RICHMOND — Town Administrator Karen Pinch told Town Council members at Tuesday's meeting that she had been asked whether the town would consider holding a virtual “Meet the Candidates” event.
The town has hosted in-person events in the past, but this year, there are no contested seats on either the council or the Chariho School Committee.
Town Council President Richard Nassaney, Vice President Ronald Newman, and councilor Nell Carpenter are running for re-election. Councilors Paul Michaud and Mark Trimmer are not seeking another term.
Lauren Cacciola and James Palmisciano, who currently serves on the Economic Development Commission, will fill the two vacant council seats.
Pinch said she would explore the feasibility of a virtual event, and Nassaney said he thought it would be an opportunity for residents to get to know Palmisciano and Cacciola and hear from the candidates in state races.
“I think that, especially for Lauren and for Jim, let the people know,” he said. “They’ve been at all these meetings and you know, they’re going to see their names on the ballot, but they’re going to be like ‘who the heck is that?’ This will give them a platform to be heard, and if people have any questions, I think that’s a great idea. And, if you want to reach out to any of the other state reps we can do it all on Zoom.”
Pinch said with large numbers of Rhode Islanders expected to vote early by mail, she wondered how many people would have already cast their ballots by the time the event took place. In addition, early voting at the Town Hall begins on Oct. 14.
“I don’t want it to be pointless, so it would probably have to happen in the next week or so,” she said.
Councilor Nell Carpenter suggested first finding a way to gauge public interest, and Pinch agreed.
“I could do a Facebook poll,” Pinch said. “Granted, it would only get those people on social media, but at least, it’s a way to throw out a quick poll and gauge interest.”
In other business, the council approved an application for funding under the state’s “Take it Outside” program that encourages businesses, particularly restaurants, to continue to serve customers outside during COVID-19, even as the weather gets colder. Pinch said she had contacted restaurants in town to see if they would be interested in applying for the funding, and nine local restaurant owners expressed interest.
“For whatever reason, they’ve determined that restaurants cannot apply on their own,” Pinch told the council. “It would have to be an intermediary agency like a chamber of commerce or a municipality.”
Pinch said she had reached out to the Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce, of which Richmond is a member, but the chamber had already submitted its grant application, so the town would have to apply on behalf of the restaurants.
Pinch said the application is due soon — on Oct. 8.
“We’ll submit it, and we’ll see where it goes from there,” she said.
In-person council meetings
During the public comment period, Palmisciano asked whether there was any news on when council and other town committees might return to in-person meetings.
“Is there any direction or information you could share coming from the state regarding when in-person council meetings might resume?” he said. “I know that with schools reopening and things starting to open up, although the numbers are a bit fluctuating, I don’t know if there is any messaging you could share about whether there’s a vision or road map for when we may see in-person council meetings again.”
Nassaney said he was anxious to return to the council chambers but the room was not large enough to accommodate everyone and still maintain social distancing.
“I would hate for us to go back into council chambers and then, God forbid, somebody were to get sick,” he said. “Our numbers jumped another … three or four people, so we’re at 37, if I’m right … Every week, it’s gone up another couple and we’re not even into the flu season yet. I want to be back in council chambers bad, because it just feels right and it’s a different atmosphere, but I don’t see it changing for the next couple of months.”