Editor’s note: At the end of each year, The Sun provides an opportunity for area school superintendents and municipal leaders to reflect on the year and, if they wish, discuss plans for the new year.
Much was accomplished in 2018 in the Town of Charlestown by citizen volunteers, Charlestown town staff and board and commission members all doing their best to foster a safe, healthy and beautiful community for now and for the future. I am delighted to give a few highlights.
Taxes kept low
With vigilance by town staff and the Budget Commission, Charlestown’s taxes continue to be among the lowest in the state. To control expenses, during contract negotiations, one union volunteered to hold back their compensation and give it to another who were deserving but less well compensated. This is an astonishing act of caring for the good of the whole that exemplifies the heart of Charlestown.
Public safety maintained
Chief Allen retired and Chief Paliotta was sworn in as the new Chief of our newly accredited Police Department. Promotions were made and the department was brought to full staffing for the first time in several years.
The town’s investment in life saving equipment and training helped lifeguards who were recognized for doing extraordinary work to rescue a victim of cardiac arrest and another from spinal injury at the town beaches this summer.
Water quality improved and safeguarded
Two major sources of contamination of Green Hill Pond were eliminated! DEM has identified runoff as the primary source of bacteria that requires closure of Green Hill Pond to shell fishing. After many years of dedicated effort, The Charlestown Public Works Department finished construction of a drainage swale, which captures and treats the runoff from Charlestown. The secondary source of contamination identified was inadequate sewage disposal. This year the last cesspool in the Charlestown portion of the Green Hill watershed was upgraded to a modern septic system.
In addition to supporting the annual Veterans Day Parade, this year the Town Council increased tax credits by 67% for all honorably discharged veterans and their widows who live in Charlestown.
School excellence achieved
The construction of a new facility, the Chariho Alternative Learning Academy, with incredible vision and a lot of hard work by Superintendent Barry Ricci, teachers, parents and School Committee members, means we now can educate all our children equitably.
I commend Charlestown citizens for supporting our regional school budget and Superintendent Ricci, staff, teachers and school board for their excellent leadership in making the Chariho schools among the top in the state.
Local control upheld
After hundreds of citizens protested and the town objected at the state permit proceedings, Invenergy stopped its attempt to truck water away from a sole source aquifer in northern Charlestown.
With huge public support, the Planning Commission voted against Dollar General locating a large retail store in the Traditional Village District. The developer decided not to proceed with the proposal.
New ball courts and fun modern playground equipment were placed in all town parks. The Parks and Recreation Department offered additional programs for young and old all year long.
Natural assets protected
Many acres of woodland habitat were protected: The Patricia Sprague Forest Preserve and land next to the Pasquisset Pond Preserve. New trails were opened for hikers.
The Wood/Pawcatuck River with all the tributaries in the watershed, was designated a National Wild and Scenic River. This will bring recognition and funding opportunities to all the communities along the River, including Charlestown.
Salt marshes in Quonochontaug Pond are being restored with sand dredged from the breachway, in a collaborative project with federal and local funding.
I look forward to another productive year of teamwork and extend best wishes for a happy, healthy 2019.
Virginia Lee is town council president in Charlestown.