2006-06-22 / Front Page

Town Council adopts water, sewer budgets

By Dotti Farrington

Sitting as the Board of Water and Sewer Commissioners, the Town Council approved the annual water and sewer budgets after a brief presentation by Town Administrator Bruce Keiser and Finance Director Christina Collins.

Keiser outlined the budgets as "maintenance of effort" increased to meet rising costs of labor, insurance, and utilities.

He said the two budgets have only one addition - a line item account of $4,000 each as a prorated part of legal costs that was carried in previous years within the town general budget. The item is part of an ongoing effort to reflect actual costs of the water division and the sewer department, run by the town as enterprise accounts.

The new budgets are $693,221 for water and $452,370 for sewer. The water budget also provides $90,000 for capital items - radio read meters, spillway repair, and a five-year management plan. The sewer budget provides for sewer rehabilitation debt payment of $441,166 to be paid by a flat fee of $148,121, plus the balance from usage charges.

Collins reported that the water budget does not include an expected rate increase because the new water treatment plant has not yet been built.

She said the rate schedule, including periodic increases, is now scheduled for implementation next year.

Collins noted that the sewer budget continues to include overtime pay for the three full-time operators at the sewer treatment plant, which is operated 24 hours a day, every day of the year.

Council President David Long reviewed the history of issues over interfund budgeting involving town and the water and sewer accounts. "It was an issue some years ago and aggressively pursued in ways that seemed a witch hunt," he said.

Long said the town administrator and the department director had a "fair and equitable" plan for charge-backs for costs incurred by the town for the water or sewer departments. "We hired a consultant and found that 'yes' we have been doing it right and well for a small town and saved money by doing so," Long said.

Cell phones

Sprint, one of three cell phone companies with antennas on the town water tower, "has not answered calls" about renewal of its tower lease or removal of its equipment from the tower, Town Administrator Keiser told councilors. "It is difficult to get hold of Sprint," he added.

The other two companies are AT&T and Verizon, with active leases for tower space, Keiser said. He reported that OmniPoint Communications of New Jersey, which includes T-Mobile USA, is proposing to add an antenna to the tower.

The five year lease starts at $2,000 a month or $24,000 a year with a 3-percent annual increase, plus a $10,000 one-time contract payment. This compares to the $25,000 a year now in effect for other leases for tower antennas.

The councilors authorized Keiser to continue or complete negotiations. They briefly discussed the frequent loss of signals by cell phones on the island's north end, especially in the area of North Main Road at Route 138.

It was noted that Sprint, responsible for removing its antenna from the tower, is looking to establish a pole antenna offisland.

Tower event

Public Works Director Steven Goslee told the council that foundation work for the new water tower next to the existing one on Howland Avenue is progressing. Reinforcing steel work is due to be completed this week, with the pouring of concrete due next week, he noted.

"This will be a sizable concrete pour of approximately 250 cubic yards. . . . It will be exciting to see," Goslee said. According to him, the average truckload is 10 cubic yards, or about 20 tons, meaning there will be about 25 truckloads delivered to the site and poured, which is expected to take one day. The concrete will start to cure or harden almost immediately, but the tower design plans call for allowing the concrete cure for several days, Goslee pointed out.

Road work

The quality and efficiency of work by the C.B. Utility Company on the Narragansett Avenue pipe installation in May

was so good that Town Administrator Bruce Keiser asked council to authorize the company to do needed work on Howland Avenue. He noted that only the Narragansett section of work the town needs was included in the contract, and in-house supervision of the contract provided for a savings of $150,000 on that project.

The council approved an extension at the per-unit costs in the original contract, as agreed by the company, for Howland Avenue work.

Video security

The council awarded a contract on a bid of $22,000 to provide video surveillance systems for the police station and the water and sewer treatment plants. The approval came after the town administrator explained that a "no-strings" grant for the full amount had been approved for the town by the federal Homeland Security Agency. Keiser noted that Police Chief Thomas Tighe, the town's emergency manager, recommended the videos as high priority.

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