Owners of major recreational vehicles, including boat trailers, could face a $50 fine if they park on the street, according to an ordinance approved by the City Council Wednesday.
The ordinance gained second passage on a 5-3 vote, with Ward 4 Councilman Joseph Solomon, Ward 7 Councilman Charles “C.J.” Donovan and Ward 9 Councilman Steven Merolla voting in opposition.
Those favoring the law were: Council President Bruce Place, Ward 1 Councilman Steven Colantuono, Ward 3 Councilwoman Camille Vella-Wilkinson, Ward 6 Councilwoman Donna Travis and Ward 8 Councilman Ray Gallucci, who sponsored the ordinance. Ward 5 Councilman John DelGiudice was not in attendance.
Gallucci said the parking of recreational vehicles has become a safety issue, as people frequently park trucks with boats attached in front of their homes, resulting in blocked roads. These scenarios prevent emergency vehicles, such as fire trucks and ambulances, from accessing roads.
But there may not be any reason to panic, as action will only be taken if police are notified.
“There won’t be a penalty unless somebody complains or if emergency vehicles can’t get by,” Gallucci said yesterday morning during a brief phone interview.
In the event of a complaint, the police will visit the offender and give them the opportunity to move the vehicle. A violation carries a fine of $50.
Within the ordinance, a “major recreational vehicle” includes, but is not limited to, a camping bus, a motor home, camper, camp or travel trailers, tent trailers, boats and boat trailers.
Additionally, an ordinance regarding ward representation on Warwick boards and commissions, sponsored by Ward 3 Councilwoman Camille Vella-Wilkinson, was of top priority at the meeting.
While it was held until Dec. 17, Vella-Wilkinson said she drafted the ordinance because she is concerned that not every ward is properly accounted for on boards and commissions.
At times, she said, boards and commissions have several members from the same ward.
She used the example of the Juvenile Hearing Board, since three of the five members reside in Ward 1.
“The question is not whether or not the individuals are qualified – if they weren’t qualified, they wouldn’t have come before us to begin with,” said Vella-Wilkinson. “The concern that I have is that we have a very large city and quite a number of people who are interested in participating with government on boards and committees. When you have nine wards and membership on a board or committee that does not enable everyone to be represented, it doesn’t seem fair that one ward would have more than one seat.”
In the event of a committee or board that has less than nine members, Vella-Wilkinson said, it would also be unfair to have double representation while other wards are left out. Another concern is that with a city with at least 83,000 people, boards and commissions should have representation in the north, central and southern part of the city. Also, some of the issues being discussed on certain boards and commissions impact some wards more than others.
“Some of the perceptions and the issues really are dictated by where we live,” said Vella-Wilkinson. “The airport, while it has an impact over everyone in the city of Warwick, it has a larger impact for those neighborhoods that are closest. We shouldn’t just have one ward represented, regardless of what the responsibility of the commission is. I believe in fairness to our residents, they should all have a right to be heard.”
Ward 6 Councilwoman Donna Travis agrees.
“It would be nice to spread it out,” she said.
Vella-Wilkinson also noted that it’s important to consider recruiting some of the city’s younger constituents who are interested in getting more involved in local government.
“It’s also a great opportunity to be able to open up our doors to young Republicans, young Democrats [and] young independents so they can get their foot in the door for political office someday,” Vella-Wilkinson said. “How much better could it be than to start with a board or committee and get a front seat view of how the government works and then potentially run for office in the future?”
Place said that while he understands Vella-Wilkinson’s point of view, he has reservations about the ordinance. He’s concerned that someone who might be best for the position will be overlooked simply because of the ward they reside in.
“I would hate to see anybody that was uniquely qualified for the job to be eliminated for the consideration because somebody else that might not be as qualified happens to be sitting on a board or commission,” he said. “That’s my biggest fear. I don’t know how we could get around that. Usually when we have a nine-member or greater committee, the enabling legislation committee indicates that each councilperson recommends one person from their ward. I believe most of the commissions are that way.”
But Vella-Wilkinson said part of her plan is to better engage the public, as well as get more diverse opinions. She also hopes to encourage state representatives to be more involved.
“Sometimes it’s easier to say, ‘This person is uniquely qualified,’ than to actually go out and do the recruitment and find out where some of the other people are that have unique qualifications,” she said. “We need to work more with our state representatives who are also in the communities and say, ‘We need to fulfill these particular jobs,’ and not try to do it in a two-week or 30-day period. We need to really spend the time, as we should.”
She added that it’s imperative that the ordinance is in no way an indication of dissatisfaction of the people who currently volunteer their time and serve on boards. Rather, it’s a way to make sure all parts of the city are represented whenever possible.
“This is not an indictment of anyone who’s sitting in these seats – it’s just an attempt to broaden the spectrum and bring more people to the table with their voices,” she said.
Resident Michelle Komar, who has served on a number of boards through the years, suggested the council limit individuals to serving on only one or two boards at a time. Also, she suggested they create a fallback plan if they are unable to find a person from each ward.
City Clerk Marie Alhert said the information is currently stored in an Excel file, but they are working to transfer it into an Access database to make the information more readily available.
“We are working on putting this into an Access data base program,” she said. “I’ve already put together what the appointments are by ordinance or charter. Hopefully, once it’s in the Access database, it will be a lot easier to let you know when something is coming up.”