At Monday night's meeting, Town Council members recognized Coventry departments and fire districts for their emergency efforts during Hurricane Sandy in October. Representatives from each department received a proclamation from Council President Gary Cote for working tirelessly to ensure the safety of Coventry residents before, during and after the storm.
Central Coventry Fire, Anthony Fire Chief Paul Labbadia, Western Coventry Fire Captain Kelly Guastini, Hopkins Hill Fire Chief Frank Brown, Chuck Smith of Public Works, Parks & Recreation Director Guy Lefebvre, Bob Robillard of Human Services, Police Chief and EMA Director Bryan Volpe and CERT member Elaine Hunt each accepted their department's proclamation.
"I spent three days at the EOC (Emergency Operations Center) with Chief Volpe and the volunteers during Hurricane Sandy, and let me tell you that our EOC was manned and ready 12 hours before the storm actually hit and at least 12 hours after," said Cote. "It was manned 24 hours a day and it was a privilege for me to spend time there. All of our town departments and our volunteers acted as a well-oiled machine that was really a sight to see. I just thought it was only right that they be recognized for their collaborative efforts on behalf of the taxpayers of Coventry."
"Thank you also to the high school support staff who made sure that the school was ready for our volunteers to work there when it was opened as an emergency fallout shelter," Cote added.
Municipal Services Ordinance Amendment Discussion
Councilman Ted Jendzejec proposed that the Town begin reimbursing manufactured home parks and condominium associations for the solid waste, bulk trash and recycling pickup that the residents of those organizations pay for in addition to town taxes. His proposal came after being made aware that these residents pay complete property taxes to the Town but do not receive the same services as others.
The proposal would not mean additional collection for the Coventry Department of Public Works - only reimbursement for the services that each association or park currently pays for. Each association would also be required to obtain three bids from refuse collection companies to be approved by the Town before entering into a contract.
Town Manager Hoover explained that if passed, the annual reimbursement estimate would be approximately $190,000, and would begin next fiscal year.
"This proposal would equalize the town as a whole once again, creating a level playing field for everybody," said Jendzejec. "I'm trying to right a wrong. These residents pay full taxes like everyone else but they don't get the same services. That's what this is all about."
Despite discussion between Council members, property owners and residents, Jendzejec's proposal was not seconded by another councilperson and therefore did not move forward.
Eagle Scout Recognition
Coventry resident Richard Sharkey was recognized by the council on the receipt of his Eagle Scout certificate.
Each year, Coventry's three campgrounds must be re-licensed following reviews by Town departments. Council members approved the license renewals for Hickory Ridge, Camp Ayoho and Colwell Campground.
Tax Collection Release
The Council approved the release of the Coventry Tax Collector from collecting $184,150.86 in outstanding tangible taxes from 1996 through 2008. Finance Director Ted Przybyla explained that the majority of the taxes are automobile and equipment from taxpayers and corporations who have left the state or closed.
"These are old taxes that we have submitted to bill collectors and have otherwise exhausted all other means of collection," he said. "We are not abating them, just moving them to our secondary collection list."
"We take every action possible to collect but sometimes we run into a dead end," said Town Manager Tom Hoover. "We will continue to be active if the taxpayers come back to Rhode Island or if we find a way to collect by a stroke of good luck or hard work, then we will."
Winter Sand Contracts
The award of contracts to the Estate of John Koszela and to Walter E. Reynolds were authorized for the purchase of winter sand for the Coventry Department of Public Works. Town Manager Hoover explained that two contracts are awarded in case the Town needs a backup for any reason. Koszela will charge $12.65 per ton of sand delivered and Reynolds offers $13 per ton delivered or $12 per ton picked up.
Council members approved releases regarding the purchase of a new refuse packer cab, chassis and body for the Department of Public Works.
Tax Amnesty Ordinance
Council members authorized for advertisement purposes, a 45-day period during which a waiver of interest and penalties on overdue tangible tax payments and motor vehicle tax payments be made as part of the Town's Tax Amnesty Program.