By TRACEY Oâ€™NEIL
Special to the Standard
NORTH KINGSTOWNâ€”Monday nightâ€™s meeting of the Town Council saw the Little Red Schoolhouse move one step closer to becoming the new home of the North Kingstown Food Pantry.
Pantry President Karla Driscoll in correspondence to Town Manager, Michael Embury and the Council, brought the town up to speed on the progress being made toward the projectâ€™s fruition. Driscoll confirmed that the food pantry is operating under its own non-profit status, separate from the United Methodist Church it now calls home, providing information previously requested by the council.
Also in place at the pantry is a newly-elected board that includes council member Charles Brennan. Brennan provided information in response to questions posed by council members and expressed his wishes to have the food pantry move to the Little Red Schoolhouse location on School St. in the north end of town. The building is in need of renovations, including a new furnace, before it can be considered safe for occupancy.
Driscollâ€™s correspondence assured the council that the board has been busy contacting state agencies, charitable foundations and contractors in order to obtain necessary funding and assistance to accomplish the task. The council was advised by Embury that grant funding may be predicated on a commitment from the town to lease the property for a period of at least five years. After much discussion, the council concluded that the project was one that benefited North Kingstown, regardless of the collective thought that the town should not be in the business of real estate.
Member Charles Stamm who has been vocal about the burden of unoccupied buildings and real estate on the taxpayers of NK, called for a sound financial plan from the food pantry board prior to the town entering into any lease agreement. Calling it a â€śfeel goodâ€ť project, Stamm noted that there was no plan in place to protect the town if the pantry did not obtain funding. In agreement with him was member Mike Bestwick.
â€śAs long as the money is not going to come from our tax dollars,â€ť he said. â€śI support the less fortunate in this town.â€ť
In further correspondence, Ellen Waxman, proprietor of Five Main Street in Wickford Village put forth a request to reinstate the position of public planner. Waxmanâ€™s concern for the decline of business in the artisan village of specialty shops was predicated on lack of economic development. She said that development could be realized through the planning departmentâ€™s mission of â€śfacilitating growth and change within the community.â€ť
Waxmanâ€™s letter requested funding be made available to cover the costs of hiring a principal planner as a means to restore and support the efforts of the townâ€™s planning department.
In other news, Planning Director Jon Reiner received a commendation from the Southern Rhode Island Conservation District for excellence in his promotion in conservation for land and water resources.
Also receiving kudos on Monday night was the NK Fire Department, in commendation from Kevin Quinn, Local Emergency Planning Committee Chair for Washington County and Deputy Chief Union Fire District, for its leadership role, support and dedication in a joint hazardous material exercise conducted earlier in the month at the 143rd Airlift Wing base in North Kingstown. Per Quinnâ€™s letter, the operation was a multi-agency effort, combining federal, state and local resources in simulation of a chemical release, hazardous response emergency. Deputy Chiefs Scott Kettell and Robert Giglietti were noted for their leadership and command presence in conducting a â€śsuperior training exercise.â€ť