When Ward 5 Councilman Edgar Ladouceur got his colleagues to go along with a change in rules providing for 15 minutes of public comment at the opening of public hearing meetings, it was imagined there would be plenty of gripes and little praise.
Also, it was thought there would be plenty of talk about city finances, but no one could have guessed that clams of the non-monetary sort would come up.
Council President Donna Travis opened the first of the 15-minute sessions with a word of advice and a directive. She told people to keep their comments brief and not to be redundant. And observing that five people signed up to talk, she directed them to keep their comments to three minutes each.
Travis stuck by her rules when the first of the speakers, Roy Dempsey, disclosed that he and others had already gained 100 signatures on a petition calling for an audit of the Warwick Sewer Authority. Dempsey wanted an accounting of sewer bond issues; an explanation on why rates had increased and where the $2 million the authority reimbursed the city was on the city books. That’s a lot of clams and Dempsey thought there should be answers.
But, under the rule, the council is not expected to give answers and it didn’t. The only feedback Dempsey got was that his three minutes were coming to an end.
Jody King, however, put another perspective on the session.
He hadn’t come looking for answers or with complaints.
King, whose brother Tracy died in the Station nightclub fire on Feb. 20, 2003, was the driving force behind the memorial to the 10 Warwick residents and 90 others who died in the blaze. The memorial is on Veterans Memorial Drive behind the City Hall Annex.
King recounted how Mayor Scott Avedisian embraced the idea of a memorial and how people coalesced to make the dream come true. He told how he randomly selected architect Harvey Wagner out of the Yellow Pages and then how Wagner plunged into the project.
Ground was broken last fall with a hectic schedule to meet an Oct. 20, 2012 dedication, a mere 29 days later.
“People said it couldn’t be done,” said King. But then, King said, he had an army of volunteers, most of who were city workers. Help came from all quarters including Public Works, City Hall and Police and Fire. Among the many King named, were Scott Small, Rick Crenca, Bill DePasquale, Tom McGovern, Chief Steven McCartney, Mark Carruolo, Chief Edmund Armstrong, David Picozzi and even Travis.
King told of how everyone worked together and that they didn’t stop for weekends.
In fact, as he went into his seventh minute, Travis didn’t tell him to clam up, although she did remind him others were looking to speak.
“I’m almost done,” King said, slipping under the strap that separates council members from the audience.
King, who is a quahogger, told of how he had previously shown his gratitude for donations, time and materials for the memorial with gifts of little necks. He reached into a large cooler and handed out 50-count bags of the clams as he called off names he mentioned earlier and handed them their clams.
There were smiles and “thank yous” for what was surely a unique opening to a council meeting.