Letter: Editorial was lacking the facts

Posted 6/17/20

To the editor:

You either overlooked the facts or cast them aside in your June 10 editorial comparing the pandemic responses of Barrington and Bristol. Like you, I commend Bristol for the wise …

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Letter: Editorial was lacking the facts

Posted

To the editor:

You either overlooked the facts or cast them aside in your June 10 editorial comparing the pandemic responses of Barrington and Bristol. Like you, I commend Bristol for the wise actions that it has taken in support of its community in these difficult times. However, for the sake of dramatizing your comparison you ignore measures taken in Barrington and act as if all we’re doing is closing parks and covering faces.

• You noted that Bristol created a social services task force, a volunteer registry and meal service. You’ve apparently missed the large sign in front of Barrington’s Town Hall with the number for the hotline (401-247-1900, extension 384) that Barrington residents can call for these very same reasons. We’re advertising a position for a summer lunch delivery person by the way, so please help get the word out about that. Details are on the Town’s website.

• You noted that Bristol offered a 90 day grace period for property tax payments. You must have missed the admittedly shorter 30 day grace period offered in Barrington. You also overlook that tax deferral is not quite as helpful to residents as you might think. The American Community Survey estimates that nearly three quarters of Barrington residents have a first mortgage which often requires an escrow of taxes. A tax deferral does nothing for these residents because their lender collects escrow payments whether or not Barrington collects taxes. For the residents without escrowed taxes, those who deferred payment of taxes for a full ninety days would now have to figure out how to make two quarterly tax payments at the end of June even as the economic effects of the pandemic persist. High cost credit, in the form of tax deferral, just isn’t as helpful as it sounds.

• You noted that Bristol deferred dock and mooring fees for commercial fishermen. I don’t notice commercial fishing vessels crowding Barrington’s harbor, but I do know that when Police Cove Park closed we went out of our way to ensure continued access to the Police Cove boat ramp for quahoggers who use the ramp in their work. We never charge them a fee, so there was nothing we could waive to help them.

• You noted that Bristol is waiving certain license renewal fees for businesses. This is a fine idea, but the only costly business licenses in Barrington are liquor licenses and they are renewed en masse at the end of the year. During the pandemic the Town Council has approved two victualing license renewals with total fees collected of less than $150. Perhaps this was a missed opportunity for a nice gesture, but I don’t think we could seriously consider waiver of these fees a response to an economic crisis.

• Bristol’s temporary suspension of a plastic bag ordinance doesn’t seem to be a sensible response to a virus that survives longer on plastic than it does on paper, so let’s just set that one aside.

• You noted that Bristol deferred rent payments for tenants in town-owned business incubator spaces. The only private enterprise I can think of that leases space in a public building in Barrington is Tap-In. Tap-In leases its space for $1 per year, and I’m relatively certain we don’t collect it anyway. It’s worth noting that Barrington is spending a substantial sum of public money to improve Tap-In’s space so that it can better serve its clientele—including residents of Bristol.

• You noted that Bristol launched a grant program for micro-enterprises. You’re fully aware that identical grants are offered to small businesses in Barrington. I know you are aware of it because I mentioned it in a letter I wrote to you a few weeks ago. (If you’re a small business owner interested in discussing such grants, please reach out to Debra Page-Trim at Town Hall. She’ll be happy to help you.)

I get it—you have a dim view of Barrington’s government. You’re certainly entitled to that opinion, but when you purport to support your opinion with facts it is incumbent on you to get it right.

As for Bristol, it is a wonderful town and Barrington is fortunate to be so close a neighbor. I wish my counterparts there the best of luck as they continue to steer their community towards smoother waters.

Steve Boyajian

Barrington

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