standing Richmond Town Hall

RICHMOND — Richmond Town Council members deferred a decision Tuesday on a grant application for a watershed restoration project, saying they were wary of committing money for a matching share of the grant.

Conservation Commission Chairman James Turek asked the town to approve the application for a federal grant from the Environmental Protection Agency. Turek said the commission had already submitted a pre-proposal. He asked council members if they would agree to support a full proposal, if the commission is invited to submit one.

“What the pre-proposal entails is a focus on the Beaver River watershed. Almost the entire watershed is located in Richmond, so that gives an opportunity for us,” he said.

The Beaver River is one of eight rivers in the Wood-Pawcatuck watershed, which recently received a federal Wild and Scenic designation.

The proposal involves identifying projects to restore and improve infrastructure, thereby enhancing habitat and water quality.

The grant requires 25 percent in matching funds from the town, in this case $10,000. Councilors balked at the request, citing this year’s tight budget. Preparation of the budget, still in the workshop phase, has already required numerous cuts, officials said.

“In fairness to you, sir, I don’t think that would be a smart use of money for this,” Council President Gary Wright told Turek. 

Council Vice President Richard Nassaney said that while he believed in wetlands protection, it was not a good year for the town to allocate funds to such a project.

“It’s vitally important, but to put the town on the hook for a question mark of what we could owe later on, I just don’t feel comfortable,” he said.

The council agreed to revisit the request at the next council meeting and Turek said he would continue to explore additional funding sources.

In other business, Department of Public Works Director Scott Barber told the council that he was ready to begin the annual spring ritual of sweeping the town’s streets.

“I’m going to officially declare winter over,” he said. “Tomorrow, we’re going to begin street sweeping. Usually we wait until after Easter because there’s always a chance of a storm sweeping in, but we determined that it’s probably safe to go ahead and do it.”

Barber said the sweeping would begin at the north end of town.

“We’ll start at the facilities here at the Town Hall, do the school while they’re on vacation and hopefully each week, we’ll be able to come up with a schedule. We try to startsomewhere different every year.”

Another agenda item dealt with a fireworks license.

Council member Nell Carpenter had questions about a request from Keystone Novelties Distributor LLC for a license to sell fireworks, as it has in previous years, from a temporary facility in the parking lot of the Chariho Plaza. Carpenter said the company, which is based in Pennsylvania, pays a  license fee of only $10 to the town and competes with local retailers.

“I would be curious to know what we could do as a town, because it’s not even a Rhode Island resident,” she said. “They’re from Pennsylvania, throwing in these applications in various communities in Rhode Island, making money hand over fist. We have businesses that are in Richmond that sell fireworks, so this individual is competing with our own businesses and we make $10.”

Town Solicitor Karen Ellsworth said the town did not have the authority to raise taxes on the fireworks vendor.

“We can’t impose any kind of tax without General Assembly authority. We can’t punish someone for being from out of state without violating the United States Constitution,” she said.

With Carpenter the lone dissenter, council members voted to grant the license.  

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