Just last week the hard working, tax paying citizens of North Kingstown were treated to news of their Town Council running-off the Wickford Art Association despite its interest in using the Brown Street Annex. On the table was the exchange of their Gallery by the Senior Center as part of the transaction. According to published reports, the newly empaneled NK Council began upping the ante for the Art Association as soon as they took over the negotiations. The straw that broke the camel’s back was an eleventh hour requirement imposed by the Council that Wickford Art Association post a One Million Dollar bond. Supposedly this was to guarantee that all health and safety issues with the Brown Street property would be corrected before occupancy.
At this the non-profit did what you or I would have done, they withdrew from the deal.
Now comes public word that the NK Council Majority is at it again. This time the keepers of our town’s corporate image appear desperate to spend against bond authority that was approved by voters a decade ago. The plan is to use the money to build a 75 car parking lot on the grounds of Smith’s Castle, just off Post Road across from the State Police barracks. No matter the lack of need for it. No matter the fact it is proposed to be built on private property. No matter the fact that abutters and neighbors are up in arms over the threat to the character of their neighborhood. The Council meekly claims that the expenditure will be recouped by reimbursement funds from Rhode Island DOT. Even so, the lot is still superfluous. If built, it may only succeed in putting the DOT Reimbursement dollars at the disposal of the Council for whatever they really want to buy. Is the NK Town Council playing for the Rebound, here, instead of the shot?
The Town Council’s own Asset Management Commission has raised stern warnings over the consequences to publicly owned real property from endlessly deferred maintenance. We were chased out of our own Town Hall and its Brown Street Annex simply because we failed to maintain those properties. To be sure, our infrastructure crisis is the result of the failure of a succession of NK Town Councils. Still, that’s no reason to squander bond authority on an unnecessary parking structure, just because DOT will reimburse. Remember the covered parking garage at Wickford Junction? And, Folks, the Town Hall and its Annex are still in the slow-motion process of falling down.
To me it is high time the majority on the North Kingstown Council started acting like fiduciary representatives of the citizens who elected them. To do so the current Majority will first have to stop acting like Keystone Cops, as they chase after projects with Dollar Signs in their eyes rather than any vision of what’s best for our town. If it wasn’t so sad it would be satire of the first order.