Police Chief Carlone announces retirement, Council receives Covid updates
While the Town Council faced some technical difficulties during its Town Council meeting because of adverse weather conditions on Wednesday, Dec. 16, the Council was presented with some Covid-19 news on the future of vaccines from Block Island Medical Center Director Dr. Tom Warcup.
Town Manager Maryanne Crawford also announced that Police Chief Vin Carlone will be retiring in April 2021 after 17 years with the Town of New Shoreham Police Department.
“I am sure you will all join me in thanking his dedication and service, and wish him nothing but the best in his retirement,” said Crawford.
In Covid news, Dr. Warcup said there had been no new cases in the past five days prior to the meeting.
“We really appreciate everyone’s efforts with mask wearing and social distancing,” said Warcup.
“We are excited that tomorrow, [Dec. 17], we will likely hear from the state regarding the Covid-19 vaccinations, whether we get Pfizer-BioNTech or we get the recently approved Moderna,” said Warcup. “We are anticipating to hear from the state regarding our time table. As soon as we do, we will get it out in multiple communication streams: YouTube, Block Island Bulletin Board, and our websites.”
Councilor Martha Ball reminded the council and the audience tuning in for “everyone to stay vigilant. I’m still really concerned about these gatherings over the holidays that people seem to be dismissing.”
First Warden André Boudreau agreed with Ball, and stated that there are requirements and advisories in place for travelling into Rhode Island.
“Rhode Island does have a medical form that if you are travelling to Rhode Island you are supposed to fill out. That basically says, if you are coming from any state on the Rhode Island list, you have to quarantine for two weeks,” said Boudreau, or as an exception, one may provide a proof of a negative test for Covid-19 that was taken within 72 hours prior to arrival on Block Island (please refer to the Travel Advisory story on Page 1 to review Covid-19 numbers on Block Island and the states which hold a five percent or greater positivity rate.)
Interstate’s Director of Security Bill McCombe joined the call, and announced that he and Town Manager Maryanne Crawford had held similar conversations for travel advisories.
“Maryanne and I have been working up for notifying people when they come over on the ferry. [Assistant Town Manager] Shirlyne Gobern has been putting a sheet together,” said McCombe. He announced that they would be handing out the documents at the ferry ticket windows this weekend as an educational resource for passengers.
Councilor Mark Emmanuelle addressed his concerns about those who may travel to the island to shop at local businesses, while also enforcing adherence to the town’s Covid-19 emergency ordinance.
“I have two comments. The first goes out to the businesses that are courting people to come over for the holidays and New Year’s Eve. I’m hoping they are providing some kind of fact sheets that go over what you said, André,” Emmanuellle said. His second comment referred to an item on the town’s Emergency Ordinance that was adopted on May 27, 2020, which states “The New Shoreham Police Department is instructed to enforce the provisions of this emergency ordinance.”
“If anyone sees anyone not complying, please bring it to their attention,” said Emmanuelle.
Boudreau stated he would have Crawford “remind our police of that enforcement.”
Crawford noted she had spoken to Police Chief Vin Carlone earlier in the week. The requirements for the travel advisory had been posted on new-shoreham. com, the Block Island Tourism Council and Chamber of Commerce websites, and in The Block Island Times.
“We are getting the message out,” said Crawford.
Second Warden Sven Risom brought up the idea of continuing the education program that began last spring when Risom handed out masks and literature to people coming off the boats.
“If you want we can put that in place for the holidays. We can reenact that little meet and greet, which is one more educational program that would help,” said Risom.
Boudreau agreed with Risom on continuing this idea for travelers coming over to the island.
“The more education the better,” said Risom.
Monthly report from Crawford
Crawford provided her detailed and very insightful monthly Town Manager’s Report during the meeting as well. The key findings from the report, which can also be found under ClerkBase, noted:
Under Finance, tax collections “remain stable;” clerk’s licenses and fees are “at record levels;” building permit fees are “very strong;” the cottage tax “had been down 75 percent but is now tracking 50 percent below last year;” and expenditures “are tracking closely with historical levels on a percentage basis;” the Land Use Department has been receiving a number of requests for applications for Planning and Zoning; the public safety tower at the police station “is sound” and meets requirements; the Broadband project continues to move forward; utilization of the emergency notification system CodeRED for the community; meetings with moped owners continue; future plans of implementing ePermitting at Town Hall; and the dredging project in Old Harbor “is due to be completed within the next week or two.”
2020 Fiscal Audit
Town Finance Director Amy Land presented a brief overview of the audit report for fiscal year 2020. The audit report can be found on the Town of New Shoreham’s ClerkBase, under Town Council Agenda Dec. 16, 2020.
“The highlights are that this is a clean audit report: there are no findings, no concerns and no additional comments [or] recommendations for where we could improve,” said Land. “The other thing that I would call your attention to in summary: this was a tough year for the town financially. The last quarter of the year, we basically had zero revenue. We ended the general fund with a deficit of about $1 million. And that’s not typically where the town winds up, but it is what we were expecting. In a sense, things are where we thought they would be at the end of June 2020. We built our 2021 budget knowing that, and we are on track to recovering those funds and building our reserves back up.”
“A clean audit is an important thing to have, and we had it for a long time now,” said Ball.
Boudreau made a motion to accept the annual audit for the fiscal year 2020, with Risom seconding the motion. The motion was passed unanimously by the council.
Surprise visit from Santa
Boudreau made an announcement on the behalf of the Ladies Auxiliary of the Block Island Volunteer Fire Department, who “usually hosts Santa and Mrs. Claus” at the Fire Barn, that Santa would not be at the Fire Barn this year due to Covid-19.
“Hopefully postponed for another time,” said Boudreau.
Right as Boudreau made the announcement, none other than Santa himself made a special appearance across the virtual screen.
Santa announced he would still be flying over Block Island in his sleigh to deliver gifts to the island children, using the “beautiful lighthouses as a guide” in the night sky.
Discussion on Charter Review changes continued
The council had begun a discussion on the proposed changes to New Shoreham’s Home Rule Charter, but had to continue to Monday, Dec. 21 due to the adverse weather conditions picking up into the night.