Low: We keep hearing there are indications that the economy is turning around, but we keep seeing signs that the opposite is true. RadioShack announced Tuesday it plans to close up to 1,100 stores, or about a fifth of its U.S. locations. Then, on Thursday, Staples said it is shuttering up to 225 locations, or more than 10 percent of its stores. Neither company, both of which have locations in Westerly, released a list of stores slated for closure. Another sign of a struggling economy? Copper metal from plumbing pipes and outdoor showers has been stolen this winter from at least nine houses, primarily in the Quonochontaug neighborhood. Charlestown Police Chief Jeffrey Allen said copper theft is a statewide problem (cleaned copper piping currently sells for $2.85 per pound). “There’s a lot of people out there hurting,” he said. “I’m pretty confident we’ll have more thefts reported when summer residents return to their homes.”
High: The Westerly Public School district was awarded its portion of a state grant that will help ramp up the use of wireless devices in its school buildings. The $337,000 from a Wireless Classroom Initiative grant that the Rhode Island Department of Education awards for upgrades will go specifically toward improved Wi-Fi infrastructure, which includes new data wiring and access points. “This is fabulous,” said Mark Lamson, director of technology, “and it’s going to take our Wi-Fi to the next level. ... This will not only improve our overall infrastructure around the district but our day-to-day usage.”
High: The local 2014 cultural calendar is chock full of events, and things kicked off over the weekend with the Granite Theatre’s first play of the season, Bernard Slade’s comedy “Same Time, Next Year,” which opened on Friday. The Chorus of Westerly followed on Saturday with a performance with the acclaimed Lorelei Ensemble. Also, “Conflict & Contrast,” which showcases the works of artists Jean Lazar and Laura Cobden, opened at the Artists’ Cooperative Gallery of Westerly, and an exhibit featuring art created by Westerly Middle School students went on display in the Back Room Art Gallery. Said Ryan Saunders, executive director of the Chorus of Westerly: “It’s an exciting year ahead. Even though our season is a full, year-round one, it looks like an exciting year ahead for all local arts organizations with a lot of amazing events.”
High: The United Way’s mobile food pantry made its first Stonington stop on Monday, at the Human Services building in Pawcatuck, the ninth and latest of United Way’s mobile food distribution centers. Each site serves about 80 to 130 people each month in the winter, said Jennifer Blanco, the mobile pantry coordinator, and up to 250 in the warmer months. Anyone in need is welcome. Blanco said she expected the Pawcatuck site to see 90 to 120 people, and that getting the word out would be crucial. The mobile food pantry will stop at the 166 South Broad St. facility the first Monday of every month from 5 to 6 p.m.
High: Westerly’s Chaplin B. “Chap” Barnes, who was crucial to the development of a plan for the protection and stewardship of the Napatree Point Conservation Area, was honored Thursday at the Ocean House with the first Distinguished Senior Fellow Award from the University of Rhode Island Coastal Institute. “We are honored to recognize the work of a model and stalwart steward of the environment, especially for his tireless work protecting all the many things that make Watch Hill the beautiful community that it is and for his dedication to protecting the Napatree Point Conservation Area,” said Judith Swift, director of the Coastal Institute. “The work that Chap has done to protect and preserve the natural and cultural resources of Watch Hill embodies the vision and values of the Coastal Institute.”