By Matt Sheley, Town of Middletown
The new Middletown Town Council and School Committee are official.
On Monday night, the two groups were sworn into office during an online inauguration through an internet-based video call due to restrictions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Robert J. Sylvia was selected again as council president, with Paul M. Rodrigues named vice president. They were joined by council members Terri Flynn, M. Theresa Santos, Dennis B. Turano, Barbara A. VonVillas and Thomas P. Welch III.
U.S. Rep. David N. Cicilline gave the oath of office for both boards. Father James O’Brien of St. Lucy’s Church gave the invocation and benediction for the ceremony.
In his opening speech, Sylvia set an ambitious agenda, saying there was much for the council to pursue over the next couple years. As always, making Middletown the best and safest place for people to live, work and play topped that list.
“As a united council we will continue to listen to our residents and business owners, to your questions, concerns and positive ideas for our town and we will be guided by your input,” Sylvia said. “We will explore fresh and innovative ways to create a more livable Middletown and to provide a solid foundation for our children and grandchildren.”
He went onto add that without unity and a spirit of togetherness pulling in one direction, accomplishing anything would be difficult for the council.
“Tonight, we dedicate ourselves to the ideals and values of our founders and to what their mission was,” Sylvia said. “It is time to move forward in a collaborative manner to honor the sworn oaths that we have taken. Let us take a moment to thank those who have guided and assisted us on our journey, often impacting our lives in ways they will never know. But most importantly, let us reflect on the true meaning of Middletown and let us recommit to our common vision — to be good stewards for the community in order to provide every resident with a quality of life equal to none.”
Among the goals outlined by Sylvia included:
• Continuing work to redevelop 18 acres on West Main Road now home to the former Navy Lodge, West Main Road recreational complex, Middletown Public Library and former Kennedy School into a mixed commercial development and gateway into Newport.
• Striving to obtain 25 acres of Navy-owned land along Burma Road by Greene Lane to create a waterfront multi-functional park, the first time the town will have direct access to the Narragansett Bay since World War II.
• Finalizing the ongoing senior affordable housing project and work on creating new affordable housing to help less fortunate seniors while also helping to attract young families to Middletown.
• Revising the town’s short-term housing rules to protect the quality of life for full time residents who have been subjected to short-term rental abuse.
• Establishing a tax plan intended to be beneficial to fulltime residents and help bring young families to Middletown.
• Providing every reasonable resource to help keep Middletown and its residents safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
• Further adapting of beach operations to give residents priority access to parking and helping keep people appropriately distanced.
• Relying on partnerships with the Aquidneck Land Trust, Clean Water Access and other like nonprofits to promote environmental and open space concerns.
Peter B. Regan was re-appointed as town solicitor, with former Police Chief Anthony M. Pesare named for the first time as assistant town solicitor for prosecution. Adam Thayer, Mark Thayer and Christopher McNally were named as assistant town solicitors.
Pesare’s predecessor Francis S. Holbrook II was selected as the judge of Municipal Court from Robert M. Silva, who will serve as first alternate judge and Kevin Hagan second alternate judge.
Michael W. Miller returns as the judge of Probate Court, with Barbara Barrow and Adrien Ventura first and second alternate respectively.
On the school board side, newcomer Tami E. Holden and incumbent William R. O’Connell joined Douglas Arnold, Liana Ferreira Fenton and Theresa Spengler. The School Committee is expected to appoint its leadership team at a meeting Thursday night at 6 p.m. via Zoom. To attend that session, visit https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83843076783 online
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