Councilors approve added OCYL position; only mayor-elect votes 'no'

Councilors approve added OCYL position; only mayor-elect votes 'no'

CUMBERLAND - Mayor-elect Bill Murray found himself at odds with the six others on the Town Council last week when he strongly objected to funding a new salaried position in town, just weeks before he'll be taking office.

Before them was the new program director position with the Office of Children, Youth and Learning. Town councilors had approved, without comment, this department's budget in June, and were last week being asked to increase the executive staff pay ordinance by listing the position at $45,000. The work had previously been handled by an independent contractor.

Initiated in 2007 by Mayor Daniel McKee as an educational program for the town's youth, OCYL had been sold as a self-sustaining program overseen initially by resident Michael Magee, who now heads the rapidly growing Rhode Island Mayoral Academies charter school system.

Its director now is Liz Lemire, the program coordinator is Sue Varela, and program assistant is Cheryl Rock. Classes currently range from ceramics, guitar and chess to preschool literacy and numbers. The entire program is budgeted at $181,988.

Although during subcommittee debate earlier in the evening, a recommendation to approve had failed for lack of a second, finance committee member Art Lambi had a change of heart after McKee reminded the full committee they'd already approved the spending during June budget hearings that included a detailed list of employees and their salaries.

Adding the position to the pay ordinance, he said, was an act of "transparency" recommended by the solicitor, Thomas Hefner.

Lambi seconded Craig Dwyer's motion and the rest of the council went along with the move, leaving Murray to cast the single no vote despite Murray's plea for time to get a full look at the OCYL program first.

Lambi did note that OCYL spending is increasing every year, but McKee countered that the program has grown because it's popular and urged councilors to bring back Lemire for a full discussion about it.

Murray told councilors, "I'm not in any way reflecting that the program is not a good one. What came up in my mind is that it is a position that whether it's in the budget or not is still a new position. I would vote against it because as incoming mayor, I'm going to have to deal with this along with a lot of other things, and if it's approved by this council then it's there and I don't think it's fair to me or an incoming mayor."

Council President Jim Higgins reminded Murray that the vote "doesn't mean the new mayor has to keep the position."

In other action last week, the Town Council brought in the Cumberland American Little League team that had competed on the world youth baseball stage in Williamsport, Pa., in August.

Desk-sized clocks featuring a glove and ball were presented to each with the hope, said McKee, that the compact size would stay with each boy long after the large trophies were relegated to the cellar.

Coach David Belisle, whose coaching wisdom during the high-pressure series made him famous, called the team members "beautiful kids," noting "they're dedicated, they're respectful, they were hungry for a win, but more importantly, they are a winning team because of their character and the way they behave on and off the field."

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He added, "I've been coaching hockey for 35 years and was never recognized as I am now, and the reason is these 12 young boys.

"We did put Cumberland on the map and we did show what Cumberland is all about.

"All we were was a recreational baseball team that played like true champions."

Councilors also:

* Gave the owner of the closed Tuck's Food & Spirit another month to secure a buyer for his restaurant business before revoking his liquor license.

Larry Smith explained that although he has an interested party, the Mendon Road plaza, including the restaurant building, has been sold by Edward Walker, making uncertain his negotiations to sell only the business. He's due back to the council on Nov. 19.

* Gave the family of the late Albert Shaken more time to secure a buyer for the Hillside Cafe on Manville Hill Road before declaring that license abandoned.

The son, Albert Shaken Jr., told councilors that he thinks he has a buyer after lowering the asking price several times throughout the summer. Action on his license was also tabled until Nov. 19.

* Heard a proclamation by Mayor McKee that made Cumberland one of hundreds of towns and cities nationwide in declaring Nov. 1 as "Extra Mile Day," a day dedicated to acknowledging and urging volunteerism in the United States. McKee urged Cumberland residents "to go the extra mile" and "acknowledged all those who are inspirational in their efforts and commitment to make their organizations, families, community, country or world a better place." * Agreed to purchase a $35,394 2015 Chevrolet pick-up truck with snow plow for the Water Department that will be used for other town plowing once the department's pumping stations, storage tanks, wellheads and buildings are cleared of snow.