Council Approves Pay Boost for Judges; Tables Solar Ordinance

by | Jan 12, 2022

The council approved in a 5-0 vote increasing the stipends for both the town’s probate and municipal court judges, from $5,000 and $5,500 respectively to $10,000 a year. It had been 20 years since the stipends had been reviewed.

Before the increase, the EG stipends ranked 23 out of 29 communities for the probate judge and 23 out of 25 for the municipal judge. The new rates would move those rankings up to 10th and 16th, respectively.

“Anybody who seeks out an appointment to these positions is clearly not doing it for the money,” Nota said. Samuel Fleisig has served as EG’s probate judge for 37 years; David Bazar has served as the town’s municipal court judge for 18 years. Both men are residents of East Greenwich.

“This is public service, plain and simple,” said Councilman Mike Donegan.

The Town Council debated a change in the solar panel ordinance designed to make it easier for existing commercial entities to add solar panels to their rooftops. Right now, any solar installation requires going through a land development process. The new ordinance would bypass that – since the land has already been developed – but the project would still need to go before the Zoning Board. 

The hope would be to encourage such projects as an alternative to proposals that require lots of open space for land-mounted solar “farms.”

But councilors had questions about whether even a trip to the Zoning Board was necessary or how to handle projects that might abut a historic area. Another issue was size – would the size of a rooftop project change how it was reviewed? 

There were enough questions that the council voted to table the ordinance pending revisions. 

The Town Council also approved, 5-0, a motion authorizing Nota to enter into a grant agreement with the Department of Environmental Management for climate resiliency plan improvements to the town’s wastewater treatment plant. Under the plan, DEM would match the town’s $441,302 contribution. Among the projects to be undertaken over the next couple of years, according to a memo from DPW Director Joe Duarte, would be purchase of stackable flood barriers and waterproofing of interior and exterior walls. 

Nota said the grant would “have a significant impact” in being able to lessen the impact on sewer rates. 

During public comment Monday, resident Robert Vespia asked the Town Council about the extreme unevenness of Division Road following water pipe replacement work. He noted the road is owned by the state, but said perhaps the town had a better way of communicating the problem to the state than he did. Councilors Caryn Corenthal and Renu Englehart – who both live on or near that part of the road – amplified Vespia’s concerns. 

Nota said the road probably wouldn’t be able to be addressed until the spring due to the cold weather but said he would ask DPW to look into the issue.

The meeting Monday night was virtual, for the first time since June. The sharp uptick in COVID-19 cases led Gov. Dan McKee last week to announce an executive order allowing for virtual meetings again. Town Manager Andy Nota said town staffing had only recently been impacted with 10 to 15 people out as of Monday, across several departments. “We are managing,” he said.

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