Above: One of two school construction forums at Cole last spring.
These are the stories we think were the most significant of the year. In some cases, they flew under the radar. In other cases, there were so many stories about a single topic, it may have been easy to miss some.
Two topics drove a lot of our reporting this past year: the school construction bond referendum and a proposal to build 410 residential units on Division Road.
In November, voters approved a $150 million school bond that will fund a new school at Frenchtown, a new or renovated Hanaford, and interior renovations at Meadowbrook and EGHS. Eldredge Elementary is to be taken offline as a school. The biggest concerns voiced by residents before the vote were over the loss of Eldredge as a school building and the relatively small proportion of bond money slated for EGHS. The concern over the high school only increased in November when students were dismissed early after electrical problems. Two additional incidents at the high school – ongoing heating issues, and a burnt extension cord – only increased frustrations.
Another concern was how construction at the Frenchtown and Hanaford sites could affect abutters. To help readers, we have posted all the stories on school construction plans on a landing page HERE.
The other major story this year was the Planning Board’s vote in August against a 410-unit residential development proposed for Division Road. The vote came after a series of meetings and public comment from residents opposed to the project. However, the state housing appeals board subsequently overturned the board’s decision. The whole thing may be moot since on Jan. 1, new state laws easing regulations for new housing construction will go into effect. Again, because there were a number of stories on this topic, we created a landing page (find it HERE).
One story that we will continue to report on for the next few years at least is the waterfront plan, which offers a whole bunch of ideas for our relatively small and underutilized waterfront, including a dog park for Scalloptown Park (yes, the very same Scalloptown Park that we were told for years could not hold a dog park). The dog park seems near certain to happen relatively quickly (i.e. in the next couple of years). Other ideas will depend on finances and may or may not ever happen. But the plan does provide a blueprint for the future.
A story that got a lot of attention in June was news of troubled lease negotiations between the town and Pat’s Pastured, which rents the town-owned Boesch Farm on South Road. The McNiffs, who own Pat’s Pastured, went public after receiving a notice their lease would be terminated Dec. 31. Town Manager Andy Nota said they wouldn’t be kicked off the property Dec. 31. The two entities have been negotiating behind closed doors ever since.
When the president of the Varnum Continentals, Patrick Donovan, said he thought the Varnum House Museum should be sold to help support the Varnum Armory, many in town rallied to save the house, which was home to Gen. James Mitchell Varnum, who served under Gen. George Washington during the Revolutionary War. For now, anyway, the plan to sell the house has been put on hold. While Donovan had reasons for deemphasizing the house museum, resident Tad Stoermer wrote an opinion piece arguing that Gen. Varnum and his house are particularly relevant today.
A heartbreaking story came just weeks ago with the death of Bob Houghtaling. It prompted a huge outpouring of grief and gratitude for all that Bob did during his 40 years with the town, serving as the town’s substance abuse coordinator. We wrote a remembrance about Bob HERE. There will be tributes and events in 2024, but the EG Rotary got a jump on things, creating a scholarship fund in Bob’s honor. They will match $10,000 in donations. (By the way, did you know the EG Rotary awarded $21,000 in scholarships this year?)
Some other notable stories from the year include:
Stepping Down After 26 Years of Bold Ministry – About Linda Forsberg’s tenure ministering at the First Evangelical Lutheran Church.
Local Woman Gets 70 Months in Stolen Valor Case – Sarah Cavanaugh’s impersonation of a military veteran was nothing if not bold, and it gained her attention and tens of thousands of dollars in gifts and grants. Now in federal prison, Cavanaugh recently petitioned for compassionate release.
Softball Field to Be Dedicated to Olivia Passaretti – Olivia died nearly two years ago after her car was hit on Route 95 but she remains in the town’s heart. The Town Council approved the naming of the softball field in June.
DUI Arrest Numbers Are Rising in EG – All you had to do was to read the police log week after week to see that driving while intoxicated was often the reason for arrest in East Greenwich. The statistics bore that out and it appears EG is not alone, with the state police also experiencing record DUI arrests.
On the good news front, there were three with a Special Olympics angle:
- EGHS Banner Unveiling Celebrates Choosing to Include
- Gold Medal for Brian Johnson
- New EG Special Olympics Team Getting Started
We said goodbye to a number of people in 2023. While all were important, among the more notable were:
- Eugene Hanks Dumas, 59
- William (Bill) Daly, 80
- Carolin (Macy) Goldman, 95
- Lt. Jon A. Larsson, EGFD (Ret.), 56
- Michael Anthony Romano, 94
- Ryan Patrick Casey, 50
- Robert L. Houghtaling, 69
One final category of posts to note as we close out this year – those from our contributors. We are enormously lucky and grateful to have these wonderful individuals writing for us:
- Bruce Mastracchio – nostalgic essays about life growing up in East Greenwich, like THIS
- Chris Parker – music and theater reviews, like THIS
- Laura Sullivan – pieces about the history of East Greenwich, like THIS
- Donald Tunnicliff Rice – stories about the people he knew in his EG youth, like THIS
- George Christie – gardening columns with a strong dose of native plant enthusiasm, like THIS
- Maura Legare – covering the good news beat, like THIS
- Tommy Sprague – on the field hockey and girls lacrosse beat, like THIS
On to 2024. We will be there with you every step of the way!