On January 26, 1970 the North Kingstown Town Council appropriated eight thousand dollars to seize three parcels of land by eminent domain. One of them is on the corner of Updike Avenue and Boston Neck Road, now known as Veterans Memorial Park.
The purpose of the taking, according to the resolution filed in the land records, was in “the public interest…for conservation and recreation purposes”.
The present Town Council has approved a referendum on a bond issue of $7.5 million in addition to $5 million already approved to completely renovate the Town Hall that was built in 1888. The special election will be held on November 5th.
The project would require eliminating the parking spaces on the side and behind the current structure. In order to accommodate employee vehicles and to provide parking for those visiting municipal offices the plan would require paving all or part of Veterans Memorial Park.
It seems to be a real stretch to claim that a parking lot fulfills “conservation and recreation purposes”.
The website by a group supporting this project (SaveOurTownHall.org) includes a couple of architect’s renditions of what the expanded Town Hall would look like. It barely resembles the present building.
Before this proposal was presented to the council, town manager Ralph Mollis explained to me that the monuments to those who lost their lives in World War II, the Korean Conflict and the Vietnam War and the memorials to my son, CPT Matthew August, and 2LT Matthew Coutu would be relocated to a section at the cornier of Updike Avenue and Boston Neck Road.
Town Council President Greg Mancini recently asked my wife and me and the mother of 2LT Coutu to join him at the park. He said the plan on where to relocate the monuments was not finalized and that we would have “the final word” on where the memorials would be placed.
However, the post card sent to voters by the Board of Canvassers says “the design and plan will require the relocation of Memorial Park to the Town Hall property” –presumably in front of the building where they would join the Civil War monument.
I should point out that the memorials to CPT August and 2LT Coutu were paid for by their families. The town council passed resolutions allowing their placement in the present location and authorized DPW to put in the footings.
I am told the town solicitor has been asked for an opinion on whether the wording in the eminent domain document precludes the site being used for parking. As this is written I do not know what his opinion is but it is just that –his opinion. It does not mean that paving over the park cannot be challenged in court and that a judge may have a different opinion.
Finally, all registered voters probably have received a very expensive, snazzy, full-color, two-sided mailer asking for a “yes” vote on the bond issue. The mailer says it is paid for by Progress RI which is an arm of a progressive non-profit East Greenwich communications firm made up of residents of that town. Why a group of East Greenwich residents has an interest in a project involving the North Kingstown Town Hall is unclear.
I urge everyone to consider their vote carefully before casting a ballot.
Richard J. August