City Council ward candidates face off


By Sean Flynn |Daily News staff writer |  The Newport Daily News | Page A01 | Thursday, 25 October 2018 

NEWPORT – The two candidates for the Ward 1 seat and the two candidates for the Ward 2 seat on the City Council discussed local issues Tuesday night in a candidates forum at City Hall before an audience of about 75 people.

James Dring, a local Realtor, and Angela McCalla, a foster care recruiter and trainer for Child & Family, are running for the Ward 1 seat, while Valerie Larkin, a technology transfer manager at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, is challenging incumbent Ward 2 Councilwoman LynnUnderwood Ceglie, who has held the seat since 2014.

Ward 3 Councilwoman Kathryn Leonard is unchallenged in her run for re-election. The other four members on the City Council hold at-large seats. The seven candidates for those four seats were featured in a forum last Thursday.

Tuesday night’s forum was the third and final organized by the Alliance for a Livable Newport, a neighborhood advocacy group. Questions were posed by Jill Kassis, first vice president of the League of Women Voters of Rhode Island.

Among the issues Ward 1 candidates talked about was the state project to redesign the Pell Bridge approach and exit ramps. The project, now in its design phase, is expected to free up close to 40 acres of land in the North End of the city, within Ward 1, for economic development.

“The state says they are doing it because the traffic backs up on the Pell Bridge,” said Dring, a former chairman of the city Planning Board. “I’d rather have it back up on the bridge than have an adverse impact on our neighborhoods. I’m in favor of the proposal that is the least disruptive.”

The state Department of  Transportation has developed four major alternatives for the new bridge ramp design. One of those alternatives has three variations and another alternative has two variations, so the process of coming up with a final design is still very much in flux. 

The Alliance for a Livable Newport sponsored a public forum Tuesday night at City Hall for Newport Ward 1 and Ward 2 City Council candidates. From left are Ward 1 candidates James Dring and Angela McCalla, and Ward 2 candidates Valerie Larkin and Lynn Underwood Ceglie. [PETER SILVIA PHOTO]


“There has to be more transparency in the plans and we need to hear from our constituents about what they want,” McCalla said. “The community needs to come together to make a decision. It is the community that should have the final say.”

Dring called the Pell ramp project “the biggest redevelopment project in the city since the late 1960s and 1970s,” when many buildings were torn down to make way for America’s Cup Avenue, Brick Market Place and Long Wharf Mall.

“That in my opinion was a disaster, putting a fourlane highway through the downtown and cutting off sections of the city from each other,” he said. “I don’t want that to happen again.”

“We are a city of neighborhoods,” McCalla said. “We must stay that way.”

On making streets safer

The Ward 2 candidates addressed the pending pedestrian and other safety improvements the state is planning for Memorial Boulevard, since much of the thoroughfare is within their ward.

“The addition of bicycle lanes along part of Memorial Boulevard was a positive step, but we do have a traffic problem that is dangerous for people crossing the street,” Larkin said. “We are a colonial city with narrow streets. We need to find ways to keep traffic out of the city.”

Ceglie said she has been working with the DOT and residents on the plans to make Memorial Boulevard safer.

“I am particularly concerned about the crossing used by many elderly residents of Chapel Terrace and Donovan Manor,” she said.

The Ward 2 candidates also were asked about commercial development of Broadway, which seems to be expanding north.

“When you have a vibrant downtown business zone, that is one of the consequences,” Larkin said. “We need to look at the Cranston-Calvert [former school] development. We need a holistic approach and we need more engagement by the community.”

“I see the development of Broadway as a positive,” Ceglie said. “While on the council, I have addressed problems of parking, speeding and not stopping at stop signs, which we see in many of our neighborhoods. But Broadway is a shining light in our city now. We see that in the annual Broadway Street Fair.”

“The younger population count in the city is going down, which is why the Cranston-Calvert project is so important,” Ceglie said. “It would become workforce housing that is not subsidized, but is appealing to younger people.”

Moderator Kassis asked five questions with the request that the candidates answer with a “yes” or “no.” The candidates were given a chance at the end of the series to briefly explain their answers.

On term limits, Rogers High School

The two candidates who would be new to city government – McCalla and Larkin – said they would favor term limits for city councilors. That would ensure fresh faces periodically join the council, they said.

The two candidates with experience in city government – Ceglie, who has also served on the city’s Zoning Board of Review, and Dring – opposed term limits. They said the position already has a two-year term limit, when the voters decide whether incumbents should be returned to the council. Veteran council members with experience and institutional knowledge are important contributors to council deliberations, Ceglie said.

McCalla was the only candidate to answer “yes” when asked whether she “would support moving Rogers High School to the North End, closer to where two-thirds of the students reside.”

It is an important goal to explore, McCalla said.

Dring, Ceglie and Larkin all abstained from the Rogers vote. They said afterward that they would support having a high school in the North End if possible, but they believe there is no available large parcel of land in that section of the city where a high school could be built. If that changed, they would be on board with a North End high school, they said.

When asked whether they would support a citywide survey of residents’ concerns and priorities, such as took place in 2005 and 2015, Ceglie and Dring answered “no.” They said such surveys are expensive. If a third-party organization or individuals were willing to carry those costs, they would support the survey, they said.

McCalla and Larkin said they would support such a survey, but Larkin qualified her answer afterward by saying a high-cost survey could be a deterrent.

Dring, Ceglie and Larkin said they would support a homestead property-tax exemption for permanent residents of Newport, while McCalla abstained. She said she would like to research the impact of such an exemption before committing to it. The candidates were unanimous on only one of the five questions. They all rejected the idea of having the voters of the city popularly elect a mayor. They all supported the current City Council-city manager form of government that has council members choose a mayor, who also serves as council chairperson, and a city manager who serves as the city’s chief administrative officer.

sflynn@newportri.com

The audience listens during Tuesday night’s forum for Newport Ward 1 and Ward 2 City Council candidates, sponsored by Alliance for a Livable Newport at City Hall. The red flag indicates the allotted time is up for responding to a question. [PETER SILVIA PHOTO]

At-large candidates face off – Seven City Council hopefuls share views on new hotels, short-term rentals

By Sean Flynn | Daily News staff writer | The Newport Daily News | Page A01 | Saturday, 20 October 2018

The seven candidates for the four at-large seats on the City Council faced off Thursday night in a candidates’ forum in the council chamber of City Hall before an audience of more than 60 people.

Of the seven candidates, only Richard “Wick” Rudd, a member of the city Zoning Board of Review for the past year and former member of the Planning Board for five years, is making his first run for elected office.

Hugo J. DeAscentis, a former member of the School Committee for 15 years, is making his first run for the council, while Justin McLaughlin is seeking to return to the council. He served on the council for 10 years, from 2006 to 2016, when he lost his bid for a sixth term.

Current Ward 1 Councilwoman Susan Taylor, first elected in 2016, is running for an at-large in this election. Current at-large council members Jamie Bova, Marco Camacho and Jeanne-Marie Napolitano are running for re-election to the council. The fourth current at-large council member, Mayor Harry Winthrop, is not running for re-election.

The forum was the second of three organized by the Alliance for a Livable Newport, a neighborhood advocacy group. Questions were posed by Kristine Hendrickson, associate vice president for Salve Regina University relations and Salve’s chief communications officer.

See ELECTION, A10

At-large candidates for Newport City Council, from left, Susan Taylor, Jeanne-Marie Napolitano, Marco Camacho, Hugo DeAscentis, Justin McLaughlin, Jamie Bova and Richard “Wick” Rudd take part in a forum Thursday night at City Hall. The forum was sponsored by the Alliance for a Livable Newport. [PETER SILVIA PHOTO]


ELECTION

From Page A1

There were no striking differences between the candidates on policy issues, and they all seemed to agree that short-term rentals through hosting platforms such as Airbnb represent a growing challenge for the city.

Even when questions focused on matters such as the three new hotels approved for upcoming construction in the city, the increasing cost of home purchases or apartment rentals, or the changing demographics of the city, the discussion seemed to come back to the disruptive effects of the online hosting platforms.

Napolitano said properties that are being used for profitable short-term rentals should perhaps be taxed at the commercial tax rate of $14.98 per $1,000 valuation instead of the lower residential tax rate of $9.99 per $1,000 valuation.

She and other candidates argued the use of properties for short-term rentals is forcing up the values of all properties and leading to higher rents for people who live in the city year-round.

“Our property values and rents are way too high for young people and young families,” Napolitano said.

Camacho said there are currently about 500 homes and apartments in Newport listed on the Airbnb website.

“They make tens of thousands of dollars for the owners and are not vetted like hotels and inns,” he said. He agreed these properties should be taxed at the commercial rate. Both Camacho and Napolitano pointed out that Airbnb provides the city with checks to cover room and sales taxes, but offers no breakdown on which properties had paid and how much.

“We don’t have a spreadsheet,” Camacho said.

Rudd pointed out that the Planning Board now has a task force subcommittee looking into short-term rentals and how to regulate them.

“It got way ahead of the city,” he said. “Owners of short-term rentals are getting $300 to $400 a night. It needs to be regulated.”

McLaughlin called for ordinances regulating shortterm rentals to be reviewed, changed where needed, and enforced.

“We need to change ordinances to protect the neighborhoods we have,” Bova said. “We want people who live here year-round to be in vibrant neighborhoods, not surrounded by nonowner occupied homes.”

Rudd welcomed the upcoming construction of new hotels on Hammetts Wharf where the yachting center was formerly located, at Long Wharf and America’s Cup Avenue, and on Broadway at the Fifth Element.

“We need about 1,000 new hotel rooms in the city or Airbnbs will explode,” he said.

Bova and Taylor expressed concerns though that new hotels cut city residents off from the waterfront, both physically and visually. They called for a review of city ordinances to make sure they are in compliance with the city’s land-use plan.

Taylor pointed out the planned Long Wharf hotel will be raised, with parking on the ground level.

“That affects the streetscape,” she said.

Rudd pointed out that the population of the city is expected to decline by 25 percent by the year 2036.

One of the questions noted was that by the end of the upcoming decade, in 2030, 50 percent of Newport’s population is expected to be over the age of 60.

“We need young families to move into the city,” DeAscentis said.

During the baby-boom years after World War II, the city was building and opening new schools, he said. In more recent years, as the population has decreased and aged, the city has been closing and consolidating schools, he said.

DeAscentis said it was possible to turn around that cycle.

He and other candidates said the schools have to be high-quality and high-performing in order to attract new families.

Bova noted, though, that the city needs “aging in place” policies to allow older residents to stay in their homes and get around when they can no longer drive.

The candidates were asked what they would do to address traffic problems, especially in the summer season, a question that often comes up during election season.

Rudd, with a bow to Mark Twain, said: “Everybody in Newport likes to talk about the traffic, but no one does anything about it.”

He said he would like to return to the possibility of constructing a parking garage where the Mary Street parking lot is now, and long-term possibly moving the Gateway visitors center to a new satellite parking lot that could be created on land freed up by a redesign of the Pell Bridge ramps.

Taylor said she would favor a parking facility on that freed-up land in the north end of the city that would be larger than is now being talked about. She said the parking facility should hold more than 600 vehicles and later perhaps up to 1,000.

She said people would be able to go into the city on a rail shuttle or shuttle trolleys.

None of the other candidates disagreed with that vision, and some had similar ideas.

The ongoing disagreements that the City Council and School Committee have when it comes to setting a budget for the School Department also was discussed.

Bova said the full City Council and full School Committee come together only once a year to discuss the school budget.

“We should meet more often,” she said. “Our goals intersect. When the schools benefit, the city benefits.”

Napolitano focused on the current school budget deficit, for which the council will take up a financing plan next week.

“We need more checks and balances,” she said. “I have been very supportive of the schools, but if we continue to have overspending of the school budget, it could affect the bond rating of the city.”

“There is a lack of transparency in school accounting,” McLaughlin said. “We need to have the city keep track of school finances.”

The third and final ALN forum, for the two candidates running for the Ward 1 seat and the two candidates running for the Ward 2 seat on the City Council, takes place Tuesday beginning at 6 p.m. in the council chamber of City Hall. The Ward 3 seat is uncontested.

sflynn@newportri.com

Audience members listen as Newport City Council at-large candidates take part in a forum Thursday at City Hall sponsored by the Alliance for a Livable Newport.

[PETER SILVIA PHOTO]

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR – Be an informed voter

The Newport Daily News | Page A07Tuesday, 2 October 2018

As we’ve seen in the past week, the old shibboleth “Elections have consequences” holds true.

We are now less than six weeks before the elections on Nov. 6. According to a recent Pew Survey, voter enthusiasm is at its highest level for any midterm election in more than two decades.

The enthusiasm that holds for the national elections should translate to the local level. This is certainly a positive sign, but will voters in Newport be as knowledgeable of critical local issues as those at the national level?

To assist Newport voters to learn more about their candidates and make informed decisions for whom to vote, the nonpartisan Alliance for a Livable Newport has been conducting public candidate forums since 2010. Prior to the forums, questionnaires are sent to all local candidates. This year, all 21 candidates in contested elections for Newport City Council and School Committee have posted their responses to the questions submitted by the community and ALN. The alliance encourages all Newport citizens to read the responses at NewportAlliance.org.

In addition to reviewing the written responses, citizens are encouraged to attend the three public forums in October where the candidates will address additional questions in person.

The schedule is School Committee candidates:

Tuesday, Oct. 16, 6-7:30 p.m., Pell Elementary School auditorium.

At-large City Council candidates: Thursday, Oct. 18, 6-7:30 p.m.,Newport City Hall.

First and Second Ward City Council candidates: Tuesday, Oct. 23, 6-7:30 p.m., Newport City Hall.

This is a pivotal election for Newport. Our newly elected City Council and School Committee will be dealing with critical issues affecting all of Newport, including the development of the North End, the bridge ramps re-alignment, parking, taxes, short-term rentals, etc. Likewise, the new School Committee must contend with the overcrowding at Pell, the repairs or replacement of Rogers High School, academic performance, finances and other significant issues.

The final day to register to vote is Sunday. To do so, visit http://vote.sos.ri.gov.

John Hirschboeck, co-president,Alliance for a Livable Newport

ELECTION YEAR ALERT – ALN CALL FOR QUESTIONS

Twenty-seven civic-minded Newport citizens have filed to run for seven City Council and seven School Committee seats this election year promising strong contests for all openings.

As it has since 2008, Alliance For A Livable Newport (ALN) will conduct free public forums to give Newport voters an opportunity to assess the qualifications of the candidates.

At this point, we anticipate holding three forums – one for candidates for the three Ward Council seats, one for candidates for the four at-large Council seats and one for candidates for the seven School Committee seats.

In addition, two online questionnaires — one for City Council candidates and one for School Committee candidates — will be given to the candidates, and their responses will be presented on ALN’s website, www.newportalliance.org.

We want to hear what Newport’s voters are interested in learning about the candidates.

ALN is requesting the public to submit questions to be answered by the candidates. Questions for the forums and questionnaires will be selected from those received.

To allow time for the questionnaires to be prepared and given by the end of July to the candidates for their responses, your suggested questions must be submitted no later than July 15.

Please send your questions to info@newportalliance.org

THANKS FOR YOUR CONTINUED SUPPORT!

For over 10 years, the Alliance for a Livable Newport (ALN) has promoted and enhanced the quality of life in its city by providing an unbiased resource for information on issues facing our community.

Please support ALN today!
To pay online go to http://newportalliance.org/join/
Or mail your check to ALN, PO Box 2636, Newport, RI a 501(c3) non-profit organization.

PUBLIC FORUM – Students of Newport Public Schools Speak Out

  • DATE: Tuesday, May 1st
  • TIME: 6-7:30 PM
  • LOCATION: Claiborne Pell Elementary School | 35 Dexter Street, Newport, RI.

A Public Forum Presented by the One Newport NPS Strategic Plan Subcommittee And Alliance for Livable Newport (ALN)

Listen to our Thompson and Rogers School students talk about their future aspirations and
the roles education and the community play in making life choices. Here’s an opportunity to
understand the perspectives of Newport’s young people as they navigate technology, social
media, classroom traditions, extracurricular activities, family pressures and a rapid change in
the labor market.


You have heard from the Newport City Council and the School Committee, and about the
Newport Public Schools’ Strategic Plan. Now is the time to hear from our most important
educational constituents.

Panelists:
Students from Rogers High School and Thompson Middle School

If you could ask them a question what would it be? Now is your opportunity.

Questions may be submitted via email before the forum or in writing the night of the event.
info@newportalliance.org

You do not have to be present at the forum to have your question chosen.

The One Newport Subcommittee is a group of volunteers who are committed to helping improve the Newport Public Schools.

They believe that a superior educational system is critical not only for the children of Newport but also for the future of the City.

For over 10 years, the Alliance for a Livable Newport (ALN) has promoted and enhanced the quality
of life in its city by providing an unbiased resource for information on issues facing our community.

CONTACT For Immediate Release: April 13, 2018
Isabel Griffith, Co-President
Alliance for a Livable Newport
Igriffith38@verizon.net
401.849-6444

ALN Hosts First Annual ‘State of the City’ Forum Addresses Governance, Safety in 2018

Watch the VIDEO HERE 
CREDITS: By Joseph T. O’Connor | 2018-03-01 / Front Page | Newport This Week


In an effort to reflect on the year that was and to look ahead at the year to come, Alliance for a Livable Newport (ALN) held its first “State of the City” forum on Feb. 27, providing a chance for open dialogue between citizens and the city’s top officials.

More than 100 Newporters turned out at Pell Elementary School to hear Mayor Harry Winthrop, City Council Vice-Chair Lynn Ceglie and City Manager Joseph J. Nicholson, Jr. present the city’s accomplishments and the challenges it faces, and to discuss what they say will be a promising 2018.

City leaders took questions submitted by citizens and read by ALN moderators John Hirschboeck, co-president of ALN, and Tom Hockaday, who sits on ALN’s executive committee. The nonprofit had solicited questions based on topics that citizens identified as issues they wanted addressed: the armory, schools, traffic and parking, other city properties, communications and governing processes, hotels and other issues.

“Hopefully [this] was an audience that appreciates our openness,” Nicholson said in an interview following the forum. “I want to work with people. I want people calling me. I want them to understand what’s going on with the city.”

The forum began with the city officials commenting on Newport’s accomplishments, its investments, and developments, as well as the challenges facing the City by the Sea.

Winthrop cited more than $190 million in citywide public investments, including the water and wastewater treatment plants, the Pell Bridge Ramp Realignment Project, Freebody Park, Broadway, the Gateway Center and Sheffield School, among others.

In addition, he noted the benefits that $350 million in private investment has had on local properties, among them the Breakers and Mrs. Astor’s Beechwood mansions, Gurney’s, the Marriott, Sail Newport and the Opera House.

“One thing that shows confidence in the city and the city government, I believe, is what type of personal investment people are willing to make in their community,” Winthrop said.

Along with upcoming hotel development, infrastructure investments and North End redevelopment, as well as major Newport events that attract more than 3 million visitors per year to the area, including the Volvo Ocean Race stopover in May, and the Newport Jazz and Folk festivals, the city is seeing major accomplishments, Winthrop said.

But Winthrop, Ceglie, and Nicholson also identified significant challenges for Newport, among them a $2 million-plus investment into repairs on Bellevue Avenue, a declining population, the relocation of the Newport Grand Casino that displaced 225 workers, and $2 million in needed repairs to the Edward King House. One issue, in particular, is the sea-level rise in low-lying areas of the city.

“Sea-level rise … has been a topic for quite a while now, and things need to be done,” Winthrop said. “But of all of the challenges, that to me is the one at the top of the list.”

Ceglie said the city is making strides in infrastructure through $425,000 in grants to stem the rising tide by helping to commission a study and preliminary design, and beginning a pilot program that looks at tide gates, which could allow water to flow out of storm drains but not back in. “We’re working on this challenge but there’s certainly more to go,” she said.

Another challenge city leaders identified is the potential repair or replacement of Rogers High School that Winthrop said could cost $50 million. But, he added, change will take time, and he urged Newporters to be patient as city and school officials navigate complex options.

“There’s going to be a lot of time and a lot of effort [invested in] building a high school that will hopefully be here for another 50 years,” he said.

Question and Answer Period

The first topic addressed was the Armory building and its potential sale to the National Sailing Hall of Fame, currently located in Annapolis, Maryland. The city officials reiterated that the council has maintained its position since talks of a sale began.

“There’s no change to policy,” Winthrop said. “The city took title to [the Armory] in 2010 because the redevelopment agency could not afford the repairs. We reluctantly took it on and immediately attempted to sell it. This is not something new.”

In the shadow of a renewed national debate over guns and safety in American schools, city officials were asked what steps were being taken to develop and implement a comprehensive safety plan for schools.

Nicholson said he has been discussing the issue with Newport Schools Superintendent Colleen Jermain and Police Chief Gary Silva.

“As it stands today, we have a police presence in all three schools, but it’s an ongoing discussion,” Nicholson said. “In past years, my first reaction would be it’s about the money. But it’s no longer about the money. It’s the new normal.”

Ceglie said Newport has two “very safe schools” in Pell and Thompson and that, in addition to staffing police at all three schools, city officials are allocating money to the 50-year-old Rogers High School for locks and cameras, among other safety features.

“I’ve said over and over again, my number one priority in the city of Newport is public safety,” Winthrop said. “Without public safety, none of this other stuff we’re talking about really matters.”

In an interview at the conclusion of the forum, Hockaday said, “They may see their own councilperson at a neighborhood meeting, but you rarely get the two top elected officials… and the city manager together at one time to collectively participate in answering those questions.”

Hirschboeck said some people might be upset that their questions weren’t answered, but he added that all questions had been submitted electronically to the Newport City Council for councilors’ input and reference.

“We have a great relationship with [ALN’s] board,” Nicholson said. “It was a nice turnout, and I thought it was a great exchange. A good way to get things off your chest.”

Read moreALN Hosts First Annual ‘State of the City’ Forum Addresses Governance, Safety in 2018

Cover Story – NEWPORT – City officials “State of Our City”

The Newport Daily News | Page A01Wednesday, 28 February 2018

The Newport Daily News | Page A01Wednesday, 28 February 2018
The Newport Daily News | Page A01 Wednesday, 28 February 2018

 

Purchase of Navy hospital, sale of Armory and longevity of cell tower at high school are the other major changes discussed at a forum Tuesday.

CREDIT : By Sean Flynn Staff writer  The Newport Daily News | Page A01Wednesday, 28 February 2018

NEWPORT – City officials chose a “State of Our City” forum Tuesday night to make some major announcements on school security, the city’s planned purchase of the abandoned Navy Hospital on Third Street, the proposed sale of the Armory on Thames Street and the likely longevity of the cell tower on the Rogers High School campus.

City Manager Joseph J. Nicholson, who is also the city’s director of public safety, said beginning this week there are now full-time police officers stationed at the high school, Thompson Middle School and Pell Elementary School. In the past, there have been budgetary concerns and grants were sought to pay for police presence at the schools.

“It’s no longer about the money,” Nicholson said. “This is the new normal.”

“Our number one priority is public safety,” Mayor Harry Winthrop said. “Who gives a damn about a pothole on Bellevue Avenue if we are not safe?”

More than 100 people gathered in the Pell cafeteria for the forum that was sponsored by Alliance for a Livable Newport, the major neighborhood advocacy group in the city. Audience members submitted written questions that were consolidated and asked by ALN officers Tom Hockaday and John Hirschbeck. Besides Nicholson and Winthrop, Council Vice Chairwoman Lynn Underwood Ceglie responded to the wide-ranging questions.

Such events are not usually the arena in which new initiatives and developments are revealed to the public, but that’s what happened.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency recently informed the Navy that it could not sell the hospital property to the city until it cleaned up the lead contamination on the site, Nicholson said. That could be a two- to three-year process, he was initially told.

That caught the audience by surprise because the city believed the Navy’s final environmental impact statement was completed and hired an appraisal firm last year to set a value on the hospital property.

Navy leaders came to Middletown on Jan. 30 to complete the sale of the 3-acre former Navy Lodge property at the corner of Coddington Highway and West Main Road to the town for $1.3 million. The deal was the first for the 165 acres of federal land on Aquidneck Island that is part of the ongoing Base Realignment and Closure process.

Newport thought it was next in the pipeline for a property purchase, but “the BRAC people told me they were avoiding me,” Nicholson said. That is when they dropped the EPA ruling on him.

Nicholson said the city initially was given the choice of waiting for the Navy to clean up the property, or buying the land and taking on the full liability for the lead clean-up, “which we were not going to do.” The property must be cleaned to “residential standards,” he said. The city has hired a Boston attorney familiar with the BRAC process to explore whether there could be a “fast transfer” of the land to the city under the condition that the Navy returns to the property and conducts the cleanup, Nicholson told the audience.

“That is our path forward,” Nicholson said. “I don’t want to wait anymore.”

Since the Navy declared the hospital site surplus property in February 2010, the city has eyed the parcel for economic development purposes, but it looks like the wait will continue.

The proposed sale of the Armory to the National Sailing Hall of Fame was given a new twist during the forum.

Members of the public have been concerned about the fate of the city-owned Newport Maritime Center, located in the basement of the Armory, which the city opened in 2012, as well as the beach at the back of the building and the adjoining Ann Street Pier.

Nicholson said earlier this month the Sailing Hall of Fame would own the whole building, but lease the basement to the city for a nominal fee under a 99-year lease. He explored the model of dividing the building into condominiums, with the city retaining ownership of the basement maritime center condominium that fronts the beach, but attorneys had advised him against that, he said at the time.

“I changed my mind,” Nicholson said at the forum.

He now favors dividing the building into two condominiums, with the Sailing Hall of Fame owning the main assembly hall on the first floor level with Thames Street and the second floor. The city would retain clear ownership of the basement level, the beach, and the pier.

“That would answer the public’s concerns about protecting public access,” he said.

Does that delay action on the proposed sale of the Armory? Nicholson was asked.

“Everything is delayed,” he responded.

Winthrop told the audience that the Rogers High School cell tower is likely to be redesigned so that is “amenable” to the neighbors, but it is likely to remain where it is.

AT& T, Verizon, and T-Mobile currently use the cell tower, but Verizon’s contract expired June 18, 2017, AT& T’s contract expired Oct. 23, and the T-Mobile contract expired Dec. 28. The companies continue transmitting though. The school department receives a total of about $90,000 annually for the lease of the tower, an amount the companies continue to pay.

The School Committee voted in December 2015 not to renew the telecommunications contracts once they expire. This action was taken because of ongoing neighbors’ complaints about the tower.

“It was a misinformed decision of the School Committee,” Winthrop said at the forum.

He said the companies have explored with city officials whether a new tower could be built near the high school auditorium, or whether a new tower could be constructed across Old Fort Road at the Fire Department’s Station 5. Both towers would be too large and obtrusive, he said.

The three telecommunications companies hired a consultant firm to complete a comprehensive report on the impact of removing the existing Rogers High School tower. The firm determined large areas around Ocean Avenue, Brenton Road and Gooseberry and Hazard beaches would be left without cell coverage.

“We cannot lose cell coverage in the south end of the city,” Winthrop said.

Time was spent at the forum discussing the realignment of the Pell Bridge ramps, which could free up about 60 acres for economic development, both Winthrop and Nicholson said.

The state Department of Transportation, which is now designing new approach ramps, will hold a public workshop on the project on Thursday, beginning at 6 p.m., in the council chamber of City Hall.

The state has committed $40 million to this project, Winthrop said. It was one of a long list of public investment and private investment projects that were either completed in the recent past, are now taking place, or are pending that city official presented.

Leading the public investment list was the $120 million that the city has been investing in its two water treatment plants and the wastewater treatment plant.

Flynn@NewportRI.com

Mayor, City Manager to participate in the ‘State of the City’ forum

*Questions may be submitted in writing at the event, or via email to info@newportalliance.org

You do not have to be present at the forum to have your question chosen.

“The State of the City, Newport, Rhode Island”

A Public Forum Presented by The Alliance for a Livable Newport

  • How are we doing in our “City by the Sea?”
  • What has been accomplished over the past months?
  • As a function of the city’s Strategic Plan, what are the successes?
  • Where did the city fall short?
  • What can the residents and taxpayers look forward to?
  • Any warning signals to look for?

Here’s an opportunity to get the perspectives of Newport’s elected officials and of the City Manager about the issues they have been addressing over the past year and expect to be facing in the current year, and to challenge them with your questions* about the future of Newport.

Panelists:

  • Mayor Harry Winthrop
  • City Council Vice-Chair Lynn Ceglie
  • City Manager Joe Nicholson

DATE: Tuesday, February 27

TIME: 6-7:30 PM

LOCATION: Claiborne Pell Elementary School

35 Dexter Street, Newport, RI.

Ample free parking directly across the street from the school

CONTACT            For Immediate Release: 02/12/2018

Isabel Griffith, Co-President

Alliance for a Livable Newport

Igriffith38@verizon.net

401.849-6444

 

 

 

Free Public Forum – The Working Future of Newport – Oct. 5th 6-8pm @ Pell School

DATE: Thursday, October 5

TIME: 6-8pm

LOCATION: Claiborne Pell Elementary School | 35 Dexter Street, Newport, RI.*Ample parking directly across the street from the school.

What Will Be the Jobs in Newport’s Future and Who Will be Qualified to Fill Them?  “The Working Future of Newport”


A Public Forum Presented by The Alliance for a Livable Newport

If economic initiatives planned by the City of Newport are successful they will create new opportunities for people trained in 21st-century job skills. What can be done to make sure our residents will be able to meet this challenge?

Here’s an opportunity to learn about The North Side Innovation Hub; Newport’s successful application for the “Working Cities” Grant; Career Tech Programs at Rogers High School, and the OneNewport Outreach to the Newport Community.

Panelists:

Sarah Atkins, Newport Department of Economic Development and Civic Investment

Robert Young, Director, Pathways in Technology Early College High School (PTECH) and Newport Area Career and Technical Center (NACTC)

Kerry Clarke, College and Career Readiness Coordinator, Rogers High School

Colleen Jermain, Superintendent, Newport Public Schools

Joe Tomchak, Assistant Executive Director, Boys and Girls Club of Newport County

Moderator – Lauren Carson, Newport’s State Representative for District 75

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