Editor’s note: At the end of each year, The Sun provides an opportunity for area school superintendents and town council presidents to reflect on the year and, if they wish, discuss plans for the new year.
The election of November 2016 brought three new councilmen to the Town Council and one veteran councilman, Ron Newman, to join me. The makeup of the council currently is four Republicans and one Democrat. With three new councilmen, we did get off to a little rough start, but once we got the hang of things we began to work toward the goals we had set when we ran for office.
One of our primary goals was to do our best to keep property taxes as affordable as possible. When putting together the town budget we had plenty of discussions with the Finance Board, Town Treasurer, Town Administrator, and department heads along with citizens who attended our budget hearings to voice their concern and offer suggestions. We took many of these ideas and suggestions and put together a budget that was without any real tax increase. As a matter of fact, just about the only increase in taxes was due to the Chariho Regional School Budget, which the Town Council does not control but which is voted on by residents of the three towns at referendum in April. The majority of Richmond voters did not vote in favor of the school budget.
A critical issue for many in 2017 was the state Department of Environmental Management’s plan to build a resource and office building at Browning Mill Pond, which we on the Town Council opposed based on the site. We teamed up with the town of Exeter and filed suit against the state to stop the project at least for the time being. [A Rhode Island Superior Court justice denied the towns’ petitions for an injunction to stop the project.The project was not funded in the current state budget.] We are still keeping on top of this project.
With solar energy projects being built in town we are working to ensure that the town’s ordinances and regulations are being implemented for the benefit of the town as they apply to these facilities.
Another goal which we are working on is to obtain an emergency care facility for residents, something still in the works as I write.
We are also investigating the possibility of another market coming to town and have put our information out there for a few market chains as well as local markets like Dave’s and Aldi’s.
With the state passing legislation to allow commercial pot growers to operate in Rhode Island, we are working on a local ordinance to help regulate this in Richmond.
We have also reached out to Amazon’s Jeff Bezos in regard to possibly locating one of Amazon’s distribution centers here in Richmond. We did receive a letter from Amazon telling us that we are on the list. We are anticipating some follow-up hopefully in the near future. We thought we had to at least try and see what may happen. We believe that Richmond would be a perfect location between Boston and New York for such a facility.
We have also worked with the Town Administrator and Town Attorney to update many of our ordinances to make sure they are in compliance with state law, and we have continued to embark on a program with our highway department to repave local roads and make them safer to travel on as well.
When Richmond was notified, belatedly, about the proposal by the Federal Railroad Administration to run an additional set of rail lines inland through Charlestown and Richmond we teamed up with Charlestown and other towns that would have been affected to stop this from happening. As I write it appears that this will not happen as planned. I thank Charlestown officials for their hard work on this faulty project.
As I said previously, we have found our ground and are working diligently for the betterment of Richmond and its citizens.
Michaud is the president of the Richmond Town Council.