Editorial: Highs and lows from last week

Editorial: Highs and lows from last week


High:Talk about a long-distance donation: A serviceman stationed in Afghanistan read on The Sun’s website about the Pawcatuck Neighborhood Center’s need for 200 turkeys, and he responded by sending his mother in Westerly $200 to buy turkeys for the center’s holiday baskets. Last Monday, she delivered to the center two $100 grocery-store gift certificates, which Vicki Anderson, the center’s executive director, said will buy 10 to 15 turkeys. “It gives me chills,” Anderson said. “I was just blown away by the fact that he’s over there in harm’s way, and he was concerned that people over here might not have a turkey for Christmas.” But the anonymous donor wasn’t alone. After the call for contributions went out because turkey donations were down this year, the center has had quite a response from the community. “Easily over 30 people (so far),” Anderson said. “It was like a traffic jam out here. ... When something is needed, people just come forward. It never ceases to amaze me.”

High: Ashaway and Hope Valley ranked first and second, respectively, on the list of the top 10 “Best Towns for Young Families” in Rhode Island, based on data compiled by the consumer advocacy website NerdWallet. Westerly (fifth) and Bradford (ninth) weren’t far behind. The criteria for the rankings were based on three main categories that research indicated were important to young families: quality of public schools, affordability and cost of living, and economic growth. Scoring for the schools category was based on ratings from GreatSchools, a nonprofit that compares an individual school’s standardized test scores to the state average. Ashaway and Hope Valley were highlighted in the listings for their public schools, including Ashaway Elementary school and the Chariho Regional School District. Said Chariho Superintendent Barry Ricci: “There’s a really strong faculty presence, and involved and supportive community members. If I were a parent I would be really happy to send my kids to school here.”

Low: Wilcox Marine Supply Inc., a family-owned company in Stonington that sells all sorts of marine supplies and hardware, is closing down after more than 130 years in business. Owner Jeff Wilcox, whose great-grandfather, George W. Wilcox, started the company in 1879, cited the downturn in the fishing industry because of over-regulation by the federal government as the reason for the closure. He pointed out that there were once 50 commercial fishing draggers in Stonington Harbor. Now there are just two. “The government is taking all my customers away,” he said. “... It’s pretty sad, but you’ve got to face facts. There’s nothing I can do. ... The customers are all gone. It’s not the same world.”

High: Westerly is pursuing federal grants that could be used to dredge Winnapaug Pond, which would improve its ecology and provide a source of sand for beach replenishment. Amy Grzybowski, director of planning, code enforcement and grant administration, and Town Engineer Paul LeBlanc are working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service to develop a project that, if cost-benefit projections are accepted and approved, could result in $3 to $4 million being made available for the dredging. The state coastal agency has agreed to provide the town’s match, up to $600,000. If the project is approved, staff work on the project, once it begins, could be counted as an “in kind” contribution toward the local match requirement, Grzybowski said. The dredging project could produce 100,000 to 200,000 cubic yards of sand that could be used to replenish the beach area between Misquamicut State Beach and Weekapaug Breachway, LeBlanc said.

High: Fourth-graders at Dunn’s Corners Elementary School showcased their innovations at the annual Invention Convention on Friday. Students spent about a month-and-a-half on their projects, one of which was a Watering is Easy Ornament from 9-year-old Dylan Fister. His invention can be placed anywhere on the tree, and a skinny, clear tube running from the bottom of the ornament to the tree’s dish allows you to pour water through it. So no more knocking Christmas ornaments to the floor when you go under your tree to water it. “Sometimes the simplest things can be the best invention,” Dylan said. Students also researched inventors and wrote their pitches for the products they created.

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