RICHMOND — Members of the Town Council were warned at Tuesday’s meeting that the hazardous tree problem is worse than originally predicted and that residents should be prepared for power outages this winter caused by trees falling on power lines.
Department of Public Works Director Scott Barber said his workers had been removing dead trees near town roads, but newly dead trees are continuing to fall and National Grid is not expected to begin clearing trees near power lines until December at the earliest.
Several trees fell on power lines during two recent wind storms, cutting power to hundreds of residents.
“We’re having these wind events that are having a local impact and the moving up of the crews, the tree crews and the line crews, it takes a couple of days for them to get activated,” he said. “Residents have to do their due diligence and try to prepare.”
Barber also noted that dead trees along state roads in the town were not being cleared.
“We’ve been working as much as we can on the trees,” Barber said. “We have some problem areas that are state land, which is DEM land, and they’re doing very little to mitigate anything that’s roadside, so that falls back on to us.”
In other business, at the request of councilor Nell Carpenter, members discussed the possibility of making video recordings of Planning Board and Zoning Board meetings. Council meetings are already recorded.
Carpenter cited several reasons for her request.
“It would encourage and allow public participation, increasing accessibility to these meetings,” she said. “Our neighboring communities record both their Planning and Zoning meetings … I also, more importantly, believe it creates a transparency, videoing the meetings. They’re completely thorough, not subjective. They capture certain nonverbal communications that I think are essential.”
Town Administrator Karen Pinch reminded the council that money had not been allocated in the current budget for the additional video recordings. Carpenter suggested that the funds be taken from the town’s contingency budget until the next fiscal year starts in July. Going forward, the money could be budgeted.
The council agreed to record the next Planning Board meeting on Nov. 12 and discuss funding for recording the remaining Planning Board meetings of the current fiscal year, which would cost approximately $2,400.
“We’ll do the next meeting, on the 12th, and then review it again after that,” council member Mark Trimmer said.
There was also a brief discussion of possible uses of the Hope Valley Barracks of the Rhode Island State Police, which is scheduled to close.
Carpenter asked whether the building could be turned over to the town for use as a police station. The current police station does not meet the department's needs.
Pinch said she had consulted with Richmond Police Chief Elwood Johnson and the state police commander, Col. James Manni. The barracks would not be suitable for Richmond police, she said, because the building is older than the one the department occupies now and would require extensive renovations.
"It would need rehabbing just the same as the building he's in now would," she said.
In addition, Pinch said, the building would likely be used by another state agency.
"The colonel did say they were several years off before they were going to close that building and he did say that it would be offered to other state agencies first, and it did sound like one of the state agencies might be interested," she said.