2006-04-13 / Front Page

DEM report due on barn, landfill by end of month

By Sam Bari

Town Administrator Bruce Keiser told the Town Council Monday night meeting that the state Department of Environmental Management should present its 50 percent completion plan for the highway barn by the end of April.

Although the DEM said the plans would be ready earlier, the additional testing of surrounding wells delayed the process.

Due to human error, one well was reported to have tested for levels of cobalt that were 26 times higher than acceptable amounts. The lab determined that the error occurred because a decimal point was put in the wrong place when a technician hand transferred data in the GZA laboratory. GeoEnvironmental GZA of Norton, Mass., is the engineering firm contracted by the town for the closure of the former landfill. Part of GZA's job was to test the wells surrounding the north end landfill area, the proposed site of the new town highway barn.

After the error was announced, and a retesting took place, Councilor Barbara Szepatowski called for an independent laboratory for future testing of the wells. The other council members as well as Keiser agreed that a separate lab was a good idea. Keiser discussed the matter with GZA, which agreed to use an outside testing laboratory for further work. Monday night Szepatowski told Keiser that she wanted to see the invoices from GZA to make sure they were not billing the town for both labs. Several firms have bid on the project. However, a decision has yet to be made, Kaiser said.

Legislative update

Rep. Bruce Long (RJamestown, Middletown) reported that legislation was approved for a municipal court if the Town Council decides it wants one. Also, "the DEM looking at cumulative impact legislation is a go," he said. Additionally, the no discharge legislation for boats "is moving along. The General Assembly is expected to separate the issuance of a mooring permit being dependent on a no-discharge decal," he noted.

Long also reported that he and Sen. Paiva Weed (D-Jamestown, Newport) noted that the U.S. Coast Guard recognized the problem with the Weaver Cove LNG terminal proposition to use smaller tankers to transport LNG through Narragansett Bay. The smaller ships would increase the number of tankers passing through limited navigation waterway. The smaller 725-foot tankers would mean 285 bridge openings, twice as many as would occur with the 850-foot ships. He said they asked the General Assembly to hold entirely new hearings regarding the issue of smaller tankers for transporting LNG to the top of the bay.

Town administrator's report

Keiser reported that former Conservation Committee member Pat Bolger, who volunteered to contribute his time to finish projects he started, was following up on the Hull Cove right-of-way matter. The Harbor Management Commission agreed to support half of the request for $10,000 for the project.

Councilman DiGiando explained that harbor commission funds were collected from boaters were applied to harbor projects and that outside funding should be sought for anything other than clearing the right-of-way.

Conservation Commission Chairman Chris Powell said that a state grant of $1,800 for materials only was available. He also said, "We gave the harbor commission two boat racks and we're just looking for a little reciprocity." The council agreed to put the matter on the next agenda.

Keiser also reported that the Narragansett Avenue waterline project, as well as the construction of the new water tank, is scheduled to begin next week. The water tank is expected to take six months to build. The project will probably finish in October, he said.

In an answer to Councilman Julio DiGiando's request for statistics, Keiser said that the town averaged 10 applications per year for new houses in the Jamestown Shores. Some 41 percent required variances. New homes built in the Shores area over the last six years average 1,833 square feet.

Additionally, 230 vacant lots are in the shores, of which approximately 120 are non-buildable, mostly because of high groundwater issues. The properties have an average value of $70,000 each.

The job of teen program coordinator has been upgraded to a full-time position. Funds from a Newport County grant support the upgrade and the town will not be charged a cent, Keiser said.

Affordable housing Town Planner Lisa Bryer asked the council to amend ordinance 82-17 to give the Planning Commission the authority to issue comprehensive permits for forprofit developers of low-income housing. The council voted unanimously to pass the ordinance.

Deer management

Szepatowski told the council about the costs involved in her proposal to use sharpshooters to reduce the burgeoning deer herd on the island. "The cost would range from $150 to $675 per deer, depending on who we hire," she said. She went on to say that people would pay for deer to be hunted on their property. They would absorb the costs because anything killed on their land would go to them, she said.

DiGiando asked if her proposal was one of the methods approved by the Wildlife Committee. Szepatowski said it was not, that she proposed it on her own. DiGiando opposed the idea saying that the council should follow the Wildlife Committee recommendations. The rest of the council agreed.

New business

Councilman William Kelly had asked for a discussion of council policy on dealing with criticism of employees, boards, commissions and committee members be put on the agenda. During the discussion, Council President David Long explained that the council could not refuse to hear citizen complaints about any issues regarding the town government, be it a complaint about personnel or policy. "They have every right to voice their opinion," he said. "On the other hand, we as council members must be very careful about what we say and how we say it," he added. Long's explanation appeared to satisfy Kelly and the other council members.

The meeting with the state Department of Transportation and School Superintendent Kathy Sipala resulted in the DOT committing to providing money or school buses and drivers should the Jamestown Bridge be closed past the time the buses are required to leave to pick up students on the North Kingstown side of the bridge. The decision satisfied Kelly and the council, putting the matter to rest.

Kelly met with Police Chief Thomas Tighe and Lieutenant William Donovan concerning the matter of police bulletproof vests possibly not providing adequate protection for town officers. After examining the vests, they determined that they were in fact adequate for the needs of the policemen wearing them.

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