1. State Representative Bob Watson’s arrest and its fallout is still being felt, eight months after the fact. Watson, who represents East Greenwich and served as House minority leader at the time, was arrested for driving under the influence and possession of marijuana after he was stopped in a DUI checkpoint in New Haven, Conn., last April.
Watson admitted to having the bag of marijuana but has said that he did not smoke it nor had he had too much to drink the night of the arrest. He said that he used the marijuana for medical purposes but had not registered with the state as a medical marijuana user.
The subsequent firestorm prompted Watson to resign his majority leader position, but he has steadfastly maintained his innocence. Blood tests determined that his alcohol level was below the legal limit but they also showed traces of both marijuana and cocaine in his system. He has pleaded not guilty.
2. Tree damage from Tropical Storm Irene caused extensive power outages in East Greenwich and resulted in a three-day delay of the start of school. The storm itself was not as strong as originally billed and the anticipated dangerously high tides failed to materialize. Among the frustrations felt in the storm’s aftermath were power lines that lay in the street or dangled from trees for days. The days after the storm brought out the best in some people, who offered showers or loaned generators.
3. Cole Middle School opened in April, after nearly two years of construction. The building got a test run for two months with seventh and eighth grades only. It wasn’t until September, and the addition of the sixth grade, that the school was at capacity. While things have gone smoothly for the most part, the third floor is warmer than some anticipated and ongoing electrical problems have meant that the parking lot lights were on around the clock during the fall.
4. Boesch Farm got a new tenant farmer this fall, Pat McNiff of Pat’s Pastured. The process of finding a replacement for Eric Eacker, who left unexpectedly due to health problems in early June turned into a bit of a circus for the normally under-the-radar Land Trust. Some nearby residents of the South Road property, which is owned by the town and managed by the all-volunteer citizen Land Trust, complained about Pat McNiff’s organic animal farming. In particular, they worried that the animals, including pigs, sheep, dairy cows and poultry, would despoil Boesch Farm. Eacker grew organic vegetables and fruits. The public outcry - for and against Pat’s Pastured - reached its apex at a hearing in August where 37 people testified. Since then, McNiff has moved onto the property and he is in the process of moving his animals there. So far, just the chickens have made the move.
5. Kristen Henrikson, wife of Fire Chief Pete Henrikson, filed suit against the Fire District in September, claiming discrimination. The lawsuit names the fire commissioners and former fire chief as well as the fire fighters union. Henrikson had sought a fire fighting job but said that the requirement to undergo physical tests should be waived because it’s been waived for other district employees who’ve moved into fire fighting. The suit is ongoing.
6. The School Committee and the Town Council voted to spend $3.35 million to fix the decades-old moisture problem at Meadowbrook Farms Elementary School in the spring after many months of investigation and discussion. At issue was whether or not the problem could ever be solved, but with leftover bond money available and a promise of a 40 percent state reimbursement, as well as testimony from specialists, both bodies voted to go forward with the work, which begins in earnest this summer.
7. New England Tech finished the initial wave of construction at its Division Street campus and presented 10-year plan for future development, including dorms. NEIT in East Greenwich opened for its first students in 2010, but the entire main building opened for students in September, transforming the former Brooks building into a high-tech campus for students studying everything from nursing to occupational therapy to computer game design and television production.
8. The School Committee’s voted to give children in arrears on their lunch bill a cold cheese sandwich, an action that took on a life of its own last month, with the story picked up by talk show hosts as well as the Associated Press. Parents protested what they saw as a punishment for the children for bills they the parents hadn’t been made aware of. The hoopla prompted school administrators to distribute additional information about the school lunch payment system, but the cold cheese sandwich policy remains in affect.
9. The Odeum Theatre got a potentially life-saving grant of $141,000 from the Champlin Foundations earlier this month, prompting both the Town Council and the Fire District to give the Odeum’s board additional time before it would need to pay taxes for failing to operate as a nonprofit. With the grant money, fire code fixes can now be made, including reupholstry of the theater’s more than 300 seats. Board members have said they hope to reopen by April.
10. When Deputy Fire Chief Russ McGillivray allegedly mooned some fellow fire officials at a state training session, he was suspended with pay while Fire District commissioners investigated the matter. The commissioners voiced support of McGillivray at a subsequent meeting and reinstated him with no further punishment.
Is there a story we overlooked? Let us know.