Street closure review moved

Published 1:18 pm Wednesday, October 26, 2016

By Ryan Kushner

Staff writer

In an unusual change of pace, approval of street closure requests by Tourism were moved from the town council’s Police Committee to the town’s Parks and Recreation Committee this week.

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The street closure requests, which have traditionally always gone through the police committee, were submitted by Tourism staff for the rescheduling of the Vintage Market to Saturday, Nov. 12 with street closures from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. after the original date for the event was canceled due to inclement weather resulting from Hurricane Matthew.

Also requested by Tourism were street closures for the Smithfield Christmas Market on Dec. 10 from noon to 11 p.m. and the annual Smithfield Christmas Parade on Dec. 17 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The street closures will move on to the Town Council for approval next Tuesday, Nov. 1. However, the Smithfield Farmers Market Facebook page has already announced announced the new date of the rescheduled Vintage Market. 

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“We just got permission to announce our rescheduled date for the Autumn Vintage Market,” the post stated. “Sat., Nov. 12, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. More details to come!”

The day before, on Oct. 19, Director of Tourism Judy Winslow sent out an email to merchants located on Main Street asking their opinion on the street closures Tourism was proposing and informing them that the committee would meet on Monday, Oct. 24. But the item was then sent to Parks and Rec, which met on Tuesday, Oct. 25.

The move of the street closures from Police Committee to Parks and Rec was the cause of some some confusion at Monday’s meetings, as neither Police Committee Chair Denise Tynes, nor Parks and Recreation Chair Connie Chapman, were aware of the change.

 After Chapman called attention to the change as Tynes was beginning to wrap up her meeting, Tynes turned to Police Chief Steve Bowman.

“We have some street closures?” Tynes asked.

Bowman said yes, but that the street closures would be dealt with by Special Events Committee Chair Amy Musick.

“We discussed the logistics behind that,” Bowman said to the council of the move. “Most of the street closures that have come before you I’ve seen for the last four years. If there is anything I have a problem with or a concern with, I’ll let them know and we’re communicating. It’s not something that’s going to float by me.”

“It did not break my heart,” Bowman added jokingly of handing over the task of street closures to Musick.

Tynes was not as amused.

“So there’s no need for us to even function,” said Tynes of the Police Committee. “That’s the only thing we would do anyway — street closures.”

At which point, Bowman thanked the council and proceeded to exit the meeting before Tynes had adjourned.

Town Manager Peter Stephenson said after the meeting that he had been under the impression that the agreement to switch street closures to Parks and Rec had come out of the previous committee meetings, despite neither Chapman nor Tynes not being aware of the switch Monday.

“We obviously committed some kind of a faux pas there in lack of communication,” Stephenson said.

All street closures typically go through the town’s special events committee first anyway, according to Stephenson.

“Half of Steve [Bowman]’s committee was Amy [Musick]’s stuff, if you will,” said Stephenson. “Well, what’s the point of having non-police stuff on police?”

Later, Tynes said it seemed she had no say in how things were done on the council.

Stephenson said at Tuesday evening’s committee meeting that he had spoken with Tynes and Chapman and that the street closures would be moved back over and remain in the Police Committee from now on.

Tourism has received some criticism of late regarding what some have perceived as a lack of clear communication to locals in the scheduling of events this year, scheduling that caused Christian Outreach to move its annual Souper Saturday event due to the heavy traffic anticipated for Tourism’s coinciding Vintage Market. Tourism will also be moving the Christmas Parade to a week later than its traditional date, which will no longer coincide with the Kiwanis Breakfast with Santa, which, due to scheduling conflicts at The Smithfield Center, was not able to move with the parade in time.