CHARLESTOWN — At a lengthy virtual meeting last week, members of the Charlestown Town Council approved resolutions asking the General Assembly to pass two bills affecting beverage bottles.
House Bill 5113 would require a deposit on miniature alcoholic drink bottles, known as nips, and the second, House Bill 5280, would require a deposit on all beverage containers. Roadside litter, especially discarded nips, is a perennial concern in the town.
The first resolution was proposed by Councilor Susan Cooper, who cited the success other states have had reducing litter by introducing deposits.
The council also gave unanimous support to a resolution supporting the second bill, the Beverage Container Deposit Recycling Act.
Councilor Bonnie Van Slyke introduced the second resolution by describing the extent of the bottle litter problem.
“The litter problem is a real, significant problem in Charlestown,” she said. “I think people in town are very tired of all the litter, and I think the bottle bills demonstrate that they reduce litter dramatically, so I’m in support of this resolution.”
Council members determined that no actual resolution supporting the second bill had been submitted, and requested that Town Solicitor Peter Ruggiero draft one that could be submitted to the General Assembly as well as other cities and towns by Feb. 11, when both bills are scheduled to be heard.
Chariho schools’ reconfiguration
The council heard a presentation by Chariho School Committee member Ryan Callahan on the options for consolidating the district’s four elementary schools. Callahan, who has visited all three Chariho town councils to explain the three options, was accompanied by School Committee Chairwoman Linda Lyall, Superintendent of Schools Gina Picard and Director of Finance and Administration Ned Draper.
Callahan presented the options, the first of which would involve consolidating the four elementary schools into a single, new elementary school. The second option would close Hope Valley Elementary School and upgrade Richmond, Charlestown and Ashaway elementary schools. The third option would leave all school buildings as they are.
Council members expressed concern over where a new school building might be built and the additional cost of acquiring the land.
Council President Deborah Carney also noted that the first two options would require reopening the Chariho Act, the legislation that created the regional school district. Carney explained why she had reservations about reopening the Act.
“It’s always a concern in Charlestown,” she said. “As we know, we all pay per student. When you calculate in the state aid, Charlestown actually pays more per student than both Richmond and Hopkinton, however, it’s frequently not perceived that way, because our tax rate is lower than the other towns, so whenever there’s increases and our taxes don’t go up as much, it’s perceived that we’re not paying as much, and over the past 20 years, there’ve been talks about somehow creating some sort of taxing district, and whereas there’s never been anything concrete proposed as to what that would look like, it’s always a specter that continues to loom out there. So just speaking as someone from Charlestown, I have to say I would have concerns about opening up the Act and what exactly it would look like.”
Callahan said the School Committee would choose one of the three options at its Tuesday meeting and voters in the towns would vote on that option in a referendum.
“My hope is that the committee has enough information to select an option,” he said. “That would be the ideal outcome and what that would allow us to do is put it in front of the voters in the referendum and from there. If approved by the voters, it would create a Building Committee, which would then take over as delivering on the outcome voters approved.”
Parcel purchase pause
In other business, the council agreed to take no further action on the purchase of a 4.3-acre parcel on Oyster Drive, which is currently owned by the Sachem Passage Association.
The town received a $213,000 grant in July 2020 from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management to possibly purchase the property, however, Town Administrator Mark Stankiewicz told the council that the two appraisals, one by the association and the second by the town, were so far apart as to be irreconcilable.
“There are two appraisals, one that was commissioned by them for an amount of about $426,000,” he said. “That appraisal assumed that it was a buildable lot. The town had an appraisal done and that came in at $75,000 and that was the assumption that the lot is not buildable. In a conversation with the president, the association is not interested in selling the property at the $75,000 price point.”
Carney agreed that the town was not prepared to spend $426,000 on the property.
“I’m not interested in acquiring this property for $426,000 at all, so I don’t see any need to proceed onward with this,” she said. “If the council is okay, we just take no action on this.”