Ezovski chooses new Conservation Commission after dispute

Ezovski chooses new Conservation Commission after dispute

NORTH SMITHFIELD – Three weeks after the entire volunteer board resigned over a reappointment dispute, the town once again has a Conservation Commission, with five new members appointed Monday night.

The appointments, chosen by the town administrator and approved by the Town Council, include several long-time residents as well some relatively unknown faces. Cathryn Kennedy, Christopher Serrano and Michael Kelly were all appointed to terms expiring on Dec. 1, 2020, while Robert Mowry and Jonathan Depault were appointed to terms expiring Dec. 1, 2022. Two vacancies remain on the seven-member board.

The appointments followed a dramatic episode last month during which former Conservation Commission Chairman Paul Soares and Town Council President Paul Vadenais traded harsh words over what commission members saw as a delay in appointments. After three members, including Soares, had their terms expire on Dec. 1, members questioned why Town Administrator Gary Ezovski had not yet made a decision on whether to reappoint them.

Ezovski denied he had any ill will toward the board and said he was simply trying to make sure any interested residents had an opportunity to put their names forward. Board members, meanwhile, called his handling of the matter “an absolute disrespect” and pointed to past disagreements between the board and administrator.

At the final council meeting before Christmas, Soares stormed out of the room after calling the situation “outrageous.” Later, all six members submitted a letter of resignation to the town clerk.

On Monday, Ezovski defended the new appointments, pointing to individuals’ backgrounds and experience in town.

“I think we have people who are in these three (positions) that are both intelligent and concerned about both the environment as well as for the entire community,” he said, referring to Kennedy, Serrano and Kelly.

Kennedy, a member of the family that owns Wright’s Dairy Farm, is a science graduate who manages Green Acres Farm on Pound Hill Road. Serrano, according to Ezovski, is relatively new to town, an electrical engineer who’s lived here about two years. Kelly is an IT professional and a resident of about 10 years.

Mowry is perhaps the best known of the new appointments as the former chief of the Primrose Fire Department. Depault is a resident of Victory Highway.

Though the vote of approval was unanimous, Councilor Paul Zwolenski, who had supported the former commission members during the dispute, expressed disappointment over the situation. Earlier in the meeting, his attempt to block the resignation of the former members failed when only Councilor Douglas Osier Jr. joined in voting against accepting the resignation letter. He later acknowledged the new appointments but said he was saddened by the loss of the previous group.

“I just want to make sure that I go on record as I’m going to support these people,” he said, referring to the new members. “My heart is broken that we lost tremendous talent that was never properly funded.”

Zwolenski also urged fellow councilors to look at the budget and give the commission more funds to complete its oversight of town properties.

The council also approved three other appointments by Ezovski. Maureen Donnelly was appointed to a two-year term on the Personnel Board, and Christopher Deziel was appointed to a one-year term as an alternate on the Zoning Board. Stanley Zuba was reappointed to the position of tree warden.