000. Also approved was a contract for $99,640 to owner’s project manager for supervising the adaptation of the old Sheffield School into Innovate Newport, an incubator for hi-tech startups.

.A petition from the Ida Lewis Yacht Club to extend its dock was approved. The council continued any consideration of changing the regulations and fees associated with the Gazebo at King’s Park. Council member Kate Leonard wants the city to favor Newport residents, both by charging them less and prioritizing their use of the facility.

.Before adjourning, the council acted as the city’s Board of Licensing and approved two name changes. The Hotel Viking’s liquor license will now be held by Viking Tenant, LLC, while the Mudville Café of West Marlborough Street will have its license held in the name of the 1908 Public House.

.The board approved six temporary licenses for the Preservation Society to serve alcohol at various events throughout the year.

.Show Cause Hearings for serving liquor without a license were approved for The Protective Club and the Salvation Café. A show cause hearing for Spring Street Spirits was continued.

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