NORTH SMITHFIELD – When Town Administrator Paul Zwolenski hired grant writer Lisa Andoscia for a month earlier this year without an official vote on the matter from the Town Council, discussion ensued.
Quoting town code found online, councilors questioned the decision, asserting that the limit an administrator could spend without approval was $1,000.
For his part, Zwolenski said that he consulted with Council President Kimberly Alves and Councilor John Beauregard on the issue by phone. and further noted that the council had previously amended the ordinance governing spending, increasing the limit to $5,000.
NRI NOW had reported on the change when it was first discussed in June of 2021, and in an article in March, published links to the meeting minutes where the amendment became official, information that came as a revelation to several seated on the board, and led to calls for updates to the town website.
The problem, it seems, was that the process of updating the online version of North Smithfield’s code, started two years earlier following the hiring of a firm dubbed General Code, was taking longer than expected.
This month, the issue was finally resolved as Town Clerk Joanne Buttie presented a complete revised and reorganized code, including updates to schedule A and zoning.
“The charter requires that this be updated every ten years,” explained Town Solicitor David Igliozzi. “I don’t know when the last time there was a full update.”
“As you know, because of the lack of it being updated in the proper way, there was a miscommunication a few months ago because (of) the code that everybody looked at online,” Igliozzi said of the incident, referred to by Councilor Paulette Hamilton as a “kerffufle.”
“This is really a requirement – that we get the code up-to-date, online, in the books,” Igliozzi added. “When this is done, the council really should be keeping the General Code company, annually renewing your code so nobody ever looks online and it’s missing the code – and that includes myself.”
Buttie noted that while there were many changes to the town’s new governing documents, most if not all of the updates only affected language – or adjustments to make the town consistent with state law. The clerk submitted copies of the code to all town departments, asking officials to go through their respective sections and submit any needed changes.
“Most of the comments I received from department heads were clarifying,” Buttie said, with councilors noting examples such as updating the title of “Civil Defense Director,” to “Emergency Management Director.”
A staff of editors at General Code, meanwhile, was tasked with comparing town code with state law.
Buttie noted the urgency of adopting the new document.
“We really do need this done as soon as possible because we’ve had a lot of issues with people looking for the correct ordinance,” she said.
“I know what it will be, but this is not adopted, so I can’t tell them this is what it is,” she added of questions regarding town code. “People are kind of at a standstill, because they’re not sure what they need to follow.”
The clerk noted that in the future, she plans to update each ordinance as it is approved.
“I don’t want to wait until the end of the year,” Buttie said. “I want them to be they way they were when I first started. I would make that change and it would be on the website for everyone. The way it is now, they’re just sitting around lingering and nobody really knows what we’re doing or what to follow.”
Igliozzi told councilors they owed Buttie, “a debt of gratitude,” for her work.
“I don’t think you realize how many hours she worked on this, not only with her staff, but working to get all of the other departments in town to understand the importance of getting their input,” Igliozzi said. “She really took the burden on herself.”
Councilors voted unanimously to adopt the revised code, which can now be found online here.