Portsmouth Town Council provisionally OKs $69.07M budget

Adjustments made to clear way for professional IT position

By Jim McGaw
Posted 5/12/21

PORTSMOUTH — The Town Council Monday night voted unanimously to provisionally approve Town Administrator Richard Rainer Jr.’s $69.07 million budget for fiscal year 2022, which is 3.7 …

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Portsmouth Town Council provisionally OKs $69.07M budget

Adjustments made to clear way for professional IT position

Posted

PORTSMOUTH — The Town Council Monday night voted unanimously to provisionally approve Town Administrator Richard Rainer Jr.’s $69.07 million budget for fiscal year 2022, which is 3.7 percent higher than the current spending plan.

The proposed budget calls for a tentative tax rate of about $15.31, a 1.57-percent increase over the current rate. The council will hold a public hearing on June 9, and formally adopt a budget on June 28.

The council made several adjustments to the budget Monday following its review during workshops April 27 and 28. 

Following up on its discussion during the second night of the budget workshops, the council voted unanimously to make adjustments in order to add a full-time information technology (IT) professional. 

Members of the Portsmouth Economic Development Committee recommended the new hire, saying an IT professional would permit the town to streamline electronic payment processing services, make the town’s website more functional and easier to navigate, finalize a “hybrid” solution for town meetings, as well as make other needed improvements so town government runs more efficiently.

To find the money for the new position — the salary would be about $82,000, along with the standard benefits package — the council voted to move $69,000 from the town’s capital reserve fund, leaving it at $300,000. There were enough funds already in the IT services line item to make up the difference.

“These changes have no effect on the proposed budget, the levy or the tax rate,” said Mr. Rainer.

Speed enforcement

The council also voted 5-1 to take $30,000 from the Department of Public Works’ building and grounds maintenance account and move it into a new line item for speed enforcement in the Police Department’s budget.

Council member Keith Hamilton, who made the suggestion, said he did so because he’s tired of watching so many drivers “fly” through school zones. 

“I’m afraid it’s a matter of when, and not if, something serious happens,” he said.

Police Chief Brian Peters said the extra funds would allow for an additional 122 four-hour traffic patrol shifts. “I know there are some concerns about cameras; I think this is good step to increase safety in that area. That would be a great addition to our patrol resources,” the chief said.

Council member Daniela Abbott voted against the motion. While she’s in favor of more speed enforcement in school zones, Ms. Abbott said only 6 percent of the town’s budget goes to DPW, despite the fact the town has serious maintenance issues with which to contend.

Comp plan hearings

The council will finally begin hearings on the draft 2021 Comprehensive Community Plan (CCP) at 7 p.m. on Monday, May 17. The hearing will continue Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, May 18-20, as needed.

The plan, which updates the previous CCP approved in 2002, is designed to serve as the guide for development with a 20-year planning horizon. It provides for the protection, development, use, and management of Portsmouth’s land and natural resources. All land use and policy decisions must be consistent with the plan, which is required for each municipality under state law.

There will also be a regular council meeting at 7 p.m. on Monday, May 24.

Paving contract

The council unanimously awarded the 2021-2022 road paving contract for $423,125 to to PJ Keating, Inc., which submitted the lowest of five bids. 

The other bidders were T. Miozzi Inc. ($447,705), Cardi Corporation ($488,600), Narragansett Improvement Company ($571,460) and D’Ambra Construction ($666,750).

Police proclamation

Council Vice President Linda Ujifusa, sitting in as president in the absence of Kevin Aguiar, read a proclamation in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Portsmouth Police Department. 

The department was established on May 9, 1921 with the appointment of William J. Deegan as its first chief of police. It began its expansion in 1942 with the appointment of a second police officer and the purchase of its first police vehicle.

Today, the department  is comprised of 38 full-time police officers, one Prudence Island public safety officer, one animal control officer, and one records clerk.

Resignations/appointments

The council unanimously accepted with regret the resignation of Micholas A. Credle from three different panels: The Portsmouth Housing Authority, the Solid Waste and Recycling Committee, and the Economic Development Committee. In a letter to the council, Mr. Credle said he was moving to North Carolina due to health reasons.

The council reappointed Marguerite Elliott, Ruth Sears, and Nanci Smith to the Bristol Ferry Town Common Committee.

Licenses granted

Sitting as the Board of License Commissioners, the council unanimously approved the following license applications:

• St. Barnabas Church, 1697 East Main Road was granted a Class F daily liquor license, an entertainment license, and a victualler license with fee-waiver, for the church’s annual Festival and Carnival  Aug. 20-22.

• My Bros’ Gyros of Woonsocket and Kona Ice Cumberland RI, Inc. of Pawtucket were each granted peddler licenses to operate food trucks in town.

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