Sarah Cavanaugh

With the start of the new year upon us, as we do every year we take a look back on monthly stories in North Kingstown from the last year.

January – Investigations were ongoing into allegations against high school basketball coach Aaron Thomas, who in 2021 was accused of inappropriate sexual contact with students while giving so-called body fat tests. The school district’s superintendent, assistant superintendent and athletic director all left their positions at various points during the year after reports from investigators revealed the extent to which district officials were aware of misconduct allegations prior to them becoming public. Criminal charges were filed against Thomas in July. He pleaded not guilty and has denied allegations of misconduct. 

February – Investigations were announced into a claim of “stolen valor” by North Kingstown VFW Commander Sarah Cavanaugh. Cavanaugh, who had represented herself as a US Marine Corps combat veteran, resigned her position with the local post on Jan. 31 and days later a federal investigation was opened on her claims. She was later charged with felony fraud and pleaded guilty in August.

March – The town council, in order to make property tax rates equitable between commercial property and residential property instituted a Homestead Exemption, which reduced residential property taxes by 5 percent. Because a revaluation of all real property in the town conducted in the prior year, reduced the valuation of commercial property, those owners ended up paying less in taxes than those who own private property. To even things out, the town council set up the Homestead Exemption, which will continue this year, with town manager Ralph Mollis saying that when the town’s operating budget is finalized, he expects private property owners who are accepted into the program to once again see their rates reduced by 5 percent.

April – The town was selected to be the site of the state’s annual Arbor Day celebration. It was held at Wilson Park and a host of local and state dignitaries turned out. As part of the celebration also received 12 trees to plant at the park.

May – This month and throughout the rest of the summer and into the fall, businesses in the Village of Wickford suffered, as did businesses in the rest of the country, as supply shortages affected their ability to stock shelves. Ships carrying goods from China and other countries were not making it into the United States to resupply the retail market. There are still some slowdowns in deliveries, although retailers report outstanding sales during the holiday shopping season.

June – The North Kingstown Free Public Library received a grant, administered through the state’s Library Association that enabled the refurbishing the place with new carpet, shades, desks, and computers.

July – The annual Art Festival was once a huge success as art lovers and tourists descended on the village to check out work from local and nation-wide artists. It was also the month that Wickford was recognized as one of the Best Small Towns in America.

August – School kids and staff members continue to suffer from mental health concerns, according to the East Greenwich Substance Abuse Coordinator Robert Houghtaling. School district officials, during the pandemic worked to help students and staffers overcome their concerns, but Houghtaling has said more still needs to be done.

September – The town council, as happened on numerous occasions, split along party lines in selecting Robert Case to replace Jake Mathers, who resigned, from the North Kingstown School Committee. The GOP wanted one candidate but the majority Democrats chose one of their own, Robert Case, to fill the vacant seat.

October – Few towns in the nation can top North Kingstown’s Halloween celebration as surf board paddling and dancing witches came to the Village of Wickford as did hundreds of tourists, making for a vibrant and lively Halloween.

November – Elections topped the stories for this month, as North Kingstown voters approved a ballot measure allowing recreational pot stores in town. Voters also cast ballots that returned all of the Democrat council members to office and voted to replace Republican Mary Brimer and Kerry McKay with democrats. Voters also cast ballots to put Democrats and independents on the town’s school committee.

December – Much like few other towns can beat Wickford when it comes to Halloween, they also do a pretty good job of celebrating the Christmas season, with an Elf Parade, as well as most of the shops in town handing out treats to Trick or Treaters.

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