2006-07-07 / Front Page

Council takes up landfill, highway barn Monday

By Dotti Farrington

Town officials have been preparing an agenda for Monday's Town Council meeting that will include the long-awaited state decision on what to do with the town's former landfill and proposed new highway barn, according to Town Administrator Bruce Keiser.

Keiser is due to meet this afternoon with state Department of Environmental Management officials for a detailed discussion about ways the town can close the landfill and also use the site for a new public works garage.

The town has been awaiting a written report from the DEM since March. It was not clear if today's meeting will include a written report.

The DEM recently alerted town officials about two concerns with the town's plan for the site cleanup and development. One is the amount of solid waste that would have to be removed if the town highway were allowed on the landfill site, and other is the need for more storm drainage than is already in the design plans.

The DEM has had the latest landfill plans, drawn up by GZA GeoEnvironmental of Norwood, Mass., and representing 50 percent of the design work, since last winter. The DEM conducted a hearing on the plans in early February, and then received more than 400 letters from residents with arguments for and against the plan.

In recent weeks, the DEM has told town officials that it has talked with GZA representatives about some of the problems and possible solutions, but DEM officials have not released any details about those talks.

The former landfill has not been operated for about two decades. The site is now the location of the town trash-transfer station on North Main Road. Town officials started pushing for a new highway barn about 25 years ago, but townspeople have been unable to agree on where the garage should be located.

Residents living around the former landfill are mainly opposed to the closure plan, including the new highway barn. They are concerned that toxins in the landfill will be stirred up and contaminate the water sources that supply their private wells. Residents elsewhere generally want the garage at the north end of the island because it has failed to get voter approval to be sited elsewhere on the island.

LNG status

The councilors late last month agreed to accept an invitation from Weaver's Cove to meet to discuss its proposed liquified natural gas storage terminal in Fall River, Mass. The meeting is expected to be arranged for July 24. The councilors have been voicing strong opposition to the project for about two years and also to a proposed expansion to an existing LNG terminal in Providence.

Last month, Marcia MacClary, director of public affairs for Weaver's Cove, sent a letter to Town Council President David Long. "We at Weaver's Cove have noted with dismay the amount of partial or inaccurate information presented to the public. As this is a timely and important issue for residents of Jamestown, we would welcome the opportunity to meet with the council, present current information about our project, listen to issues and concerns and answer questions that the council may have," she wrote.

In agreeing at their June 26 session to meet with Weaver's Cove officials, the councilors said they hoped the meeting would bring them some useful information. In several past discussions, the councilors have expressed disbelief in claims that LNG tankers could travel along Narragansett Bay safely and without disruption to the economy of Jamestown and other waterfront communities.

They have also questioned the lack of information about funding to communities for safety services to prevent problems, and to hire and train personnel to effectively respond to possible problems. The main problems town officials fear are disasters associated with terrorism and possible fires on the tankers or at the terminals.

The councilors have also been skeptical of other aspects of developing any LNG terminal and its impacts on taxpayers here and elsewhere.

The Weaver's Cove plan has been approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, but it is being challenged in court by the city of Fall River and by the Nature Conservancy. The terminal also needs dredging permits from state coastal regulatory agencies and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The FERC on its Web site claims, "The market ultimately determines whether an approved LNG terminal is ever built. Even if an LNG terminal project receives all (government) approvals, it still must meet complicated global issues surrounding financing, gas supply and market conditions. Many industry analysts predict that only 12 of the 40 LNG terminals being considered will ever be built."

Meeting location

Council meetings during July will be held in the music room of the Melrose Avenue School, Those meetings, each starting at 7 p.m., are the regular sessions on July 10 and 24. The council will sit as the Board of Water and Sewer Commissioners at Melrose school on July 17, as regularly scheduled. The change is being made because the town library, the council's usual meeting place, will be holding its annual book sale.

Paving

Late in June, the councilors accepted a road paving, oiling, and sealing proposal prepared by Deputy Public Works Director Michael Gray.

It provides for 4,533 feet of paving and 12,475 feet of oiling and sealing, with more than two-thirds of the work to be done on roads on the island's north end. Bids were to be solicited to implement the plan.

Town officials have been talking for years about expanding its annual road improvement program, only to have it go unchanged because of insufficient funds for both staff preparation and actual road work. The annual budget for some years has been $100,000 for the work.

Soon after he was hired last winter, Town Administrator Bruce Keiser proposed that "catch-up" road improvements be funded through a bond issue that the councilors have agreed to fund in the next fiscal year, starting July 1, 2007. As in the past, this year the priorities for improvements were set based on informal visual observations by public works and police department employees.

Councilman Michael Schnack referred to the need to eliminate the potholes at the entrance to the town's transfer station. He was told that potholes resulted from a lot of washouts caused by storm runoff, and as done elsewhere throughout the island, they are repaired "piece meal" by patch work.

This year's paving schedule covers Stern and Bow streets from Seaside Drive to Beach Avenue, Galley Street, Top O' the Mark from Nunn to Keel Avenue, Fowler Street from Valley to Swinburne streets, and Lincoln Street from Conanicus Avenue to Green Lane. If funds exist, part of Seaside Drive and Keel Avenue will also be paved.

The oil and seal list includes the northern end of Intrepid Lane, America Way from Ranger Court to Intrepid Lane, Columbia Lane from Shamrock Court to America Way, and sections of West Reach Drive.

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