Opinion: Recalling 2021 As a Town Councilor

by | Dec 28, 2021

By Caryn Corenthal

Over the past year, COVID-19 dominated the news and our council agendas. East Greenwich was one of the few towns to hold vaccination clinics. So far we have held over 35 clinics and treated over 9,000 people, including students and teachers. Town staff, especially Fred Gomes, Fire Chief Patenaude and our fire department worked tirelessly to put vaccines in arms. I, like my fellow councilors, volunteered at many clinics. It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Covid presented challenges to our business community. The council worked with our town manager, Andy Nota and the Chamber President, Steve Lombardi, to help our businesses survive and thrive during this unprecedented time. RIDOT granted us approval for some businesses to expand outdoor space and use barricades. In addition, our town now streamlines the licensing process, so businesses can easily renew their license online.

During the entirety of this council’s administration we developed budgets keeping the taxpayer in mind. Taxes have barely increased during our administration. Our FY2023 budget faces less uncertainty than the previous two budgets. However, we need to adapt to community needs taking into consideration that we deferred maintenance in many departments. The American Rescue Plan will give the town an infusion of money that will allow many town departments to get badly needed supplies and equipment. For example, our town manager suggests that we upgrade ventilation and communication systems and build sidewalks in highly trafficked areas. As we await the 2021 audit, our finance director and town manager believe both the town and school will have a significant surplus. Thus leaving both town and school in excellent fiscal condition.

 The Town Council, led by council President Mark Schwager, Michael Donegan and Renu Englehart, and resident Denise Lopez helped lead a vocal effort on behalf of our residents to stop MedRecycler from building a plant in West Warwick. Over 300 mostly East Greenwich residents, all of the council members and Rep. Justine Caldwell and Sen. Bridget Valverde spoke against the plant’s development at the licensing hearing. 

I hope you noticed our new Community Services brochure developed by Director Andy Wade and his staff. It lists town activities, clubs and trips for our residents. I’m told our bingo game days attract over 100 people! Mr. Wade received a RIDEM matching grant money to refurbish two of our playgrounds and the construction is ongoing. Mr. Wade and staff are conducting a Community Services programmatic/facility assessment to develop a Community Services Master Plan. (There is at least one town councilor – Michael Zarrella – who would love a new recreation building.) Our Department of Public Works painted and refreshed heavily-used crosswalks. Our downtown street lighting replacement has begun. Lighting replacement alone will save the town additional money in electricity costs. In January or February the town will hold a workshop on the speeding issue. This issue has flooded my inbox. Currently underway are our Waterfront Study and our Hazard Mitigation Plan. In the spring we hope to begin our Parking Study. The town submitted grant applications to refurbish Academy Field and Eldridge Playground. We are also reviewing the timeline to replace the turf/field at the high school. I must note that the heads of our departments seek and usually find grant money to offset project costs. Our fire chief alone has saved the town more than $100,000. Finally, after many years working for our town, Bob Houghtling has a dedicated office!

If I had to reflect on the most important qualities that I believe our council possesses, they would be honesty, compassion and competence. Council President Schwager sets the tone by his easy-going disposition. He listens to all of the councilors and takes our concerns seriously. We listen to each other and our constituents. We genuinely love working on behalf of the town. I certainly do not have all the answers. Recently a resident urged me to, “talk to the other side.” I, as well as my fellow councilors, are more than willing to talk to anyone. This person chose not to engage with me, but I want all to know that I love lattes and would be happy to meet any afternoon. I wish everyone a healthy and happy New Year.

Caryn Corenthal is a member of the East Greenwich Town Council.

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Jean B McLevedge
Jean B McLevedge
December 29, 2021 6:05 am

It would be wonderful to see the Town join the GFOA and acquire skill in capital budgeting. The Town has not had a capital budget for years, and the school side has never had one.

Mark Schwager
Mark Schwager
December 30, 2021 4:32 pm

Rhode Island State statute requires all municipalities to file a 6 year capital improvement plan annually. Our town manager and finance department publicly present a detailed capital plan each spring. The most recent East Greenwich Capital Improvement Program for 2021-2022 can be reviewed at this link: https://bit.ly/3mGTTC4

Mark Schwager
President, East Greenwich Town Council

Susan Aitcheson
Susan Aitcheson
December 29, 2021 7:14 am

Thank you Caryn and all the Town Councilors for so many hours of volunteer time. This summary highlights just a few of the many successful efforts by the Council. The Town Council is good government at its best.

Henry Pedro
Henry Pedro
December 29, 2021 9:16 am

What about are parking problems in downtown? Especially below Main Street. It steadily gets worse as the town approves more restaurants and bars .

December 29, 2021 4:26 pm
Reply to  Henry Pedro

Mr Pedro, you are exactly correct. I do believe we have a parking problem on Main St. As I mentioned in my opinion piece, we should begin our Parking Study this Spring. It was postponed from last year due to Covid.

December 29, 2021 10:11 pm

Dear Caryn ~ so much of the parking problem below the hill is no one ever gets a ticket …for over night parking out of state plates parking night after night and never ever getting a ticket

Christopher J Lamendola
Christopher J Lamendola
December 30, 2021 11:28 am

In response to Councilor Corenthal, I laud the Town’s effort put forth during the COVID 19 pandemic and the Town agencies and volunteer’s actions during these unusual times. I understand being an elected official is not an easy undertaking but I do take issue with your sanctimonious reflection on the qualities you believe you and the other Town Council members possess. You need to reassess your oath, duties and responsibilities.

I as well as my neighbors have recently made you, the East Greenwich Town Council, as well as the East Greenwich School Committee, aware of newly discovered FRAUD perpetuated on us, residents of Sarah’s Trace, as well as every other resident of the Town during the construction of Cole Middle School. This FRAUD resulted in the ultimate damage and destruction to our homes during the construction as well as the years of unnecessary ligation, never mind the financial and emotional ramifications.

Your and your Council cohort’s reluctance to hold those accountable is what I have issue with. What elected official knowingly allows scoundrels to get away with FRAUD perpetuated on its own citizens, being duped! Your claim of the Town Council’s qualities of “honesty, compassion and competence” ring hollow in my neighborhood due to your and the Town Council’s callous inaction after being made aware of these devious actions! Please hold your sanctimonious proclamations to yourself if you don’t believe that being an elected official, one of your primary responsibilities Is to protect its citizens homes value and property rights when you discover FRAUD and know they have been swindled by outside contractors, lawyers and town employees in charge and then do NOTHING! I find it ironic that the Council spent so much time and money on an outside company in West Warwick which was in such close proximity to Councilor Englehart and her home and property. I can only assume we are minions and not as important as the elected officials and special interests!

I know that I contacted you several times as well as Ms. Englehart regarding this FRAUD but never received the courtesy of a response, so your comment on listening and responding to constituents makes me chortle. So much for “listening”. Your courageous response is to send a letter from your legal council claiming sympathy to the resulting DAMAGE to our homes and blame others. You even admit it happened in the letter!….but refuse to hold these scoundrels accountable. Just let them get away with it! So much for “compassion”. A typical politician!

I have to acknowledge that you were not an elected official during this time frame (Dr. Schwager was) and please know we also hold those elected officials accountable. I have contacted many of them and are they astounded by the documents of FRAUD and deception. I have shared these documents with these former members and they are supportive of action being taken. You are clearly aware now and know we don’t have the legal “standing” to hold these involved accountable but you as well as other Town entities ignore your oath and responsibility to us and the citizens of East Greenwich. You as well as the School Committee hired these individuals. How about holding them responsible for the damage as YOU are the ones with “legal standing”! Isn’t it your responsibility as a Politician? I can guarantee if it was your fancy home or one of the other Councilor’s or School Committee member’s home’s it would be a different story, wouldn’t it? Something like this event never goes away in a small community like ours until resolved. At least I have the courage to call you and the other elected officials to task unabashed.

I believe what is wrong with politicians today is their own self-interest and not their constituents. What is more reprehensible than know constituents’ homes and property are destroyed, know they have been duped and not be compensated and do NOTHING! I know I couldn’t be a politician.

I may not be as fancy as you Councilor Corenthal, enjoying lattes, but I know right from wrong and would be willing to do something about it! BTW I like my “Joe” black with a little cream and sugar and you obviously know where I live.

I can be reached at any time but will not be holding my breath!

Christopher J. Lamendola

December 30, 2021 2:20 pm

So Chris seems to be taking it well. I love how “fraud” is in all caps every time!

Mr. Lamendola I cannot imagine the stress and frustration this must be causing you. It’s certainly not fair that you and your neighbors have suffered as a result of the construction. I really do hope this gets resolved for you.

However, the hostility with which your response was written takes away from your position. Personally attacking council members is uncalled for

Thomas J Hogan JrHogan
Thomas J Hogan JrHogan
December 30, 2021 5:55 pm
Reply to  Heather

Hi Heather, I can tell you that Mr. Lamendola is not taking “It” well. “It” is having hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage done to his home, caused by a town sponsored project, and not be compensated for it by the town, or any other entity. The story is quite long and complicated. I was also on the receiving end of this FRAUD. You may be a little hostile too, if this destruction happened to your home. Mr. Lamendola was simply opining that elected officials have a duty and obligation to stand up and defend their constituents.

Christopher J Lamendola
Christopher J Lamendola
December 31, 2021 6:25 pm
Reply to  Heather

Heather or whoever you are? I am confused to your response to me on what your gripe is. You should go and re-read my comments, the crux is in the end of the first paragraph!

You clearly are misguided to what our representative’s responsibility and oath of being an elected official is. If you think it is alright to have a town run construction project, Cole, have mine and my neighbors houses destroyed, not be compensated for the damage, provide proof and then find additional fraud perpetuated on us and the elected officials involved in the project including every resident, then present it to our elected officials and they do NOTHING …..I’m not the problem you are! You mistake hostility for my responsibility to hold them accountable. If you can’t from my response, they are not going to do anything and hide, you are naïve. Maybe your home is next?

If you think your elected officials shouldn’t protect your home and property that my wife and I and neighbors worked so hard to own, you don’t belong in East Greenwich!

What I find more astonishing is why you aren’t asking “What the Hell is going on here, how can this happen in our community”?

One other thing, at least be an adult and use your whole name when responding, I did! Who knows you could be politician.

January 1, 2022 10:57 am

To : Caryn We are waiting for response !!

January 1, 2022 8:25 pm
Reply to  R

Keep waiting,, they only toot there horn for all the so called great things in the community. Don’t worry they will hire an “expert” to analyze the data and then point the blame when the narrative doesn’t fall into the democratic mindset. There isn’t a middle class member on this council or the he last 20 years. Lawyers, Doctors and the high and mighty time to move on Chris it’s not the Town we grew up in !!!


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