As we near the mid-way point of 2011, there are some significant developments in the ongoing saga that is the town of Rehoboth; changes at the state's 911 call center; and a breakthrough for opponents of a massive wind turbine proposal in North Kingstown. Jim Hummel has the latest information.
As we near the midway point of 2011 we new new details on some of our investigations. Much of this year the focus has been the town of Rehoboth - its police department and politics. And every week, it seems, the story has taken a new twist.
Four months of controversy swirling around Police Chief Stephen Enos culminated in April, when the embattled chief was suspended - with pay - and stripped of his gun, badge, car, computer, cell phone...and booted out of his office at the police station.
Enos spent the next month working on a 30-page report rebutting charges leveled against him by his officers and has had several closed-door meetings with the selectmen. They are scheduled to meet again next month, but it's unlikely Enos will return to his job. Either way, the chief's contract expires in September.
Meanwhile, the newly-elected chairman of the selectmen's board, Mike Costello, finds himself defending allegations of conspiring nearly five years ago with his elderly mother to improperly obtain a home under the state's affordable housing program.
The state's inspector general leveled the charges in a 13-page report, but they carry no criminal weight. Costello - who has brushed off calls to step aside - says he has documentation to refute the charges and so far no other agency has pursued the matter.
In April we reported the 911 system in Rhode Island is chronically short-staffed, and that means hundreds of callers every week are being put on hol. This, despite a telephone surcharge that generates more than enough money to get the job done. Shortly after our story ran, officials made changes they hope will ease the problem.
On many shifts 911 has been down to three or four people - in some cases half the number it should have. The state police major overseeing the system tells The Hummel Report he's received authorization to hire two more 911 operators, who should come on board this summer.
The agency has also rearranged shifts to help cover busy times and made more overtime available to existing operators since our story ran. The result has been a reduction in the number of calls being put on hold. But with summer vacations now kicking in, officials are keeping a close eye on that call volume.
Late last week, a major development in the North Kingstown wind turbine project we first reported in January. The Planning Commission was under fire for rewriting the town's ordinances allowing a proposed 427-footwind turbine on this property off Route 2. Now the commission effectively killed the project.
That's because the developer - also under public pressure - revised his plan. The commission determined that change made it a newproposal. Because the town council - reacting to an outcry from residents - put a moratorium on all new turbine projects, any revised project by Mark DePasquale would be on hold...at least until later this year.
Finally, an update to one of our first Hummel Report investigations about a building at the ACI sitting vacant, even though taxpayers had ponied up $17 million to rehabilitate it.
Prison Director A.T. Wall told us in November of 2009 he hoped to convert it to a women's facility. Well now, it's actually happened.
They hoped years ago to open it as a `reintegration' center - a place for 175 problem inmates nearing parole. Despite $17.5 million of taxpayer dollars in renovations it never opened, for a variety of reasons.
Earlier this year, hundreds of female inmates were finally transferred over from other facilities, including this crumbling one across the ACI complex. The new women's facility has a capacity of 213 inmates.
That's it for latest update. Be sure and join us back here next week for a brand new Hummel Report investigation.