“I’m really satisfied with the way it has progressed and I’m gratified because so many of Warwick’s voices are echoed within the elements of the agreement,” said Ward 3 Councilwoman Camille Vella-Wilkinson of the input the Airport Litigation Subcommittee received from residents in regards to expansion of T.F. Green Airport. “We did seek advice from many of the stakeholders within the city.”
Along with Vella-Wilkinson, who served as chairwoman of the council subcommittee negotiating with the airport, City Council President Bruce Place and Ward 9 Councilman Steven Merolla were panel members. They met in several executive sessions within the past week and last night held a specially scheduled meeting at City Hall that was open to the public to discuss a memorandum of understanding with the Rhode Island Airport Corporation (RIAC) that would end the law suit.
On Monday evening, the rest of the council was updated on negotiations by City Solicitor John Harrington, said Place.
“There were some questions asked, we clarified some issues,” Place said in an interview Tuesday afternoon.
Ward 1 Councilman Steven Colantunono said he is pleased with the way the subcommittee handled negotiations. He is appreciative to them for all they have accomplished in the matter.
“They did a terrific job,” he said. “They really went about it in a very thoughtful way and I can’t thank them enough. All along, we knew we were going to get airport expansion and I think we looked at what we can do to make sure that it’s something that works for the majority of our constituents, as well as economic development. It takes those two things and balance them pretty well.”
Like Vella-Wilkinson, he is happy they sought input from residents. He feels people in the community, such as Michael Zarum, Richard Langseth and Raleigh Jenkins, offered valuable advice that helped shape the outcome.
“A lot of folks were very vocal about it and very involved,” said Colantuono. “They took an interest in the situation and actually taught us a lot. “You have to understand their perspective, too, and they’ve been very helpful.”
Ward 4 Councilman Joseph Solomon, Ward 5 Councilman John DelGiudice, as well as Ward 7 Councilman Charles “C.J.” Donovan, all said they are thrilled progress has been made. For Solomon, he said he is happy items that have been agreed to are superior to those that have been agreed to in the past.
“We also had an opportunity to fine-tune some of the other items that were discussed, which I believe will result in a positive outcome for the city, the state, the airport and those who live and work around the airport,” Solomon said.
DelGiudice shared the same sentiments. Overall, he feels the city is moving in the right direction.
“Everyone seems to want to work together to resolve the issues,” he said.
Donovan said he is encouraged by what was presented to the council. Some of the issues that were a concern to him, such as environmental factors, land acquisition and the parks at Winslow Field, have been addressed.
“I used to live on Warwick Lake and I know how important Buckeye Brook is,” said Donovan. “I want to make sure that the glycol and the other carcinogens are taken care of.”
Merolla said it should be noted that he and the other members of the subcommittee have gone out of their way to do the best job for the city and its constituents. He said it’s hard to even venture a guess at the amount of hours that were spent in litigation.
“If anybody ever says that this is a part-time job all you have to do is look at this one issue to realize the sacrifices that individual elected officials make, not only to their jobs or businesses, but also to their families,” said Merolla. “People need to know that this isn’t a part-time job. Sometimes people will say, ‘They only have two meetings a month,’ but no one considers budget hearings or crises like this or hurricanes or floods and other emergencies that occur.”
While he said he understands that it may be annoying for residents to have been in the dark about litigations, he wants them to know how necessary it was. He said it was in their best interest.
“It’s tough when constituents call you and ask you for a remedy to a problem and you can’t provide that remedy through the litigation process because it’s not an issue that’s before the court,” he said. “For me, that’s the most frustrating part of the appeal. People don’t realize that we’re limited to what took place during the EIS [Environmental Impact Statement] process and the court is reviewing the analysis that RIAC did. We’re also reviewing the mitigation measures that they suggested. But, there may be other ways to mitigate that have nothing to do with EIS and therefore are not before the court.”