Decision postponed on cannabis sales in Glocester

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GLOCESTER – The town guidelines for local cannabis sales continues to be on hold while members of the Town Council say they’re working to both provide opportunities for sales in town, as approved by voters, and regulate those sales responsibly.

At the council’s meeting on Thursday, June 15, the board addressed continuing concerns regarding the regulation of cannabis sales in town.

“My opinion is to follow state guidelines,” said Councilor Cheryl Greathouse. “I am concerned about litigation costs. We already have ordinances in place to prohibit smoking and vaping. I think it is time to adopt state guidelines for K-12.”

Councilor Walter Steere noted that no applicants nor applications had been submitted to the council as of yet. In a previous meeting, it was noted that the state commission to oversee cannabis sales in Rhode Island had only recently been formed, and no licenses had been granted thus far. Steere also pointed out that the council continues to seek out possible locations which would fit into the parameters of whatever ordinances are approved. Currently, those locations are limited to industrial and business zones with boundaries of 500 feet from Pre-K -12 level schools.

Lawyer William Bernstein, who attended the meeting in place of town solicitor David Igliozzi urged the council to postpone any decisions and allow more discussion when the entire council was present, which they did. Both Council President William Worthy and Vice President Stephen Arnold were absent from the meeting. The next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, July 20.

In other business, the council said they have been unable to secure a new finance director as of yet, though the search continues. The prior finance director Adam Muccino abruptly departed for another position earlier this year. Since then, Tax Collector Jane Steere has been handling those duties. Consideration of hiring a part-time clerk to help out with the finance chores was discussed, but no action was taken.

Steere suggested waiting until a new finance director was hired and could determine exactly what duties would be expected from a new part-time clerk, along with the opportunity to train a new hire.

“You can’t just get someone in and say go to work,” she said.

The role of a new part-time clerk was also under discussion. It was unclear whether that clerk would work with schools, finances or the police.

“When the new finance director comes in, they can reorganize how they choose,” said Councilor Jonathan Burlingame.

There was a question as to whether that clerk would handle police department billing and receiving. Glocester Police Chief Joseph DelPrete explained that currently, the police department has to deal with an overload of data and billing accounts as a result of having to handle outside assignments requested by Davey Tree Company, Verizon and Rhode Island Energy, among others. Companies hire local police to ensure the safety of parked vehicles and men who may be working on power lines, etc. around the town. Invoices and other paperwork have to be submitted, approved, billed and recorded.

“We’ve been doing this since I’ve been there,” said DelPrete. “It’s gotten so big and there’s a lot involved.”

DelPrete said the department has been managing that, but discussion had taken place with the previous finance director about moving those accounts into the finance department.

The council tabled further discussion of hiring a part-time clerk until the next meeting when the entire board would be present.

In other business, some employees were granted permission to carry over vacation and personal days into the new fiscal year, mostly because of illness and unfilled vacancies in town offices, making it difficult for people to use those days without creating more of an already increased burden in current offices.

“We don’t normally do this, but there have been a lot of abnormal circumstances,” said Steere.

Increases in salaries for two part-time police dispatchers were approved. Their pay was increased from $18 per hour to $21 per hour. DelPrete explained the increase was necessary to retain them, as well as place them in line with pay for other dispatchers from surrounding towns, some of whom received as much as $24 per hour. He added that the funds were available in the current approved police department budget.

A number of summer employees hired by the Recreation Department was approved, including lifeguards for town beaches and other temporary summer positions.

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