Candidates also discussed a possible tax-free art district in Wickford Village to help foster business. While nearly every candidate supported the measure in theory, many questioned its practicality during the current economic climate. Democrat Tracey McCue suggested establishing a term limited tax break while Democrat Michael Bestwick (an incumbent on the council) proposed tax-free holidays. Republican Kerry McKay also pointed out that creating a tax-free district in Wickford may not be fair to other areas in town, but supported a reduction in sales tax in the village for a “short period of time.”
“Even in tough economic times, there has to be some fun and pleasure,” said Independent Colin O’Sullivan. “I’m sure we can find some savings where we can contribute to some efforts like this proposal.”
The group also sounded off on one of the biggest controversies in town – wind turbines. Last week, the final pieces of a 413-feet wind turbine were erected at North Kingstown Green off Ten Rod Road. Most candidates agreed that turbines should be banned in North Kingstown, citing setbacks, potential health issues and its impact on the character of town.
“We don’t need these in our town,” said Independent Richard Lamere. “They’re out of character.”
Republican Carol Hueston, who was part of the council that approved the contentious wind energy ordinance that has would support smaller, house-mounted turbines in town. Bestwick, also on the council, reiterated that the town is waiting to see what action the state will make with upcoming legislation. The third council incumbent at the forum, current Council President Elizabeth Dolan, admitted that the council may have moved too quickly to pass the ordinance but maintained her support of wind energy.
“One person’s monstrosity can be another person’s piece of art,” said Council President Elizabeth Dolan.
Candidates were also asked to address the various lawsuits involving the town and school department and local unions. This past year has seen legal action between the town and school department, the town and the local firefighters union and the school department and the support professionals union.
“Lawsuits have become too easy a way out,” said Independent candidate Rickey Thompson. “The only people who are obviously willing with these lawsuits is attorneys. I’m not. You’re not.”
“Sometimes you don’t want to sue, but sometimes it’s absolutely necessary,” said Hueston. According to Hueston, the town was able to save approximately $1.1 million over the past decade following an arbitration battle with the firefighters.
The only candidate absent from the forum was Democrat Donald J. Souza Jr.
Click here for part one of the council candidates' forum.