NORTH SMITHFIELD – The resignations of six members of the North Smithfield Conservation Commission will stand, and five new members have been confirmed to take their seats.
Town Administrator Gary Ezovski appointed Cathryn Kennedy of Pound Hill Road, Christopher Serrano of Iron Mine Road and Michael Kelly of Park View Drive to fill vacant three-year terms set to expire in December of this year.
Robert Mowry of Greenville Road and Jonathan DePault of Victory Highway were named to fill vacant three-years term that will expire in December of 2022.
The new volunteers will help to fill vacancies created when the entire six-member board resigned in December, saying they felt their work wasn’t appreciated. In a letter sent to Town Clerk Lillian Silva Scott on Tuesday, Dec. 17, members cited delays in the reappointment of three long-serving members, Chairman Paul Soares Vice Chairman Michael Calo and longtime member Glenn Vario.
The board works to protect natural resources in town, and typically weighs in on the impact of various projects, providing advisory opinions to planning and zoning on proposals that could affect resources such as wetlands. They also maintain several town-owned parcels of land, including Cedar Swamp, Monica’s Gardens and another 69-acre lot by the Greenville Road exit off of Route 146; work that members say has required significant time and labor over the years.
The three had a combined 29 years of volunteer service and were seeking reappointment, and some have questioned Ezovski’s decision to advertise their positions.
Members Carol Ayala, Denis Chamberland and Jeff Delasanta, whose terms had not yet expired, also signed the resignation.
In a letter to Ezovski in late December, Rhode Island Association of Conservation Commissions President Paul Roselli urged the administrator to apologize to the former members.
For his part, Ezovski said his intent was not to replace anyone but “to assure every interested resident had opportunity to be considered so the town realized the best opportunity.”
Soares, meanwhile, told NRI NOW last month that he believed the delay was the result of disagreements with board members.
“This administrator has not been supportive of our quest to purchase the Gold property, among other things,” Soares said. “This administrator doesn’t seem as concerned with conservation as I think he should be. We don’t see eye to eye.”
Soares noted that Ezovski is the third town administrator he’s served under.
On Monday, Councilor Paul Zwolenski made a motion not to accept the resignations, which was seconded by Councilor Douglas Osier. The motion was defeated in a 3-2 vote.
But Zwolenski ultimately cited the quality of the new volunteers in confirming Ezovski’s picks.
Kennedy is a member of the family that owns Wright’s Dairy Farm, and has a degree in science. Serrano, an electrical engineer was described as “a relatively new resident to the town.” Kelly is an IT professional who has lived in town for ten years.
“I think we have people in these three who are both intelligent and concerned about both the environment as well as opportunity for the entire community,” said Ezovski.
Mowry is the retired former chief of the Primrose Fire Department, who previously served on the state bomb squad.
“We all know the family and what they contribute to this town,” Zwolenski said of Kennedy. “They’re farmers, generations of farmers with a phenomenal, great business.”
“I’m really saddened that we had a turnover on the Conservation Commission – very dedicated people,” said Zwolenski. “I just want to make sure that I go on record as I’m going to support these people. My heart is broken that we lost tremendous talent that was never properly funded.
The appointments were unanimously confirmed.