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via Rhode Island General Assembly

Rep. John G. Edwards (D-Dist. 70, Tiverton, Portsmouth), the Majority Floor Manager of the House of Representatives, has introduced several bills that address ongoing issues — from sewers and school committees to fire districts and parkland — in the town of Tiverton.

The first bill (2021-H 5276) would allow the Department of Environmental Management to extend certain deadlines for required sewer construction in the replacement of cesspools. Those deadlines would not extend beyond Jan. 1, 2026.

“With a new sewer system coming to parts of Tiverton, this bill would relieve home sellers and home buyers from having to upgrade their septic systems during property transfers,” said Representative Edwards. “It’s unnecessary to force these people to upgrade their septic systems, when they’ll be upgrading to sewers soon.”

The second bill (2021-H 5258) would authorize the Stone Bridge Fire District to borrow up to $100,000 in funds to meet specific short-term financial obligations.

“Some immediate financial needs of the fire district relating to the pandemic have popped up, and the borrowing has been endorsed by the Town Council.,” explained Representative Edwards. “Since they’re a quasi-government organization, the borrowing needs to be approved by the General Assembly. It would also have to be approved by the voters at the district’s annual meeting.”

The third bill (2021-H 5485) would allow school committees to add items to their agendas for the purposes of discussion only, without having to publish notice of the additional items.

“Under current law, schools committees are the only public body that aren’t allowed to do this,” said Representative Edwards. “This has become more of an issue during the pandemic, where school committees have needed to discuss — but not vote on — issues that crop up.”

The last bill (2021-H 5259) would create a voluntary mechanism for municipalities to use to dedicate a park, conservation or other land they own as public trust land in perpetuity to protect and preserve its future use.

“Tiverton has a very long history with land trusts and preserving land,” said Representative Edwards. “The town has put away hundreds of acres for open space. This is enabling legislation that will help the environment by allowing cities and town to preserve open land for future use by protecting it permanently.”

At a meeting of the House Committee on Municipal Government and Housing, several people testified in favor of the legislation, including Tom Rogers, chairman of the Narragansett Land Conservancy Trust; Rupert Friday, executive director of the Rhode Island Land Trust Council; and Meg Kerr, senior director of policy for the Rhode Island Audubon Society.

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