Portsmouth TOWN COUNCIL NOTES

Lea Hitchen of Portsmouth appointed next town planner

She will succeed Gary Crosby, who retires June 30

By Jim McGaw
Posted 4/26/22

PORTSMOUTH — The town didn’t wait long to appoint a successor to Town Planner Gary Crosby, who earlier this month announced his retirement effective June 30 after 18 years of …

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Portsmouth TOWN COUNCIL NOTES

Lea Hitchen of Portsmouth appointed next town planner

She will succeed Gary Crosby, who retires June 30

Posted

PORTSMOUTH — The town didn’t wait long to appoint a successor to Town Planner Gary Crosby, who earlier this month announced his retirement effective June 30 after 18 years of service.

On Monday night, the Town Council unanimously ratified Town Administrator Richard Rainer, Jr.’s selection of Lea Hitchen of Portsmouth to be the next town planner.

Hitchen, currently East Greenwich’s town planner, is an “exceptional candidate,” Rainer told the council. 

“She has 20 years of municipal planning experience and demonstrates extensive knowledge and experience in GIS mapping, e-permitting, land use, housing, zoning, hazard mitigation, historic preservation and economic development,” Rainer said.

Hitchen is a member of the American Planning Association and R.I. Planning Association, and holds a Master’s of Community Planning degree from the University of Rhode Island. She has served as a planning assistant, a land use planner, an assistant town planner, and planning director, Rainer said. 

“She is adept in comprehensive plan development, municipal administration, zoning and planning board operations, grant-writing, and municipal administration,” he added.

The job was advertised with the international City/County Management Association, the R.I. League of Cities and Towns, Indeed.com, Linkedin.com, and on the town’s and state’s websites, he said. Numerous applications were received and each candidate was screened for conformity to minimum qualifications.

“Ms. Hitchen’s application and experience stood out and, after a thorough interview process, I have decided to bring her forward as my choice for town planner,” Rainer said.

Prudence water improvements

In his regular report to the council, Rainer announced that U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse has secured a $1.35 million congressionally directed spending request to the Prudence Island Water District for much-needed water system improvements.

“This, combined with the $300,000 authorized by the council from the ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds, gives the District $1.65 million toward the renovation of their water treatment and distribution system and gets the island out from under the boil-water advisory they have been dealing with,” Rainer said.

Emergency vehicle donation

Rainer also reported that Emergency Management Director Ray Perry is working with the American Red Cross on the transfer of a “disaster action team” vehicle to The Portsmouth EMA. 

“The vehicle will be equipped to support our all-volunteer emergency management communications team and support mass shelter set-up and operations,” Rainer said.

New fiber line

The council voted unanimously to use no more than $20,000 of the town’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to install a new fiber line from the Department of Public Works (DPW) to the Police Department. 

Installing the line was among the recommended ARPA-funded priorities approved by the council in November 2021.

The town received one quote for the job, from Sertex Utility Services for $16,709.33, Woodhead said. Since there’s a possibility that using an existing conduit may pose some unforeseeable issues, Woodhead also requested a contingency of $3,290.67, which was also approved.

From .com to .gov

Rainer said the town has begun its transition from a .com to a .gov domain. “Any new e-mails sent from our network will be from the .gov address, but all e-mails sent to us with the portsmouth.com address will still arrive normally,” he said. “The town website has already been changed to .gov, but using portsmouthri.com will still bring users to the website.”

Appointments

The council voted unanimously to appoint Charles K. Donovan and Langdon Harris as first and second alternates, respectively, to the Zoning Board of Review. The appointments fill two vacancies on the board.

Rainer said the town is also seeking applications to the Planning Board, which has an open seat.

Future meetings

The council scheduled budget workshops for Tuesday, Wednesday and (if needed) Thursday of this week.

The council’s next regular meeting will be at 7 p.m. on Monday, May 9.

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