We've been arguing about where to build a new highway garage for an eternity. The debate over location and funding has relegated the town's public works employees to a dilapidated facility that most would consider less than tolerable.
We now have two potential highway garage sites.
The first is a hotly contested north end location. Residents on the north end have been opposed to a highway garage anywhere near the former town landfill for years. A lawsuit against the town has been promised if the north end site is selected.
The second option is adjacent to the Newport Pell Bridge. Most of the land needed is already owned by the town. However, the town will have to ask the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority for permission to use a small section of the bridge property.
Both locations have their assets and liabilities. It would take more space than we have here to detail them.
So, the next logical step is for the Town Council to make a decision. In a perfect world, the council would choose where to build the barn and move ahead with the construction. In fact, a previous council tried to do just that and failed.
An alternative is for the council to forward the decision to the public. Allow the island voters to have their say. Since the site selection has such a volatile history, it would seem prudent for the council to place the question on a referendum. Provide the voters with all the information on the two sites and have them cast their ballots. End of discussion.
Jamestowners will go to the polls this November to choose a new Town Council. There is a real danger that the November election could revolve around a single issue if action is not taken soon.
Island voters should make the decision this summer on where to build a new highway barn. Let's end the highway barn debate with a referendum before October. That way all of the other equally important town issues won't be lost in the campaign rhetoric over the barn that will surely surface.
- Jeff McDonough