2018-03-22 / Around Town

Council Reviews Senior Exemptions

Privatizes Streetlights
By Jocelyn O’Neil

The Middletown Town Council meeting on March 19 had a senior theme that centered on young and older “seniors.” A proposal to amend the current ordinance involving senior exemptions was addressed, as was support for the Middletown High School Senior and Junior Post Prom Committee.

The council also discussed raising the hotel, food and beverage tax by 1 percent, but the issue was tabled to a later date so that Town Solicitor Peter Regan could do further research. There was also the question of whether the increase could be passed without being placed on a ballot.

Town Council President Robert Sylvia was confident that a 1-percent tax increase would provide a revenue stream to support schools, school safety and capital improvements.

“Look at the numbers; they are staring us right in the face,” he said. “They’re saying ‘Why wouldn’t you want to use it to help our taxpayers?’”

Councilor Henry F. Lombardi Jr. proposed the amendment to the ordinance involving senior exemptions. Under the current law, once a person loses exempt status, he or she must wait five years before reapplying for the exemption.

Lombardi spoke of a couple in their 80s who can no longer go to Florida, for medical reasons.

“They were here for years… They supported this town with taxes,” he said. “[They] continue to pay taxes but lose their senior exemption and must wait five years before they are able to reapply… I have a problem with that. These people are in their 80s and we want them to wait five years? Some people may not live long enough to get the senior exemption back.”

Lombardi proposed a six-month grace period. In his original proposal, he had suggested an 18-month grace period.

To be granted a senior exemption, the individual must provide proof that they are registered to vote in the town of Middletown, and they have a car that is currently registered and garaged in Middletown. A senior exemption rolls over to those who inherit the property.

Lombardi also expressed concern for the younger generation who might be inheriting family property. “How long do they have to wait for a senior exemption?” he asked.

“What was the original intent for this ordinance?” Council Vice President Paul Rodrigues asked. “How many people does this really affect?”

The council agreed to schedule a public workshop to review all senior exemptions.

The other “seniors,” Middletown High School ones, along with juniors, requested support for the Senior and Junior Post Prom activities. The council approved $200 for each class in discretionary money for the Senior and Junior Post Prom Committee.

On the subject of streetlights, Town Administrator Shawn J. Brown issued a memorandum asking the council for the authority to replace the streetlights with LED technology to save on energy costs. Last year’s electrical costs, Brown said, were approximately $215,000.

“The program has been working well in other communities,” he said. “Some [are] reporting a 50 percent reduction in cost.”

National Grid and its consultant, RPM Power LLC of Boston, are currently aiding Narragansett and South Kingston with a similar project.

Rodrigues countered that Providence is experiencing trouble with a similar conversion. “What if we’re not happy with what they provide?” he said. “How do we know there’s a 50 percent reduction?”

Brown said he plugged Middletown’s numbers into South Kingston’s spreadsheet. “If it doesn’t make sense we can go back to the original,” he said.

Although there were skeptics of National Grid’s cost-cutting results, the council authorized Brown to pursue National Grid for help with privatization of the town’s streetlights.

In Other Matters:

. Pat LeBeau, Forest Avenue School Clerk, and Cam Ventura, Forest Avenue School Nurse, requested a donation for T-Shirts for Forest Avenue School Students celebrating “Proud To Be An American Day.” Rodrigues recused himself because he is the brother of Pat LeBeau. The council approved this support and decided to use money from the President’s Discretionary Fund.

. Cheryl G. Robinson, President of Turning Around Ministries, Inc., requested and received support from the council in the form of a half-page ad in the Souvenir Book. The council approved the $65 cost.

. Two members of the Planning Board, Paul A. Croce, and Betty Jane “BJ” Northup-Owen, were reappointed for terms expiring in February 2021. Howard Robert Hall was the third candidate in a bid for appointment to the Planning Board.

Return to top