2007-05-10 / Letters to the Editor

Bridge land position clarified

Your April 12 front-page story regarding the siting of a new town barn unfortunately mischaracterized my comments at last week's Jamestown Town Council meeting, and I would like to clarify matters here.

As I stated at the meeting, I cannot speak for the entire board. But for the record, let me outline my position as chairman and my sense of where my colleagues on the board will be on the potential request by the town to obtain land currently owned by the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority:

The RITBA has no position on the relative desirability of any site on Jamestown island for the construction of a new town barn. It is up to the citizens and elected officials of the Town of Jamestown to make this determination, and we wish no role in the decision.

Should the town come to the authority with a plan that anticipates the use of authority-owned property, the board will then take up the issue and work with the town, considering its needs and finding a way to accommodate those needs if possible. Let me be clear: the authority is not in the property or real estate business, and it is not actively seeking to divest property we own and would only entertain this option out of respect for our host community.

Our covenants with bondholders require us to manage our assets in their interest, and we can therefore only sell assets at "fair market value." That being said, fair market value should always mean fair to both sides of a transaction and once that value is set there are a number of alternatives in the manner in which it may be paid. We would expect to explore all of these with the town when and if this process moves further in this direction.

The Taylor Point property in which there has been expressed interest is directly adjacent to the Pell Newport Bridge. Whatever agreement may potentially be needed or reached with the town, the RITBA has certain requirements it must observe. Among them will certainly be enough separation between our structures and the town's potential structures in order to provide adequate access for construction, maintenance and other work we may have. As well, we must reserve the right to work out the aesthetics regarding the visual impact of any completed construction that can be seen from the bridge.

I want to acknowledge on behalf of myself and my colleagues on the board of the authority that we are here to serve the public. My goal in clarifying these matters is in part designed to help Jamestown officials and Jamestown residents recognize some of the strictures under which the authority must operate. Insofar as the authority's requirements can be met, we are happy to work with the town to resolve any issue that comes before us, and will continue to uphold and honor our role as part of the community once this siting issue has been decided.

David A. Darlington Chairman, Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority

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